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Blog ~ A Thoughtful Look at Life

Bystander to Hero

- by Carolyn Bergen

Years ago, during grad school, I was flying back to California to study after a visit home. I and the other passengers were sitting in the airplane while it was waiting on the tarmac. As we sat quietly waiting to taxi to the runway, soft wisps of smoke began to emerge from the ventilation system. Very soft and gentle. None of us were moving, and the attendants were at the far end of the plane so there was no drafts to stir up the smoke. so it stayed close to the top of the bulkheads where it was coming out of the circulation vents. It was about 2 or 3 inches thick at first, and gradually increased to about 6 or 7 inches.

Thick grey smoke filling the cabin.

All of us passengers noticed it…and it was somewhat of a curiosity, really. Soft murmurings could be heard, and you could see heads turning into the aisle to ask the person across the way if they also saw it. 

Duh…it couldn't be missed.

But nobody was panicking or concerned--or, at least, they didn't appear to be--so I decided I wasn't either. (Actually, I was pretty nervous about it, but I thought if I said or did something, other people would look at me oddly because I was the only one--funny how my first concern was "What will other people think?" even when there WAS SMOKE IN THE AIRPLANE CABIN I WAS SITTING IN SHORTLY BEFORE TAKEOFF--seems ridiculous to write that now)

Nobody else was doing anything, so neither did I. I, like everybody else, just sat there and watched the smoke slowly increase, taking up more space along the bulkhead.

Nobody did anything for what seemed a very long time.

In a slow, calm move that has me chuckle even now, I could slowly see one hand about four or five rows in front of me tentatively rise and push the flight attendant call button.

The flight attendant came to attend to the call and her eyes got pretty big, pretty fast long before she reached that passenger. She moved quickly towards the cockpit.

We were evacuated almost immediately.

As we milled around in the waiting area finding out what would happen immediately afterwards as we were waiting to still somehow get to California, I overheard the pilot in the waiting area of the airport say that when the flight attendant came to tell him about smoke in the cabin, he thought that perhaps an individual was smoking, because he couldn't hear any distress on the part of the passengers. 

It was quiet, so it mustn't be a big deal.  or so he thought.

When he saw the level of smoke in the cabin, he had trouble believing there wasn't mass panic and freaking out on the part of the passengers.

It hadn't occurred to me to panic…because nobody else had.

I just went along with the crowd. As did everybody else.

I always wondered why somebody doesn

Classic example of pluralistic ignorance. We do what everybody else does…because everybody else is doing it…cuz we are all taking our cues from everybody else doing what everybody else is doing. Why do we join others in pluralistic ignorance?

One reason may be that when a situation is unclear then we look to others for clues to define what is happening. We then make decisions based, sometimes incorrectly, on other people’s actions, reactions or lack of action. This is known as pluralistic ignorance – when the group’s majority privately believes one thing and mistakenly assumes that most others believe the opposite. For instance, when we drive past a car accident, we might assume that someone else will call 9-1-1 or stop to help. Pluralistic ignorance occurs frequently and in diverse situations.
Rosemary K.M. Sword

It would seem that too many of us have this underlying concern of acting differently than everyone else in the crowd with the almighty question that seems to rule too many of us too much of the time: 

What will other people think?

We hate to be different in a crowd…to stick out, to stand out. It takes courage to go against the collective behaviour of the group to act out in a way that is faithful to our own internal values.

We fear looking foolish, or cowardly, or over-reacting, or trying something only to make a mistake.

We are wired for connection, and even amongst strangers, we feel the threat of being ostracized and pushed out of the tribe.

What makes this even harder is the diffusion of responsibility. When a hundred people see a person fall, then whose job is it to help them up or call the ambulance? The answer is unclear. When two people see a person fall, then the answer is much clearer.

