Most mornings I like to listen to a recording of a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness called “ho'oponopono” that focuses on clearing the spirit of anger and other toxic emotions.
The 10-minute session that I listen to merely repeats four simple phrases: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. And I thank you.”
It may not sound like much, but this mantra can have great cleansing power.
The apology can be directed at anyone or anything--the universe, deceased loved ones, even ourselves, because God knows so much of our pain is self-inflicted.
I had an opportunity to apply that practice to a real world situation last week.
I got into an email beef with a co-worker on Thursday that turned quite ugly in a matter of minutes. I was having a bad day, to put it mildly, but that doesn’t excuse my obnoxious behavior.
It started off with some snippy remarks and got more atrocious with each reply.
That’s one of the reasons I hate email—that and the Nigerian bank scams. People often read something into those voiceless words that just isn’t there and respond inappropriately.
I normally reach for the phone or speak to someone face-to-face in potentially hostile situations so I can avoid any misunderstandings—which is what I should’ve done in this case.
But instead I let a minor disagreement get out of hand until my colleague and I weren’t speaking to each other.
I’m disappointed that I overreacted, but I’m encouraged by the fact that I recognized my mistake a lot sooner than I would have in the past.
Not too long ago I would’ve been furious for the entire day and into the evening. I would've stuck to my guns, furious that anyone would dare talk to me like that.
Mark As Urgent
But it was different now. In the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, there was a great disturbance in the Force.
I felt like I was carrying a cinderblock around in my chest and I knew there was only one way to relieve my discomfort, so I sat down at my desk and typed the two most important words in the English or any other language.
I kept wanting to say “I’m sorry, but—”
But I was tired; but I was busy; but I had a lot on my mind. But whatever lame excuse I could come up with. But no, I refused to do that.
“But” robs the apology of its healing power and leaves a little bit of the argument alive so it can fester and spring up again on some other day.
As my father used to say “but me not buts,” which was his way of saying “I don’t want to hear it.”
I hit the “send” button and immediately felt much better. My co-worker hadn’t responded, hadn’t even read my email yet, but it didn’t matter. I had done my best to make things right.
I didn’t feel like I was backing down, giving ground, wimping out or any of the other idiotic expressions that emotionally damaged losers like to throw around.
I was trying to repair damage, dispel bad feelings, and restore a wounded friendship.
And I actually felt empowered. I was trying to change the awful course of the last few minutes and set a healthy relationship right.
There was a chance my co-worker might not accept my apology and not want to be friends anymore.
I knew I would feel very badly if that turned out to be the case, but at least I had tried.
A short time after I sent the email my co-worker wrote back to me apologizing for her behavior. I felt great.
The cinderblock had vanished from my chest and I was able to enjoy the rest of the day, no ifs, ands, or buts.