I remember coming upon the bus accident on the Coquihalla this past August. When I and my Junior Tribe member found our vehicle stopped just before the scene could be seen, I initially suggested we stay in the car--certain that whatever accident had occurred would have folks much more qualified that we on the scene doing what needed to get done. I had no desire to be a lookie-loo. 

The JTM disagreed and went to offer his help--he's too young and naive to go along with the crowd--in his youthful energy, he fancied himself a potential hero. He came back for water and to tell me the situation was grave. The tour bus had rolled and there were passengers all over, wandering around or lying on the ground stunned. The JTM and I helped for the next four hours…while many simply stood by and took photos. 

Yes, took photos of suffering victims reeling from shock.

And yes, my son, who didn't know any better, and foolishly believed we could help? Well, both an ER physician on site and the RCMP site coordinator independently sought him out shortly before we left to thank him and congratulate him for being a hero that afternoon. He truly had gotten in there and done what needed to get done.

I have a feeling he would have pushed the flight attendant button earlier than anybody else on the airplane--because his inner compass would have told him it was the right thing to do. 

'Cuz that's the kind of young man he is.

And I hope he doesn't outgrow that courage the way so many can as they grow out of the youthful stage of, "I can change the world."

Ways to avoid "the bystander effect":
  1. Intentionally be mindful of your own values and honouring your own integrity. Isn't it ironic that we seek to please others that we don't know and we will never see again?
  2. Ask yourself, if I live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you…what will my actions be?
  3. Draw deep on your courage, and invite others to join you as do seek to be helpful to someone or something that needs your help. Inviting someone to join you in assisting can then inspire lots of people to help.
Take a peek at the bystander effect in action:


The Ring

- by Carolyn Bergen

Quote by Donald Miller: It

I've been on my own for about 10 years now. 

I remember the first week I was alone rather like a blur…or maybe rather, I don't really remember it at all. I wasn't sleeping; I had lost weight; I was just putting one foot in front of the other. My friends were supportive and were checking in on me regularly cuz to say I was a bit of a mess is like saying the pope is a little bit Catholic.

However, I do remember one call that week very distinctly. L called me Wednesday of that first week that I was on my own to check in. 

I had known L for a long time and she was one of my best friends. I had met her when she was a new single mom, and had walked with her through the adjustments and grief of being a single mom--with all the heartaches that come with trying to parent solo in the middle of one's own loneliness. Now she was walking with me.

It was in the morning…and she reluctantly told me about a date she had had the night before. I pulled it out of her--she was very hesitant to pour her joy over my sorrow and lostness. 

But I needed good news. I needed to hear of hope in action. I was desperate to see somebody else's light at a time when I was in my own darkness. So, I made her tell me of this fantastic promising date in the minutest of detail. She was set up by a mutual friend. He was friendly and warm. He had a huge mustache.

L had met Gary…and over the months as I continued to adapt to my singleness, I watched L fall in love with Gary.

Our friends and I were like mother hens. We quizzed her about him. Was he kind? Was he good? Was he good for her? And when we met him, while being friendly, we secretly did what we could to screen him. He had to pass muster with us. L had been hurt before, and we were gonna make sure this guy passed inspection.

He did. With flying colours.

Gary is a gentle soul, made very wise in the school of life. He was a student of life experiences and he had learned much. He's the sort of person who helps people in incredible ways--but only when he thinks no one is looking. He reminded L of her value, and reminded her to slow down to take care of herself. He's so good to so many. He was good for her.

We approved (not that she needed our approval--but don't friends offer their opinions even when they aren't requested?). And they got married. Gary and L have always been a couple of hope for me…with their beauty rising up as my world was crashing.

Gary is Oro de Rey, a concierge jewellry service. He provides personalized service for custom designing jewellery of all kinds--remaking old heirloom brooches into funky modernized pieces. He helps couples design the wedding rings of their dreams, and then he makes it come to life. Gary is a bit of a jewellery magician, really.

I trust Gary. So much so that I gave him my original engagement and wedding ring. I told him that the ring had a history of many good years of a great marriage in it, and I felt it best that they continue to bless another couple in a great marriage. I wanted my rings to find a new and positive reason for existing again. 

Both Gary and L relate to all sort of people, including some that have little or no resources. I asked him to give it to a couple who would benefit from a set of engagement/wedding ring but wouldn't be able to afford one. I asked him not to tell me when he did this, and to never give me details of it. I wrote an anonymous note that could be passed on with the rings, inviting the recipient to celebrate her relationship with these rings that had been worn with love for so many years.

And every once in a while, he would tell me, "Carolyn, some day when you meet the Special One…and we are gonna design your ring. That's gonna be some ridiculous kind of fun."

I knew he meant it. I just never knew if it would happen.

It happened.

It's for real. It's my ring and it tells our story. J got down on one knee and slid it on my finger in the most romantic of moments.

Carolyn Bergen

I wanted a beautiful ring--and I think it's incredible.

It's two rings woven into one--one white gold, one yellow gold--like two families, woven into one. Each unique and different--and exquisitely beautiful together. 

There are three diamonds on top…our faith is important to us, and so it acknowledges God in the centre of us. He and I together with God on the ring, as in life. It implies a sense of unity and togetherness, mission and purpose.

There are three diamonds on one side, and two on the other…representing his Junior Tribe Members and mine. It's an family engagement/wedding band--we are two families marrying, not just a man and woman. I am committing myself to his children, and he to mine. They are represented as important and critical components in the ring, just as they are in our lives.

To visit Gary in the planning and design of the ring was a dream come true. 

To plan my life together with J is an even bigger dream come true.

The Leap into Love

- by Carolyn Bergen

I'm getting married.

I'm engaged.

Yep…the marriage therapist is herself entering into the commitment of a lifetime of love. I believe that we are created to bond closely with another. I believe in the power of connection. I have watched and facilitated relationships heal with trust being restored. 

I know that research says that those who are married in committed life giving relationships are healthier, react differently to pain, are grounded and therefore are able to take greater risks in other areas of their lives. I believe in marriage. My couple clients have taught me over the years that marriage is life-giving. 

But therapists are human…and when we get hurt, we fall into the same fears and patterns that all humans struggle with. And so the thought of a lifetime love for myself was something I longed deeply for, yet was simultaneously terrified of.

I don

I was married once. For years and years to a wonderful man in a wonderful life in a wonderful marriage

Until it wasn't. 

It all unravelled--mostly out of my awareness, and completely out of my control. It was painful and mysterious and confusing. I felt utterly helpless. And pretty hopeless. And then I was alone with my Junior Tribe Members (JTMs), needing to raise them and help them and needing to ramp up the practice to be able to support us and keep a roof over our heads.

My husband was also my pastor. And if there are two people in life you think you can trust, it's your husband and your pastor. And when they are one and the same, the trust is doubled…and then so is the betrayal.

So, amidst confusion and lostness, my ability to trust deeply and closely was tested and tried, and shattered.
I was spun dizzy, trying to figure out what was solid and true, and what was smoke and mirrors. I felt like I'd been on a boat all day, and now even when I was on solid ground, it felt as it heaved and swayed underneath me.  What was real and trustworthy? What wasn't?

To be sure, I had fabulous friends and family who stuck close and gave support that I will treasure as priceless. They kept my faith in humanity alive. They helped me with gardening and lock changing and cleaning and such in ways that were far beyond what I would have ever asked for. 

To be sure, I had contact with folks who I witnessed hanging in there, fighting the good fight to repair and preserve relationships, to restore brokenness. In the midst of my own marriage crumbling, I worked with others on theirs.I witnessed folks living out courage as they embraced their commitments and worked through difficult times. Some clients I worked with will never know how they were also healing for me as they sought to restore trust, and to repair the breaches.

The raw aching wounds that a divorce creates took years to heal. Years when I was preoccupied with caring for my JTMs…they were also hurting, and they were also just busy active children that needed driving, lesson practice, and help finding their mittens. Thos was a time of slow healing, happening in the background, as the foreground was fully of survival from one day to the next. 

Saying we were surviving undermines the simple reality that in many ways, our little family came to be very much thriving. We had such richness…there were Fridays when we shared a super sized meal at McDonalds and it was such a treat. There were Sundays where a wiener roast and America's Funniest Videos in the family room had us feeling cozy and content. We had good friends, played on good teams with coaches who cared deeply, and adjusted to our new life with a different sort of goodness. Decisions made to survive--growing the counselling practice and increasing responsibilities at the University of Manitoba turned into thriving times of growth and challenge and opportunities I couldn't have planned for or dreamt of.

And all the time, slow healing. But the healing was never really tested…how could it be with two JTM's growing and needing tending?

The wobbling, heaving world I had lived in began to steady itself.

But just as the brokenness was borne in close personal relationship, so too, the healing couldn't be complete without close personal relationship.

And months ago, along came J…the future fellow Senior Tribe Member in my family.

J did not come into my life as a suitor…somebody who would trigger internal alarms to question his trustworthiness. 

Not at all. 

J. came along innocently, as a fellow traveller that was also hurting from recent lost love. He had buried his sweet one and now found himself needing to support his JTM's through that loss. Mama's are often the ones to care for a JTM's heart after a loss, and when the loss is the mama herself, what is a papa to do? That's hard. Especially with his own heart in pieces, and he sees the world as a sea of washed out greys.

J's sweet one was a distant friend of mine and so when he called, I agreed to meet him over lunch. I knew something about helping hurting JTM's after a big loss, and so we shared stories and brainstormed wisdom. Conversation gets pretty real, pretty fast when talking about cancer, devastation, loss, parenting and love. And thus we became fast friends--without pretense or performing. 

I loved how he deeply loved his Love. I came to appreciate and admire his commitment to her--to them--during years of pain and suffering and uncertainty and fear. I remembered how he had coached my JTM in basketball when he was in Grade 1, and heard from friends how he was caring and compassionate in the long haul of cancer treatment. I experienced his reliability and solidness now as he told me of his days, conversations with his JTMs and friends, how he related to me in our friendship with the kindest of ways. And I came to know him as a man that could be trusted, as a man who knew how to be married in the toughest of times, who knew who to follow through on commitments even when life challenges those commitments at unimaginable levels. 

I trusted him before I loved him.  

Me --who believed in the value of trust, and has built a career on facilitating trust in relationships of others--but who, at a cellular level would find trust deeply terrifying--felt the slow warmth of trust building in a man who I enjoyed a beautiful friendship.

Until it wasn't.

One day it became more than a friendship…it became a love that was real and alive and built on a bedrock of a trusting friendship.

He is the man I love. He is the man I will marry. He is the man who has helped me learn to trust again…first by just unconsciously by simply being himself and telling the stories of his life in friendship, and later consciously by acknowledging in small and large ways his intent of being trustworthy now and for the rest of our lives.

J counts it as an important mission in our relationship to have me feel solid in the relationship…for me to know he's trustworthy, to answer questions or hesitations, to reassure me that he's committed. 

The ground beneath my heart is solid and trustworthy at levels I never would have thought possible. J has invited me to leap into the unknowns of a relationship with 5 JTMs, a combined household--but with the foundation of trust and love. 

And with a solid foundation under my feet, this sounds like a wonderful adventure.

But that's a whole other story…and it will be told.

Introducing Beckett--and our favourite two time Grandma!

- by Carolyn Bergen

Our office manager, Melanie, loved being a grandma so much, she decided to do it all over again. Ava is the sparkle in her eye, and the screensaver on her phone, and the photo on the wall by her desk. And now,for variety, she had a grandson as variety to her adored granddaughter.

Introducing Melanie's newest grandchild…Beckett.

Beckett is Melanie Thiessen newest grandchild. Melanie is the office manager at Bergen and associates counselling in Winnipeg

She's positively smitten.

And why not…he's handsome.

Beckett is a boy who knows himself. And he's not shy to tell it. I respect that in a person. 

He knows three things already, very clearly:

Beckett hates having a wet diaper…and he wails.
Beckett hates being changed even more than he hates having a wet diaper…and he wails even louder.
Beckett loves a dry diaper.

I like Beckett already. 

'Cuz Beckett is a lot like me. Probably like you too. He's just more candid about the whole thing. 

Which I kinda like…cuz he's way more honest than us adults, I think.

I find uncomfortable places…well, er…frankly--uncomfortable.

But I also am intimidated and even more uncomfortable with the change that is required to get out of those uncomfortable places. 

But I like what happens after the change…because it gets me to better places.

You see the dilemma. Beckett and me--a lot alike.

You too? I thought so.


So…the thing of it is, is this: Beckett's too little to decide for himself that he'd rather stay wet than get changed. His mama and papa impose the diaper change upon him (and I suspect Grandma Melanie elbows her way in for a turn too). 

They impose that change on him---with resulting increased discomfort--because they care about him…and they know that after the time of increased discomfort, he will come a better space.

Hmmmm…I gotta remember that.

Thanx Beckett…for sharing your wisdom with us all. 

And Beckett…don't pee on your Grandma when she changes your diaper…we like her a lot.

The power of "WOW"

- by Carolyn Bergen

I'm a bit of a knowledge geek. Or, maybe, a lot of a knowledge geek. 

One of the ways I increase my enjoyment factor when I exercise is to listen to podcasts that teach me things...pretty nerdy, huh? But I like to hear about new and interesting's just quirky interesting learning...and I find I come back to things I've learned on these runs on occasions when I'm sorting things through, or trying to get a handle on a challenging situation. 

Learning for the sake of learning...and it's good.

One of the podcasts that rocks it for me is the NPR Ted Radio Hour. I was listening to a program on Unstoppable Learning that stopped me in my tracks. Sugata Mitra spoke of how he learned that children have the ability to teach themselves.

He put computers with English operating systems into a hole in the wall about 3 feet off the ground in various impoverished slums and villages in India leaving no instruction. The children taught themselves English and how to use the computer on their own. He was amazed at how expensive schools and teachers weren't necessary to have children learn--these children learned effectively and spontaneously on their own...but he wanted to push the envelope yet further.

So he set up an impossible question: "Can Tamil speaking children in a South Indian village learn the biotechnology of DNA replication in English from a streetside computer?" 

And the answer was, very surprisingly, "yep, some". No teacher. No classroom. No prior English. 


Amazing, huh?

But he wanted them to learn a lot, not just a little bit, about the biotechnology of DNA replication. So, he asked a 22 year old accountant that lived nearby who knew nothing about science to help them. She refused, but he insisted her input would make a difference. Her role was to be that of a "granny", looking over their shoulder and saying, simply:


and then...
  • How did you do that?
  • I couldn't do that when I was your age
  • What will the next page say, and what will you do then?
Encouragement is the key to effective learning.  DonShe was simply to be an encourager. And when he came back a few months later, their scores, without a school or a teacher, were equivalent to that of bright youngsters at a private school with a skilled teacher.

Mitra says the key to children learning well is encouragement

He encourages people to salute learning to enhance it.

He points out that:

There is evidence from neuroscience that the reptilian part of our brain, that sits in the center part of our brain, when it is threatened, it shuts down…the prefrontal cortex, the part which learns….Punishment and examinations are seen as threats.  We take our children and we make them shut their brains down and then we say, “perform”

Mitra was talking about this with regards to education...saying that it is no longer adaptive to put children on high alert and then test their skills. For me, this goes broader...beyond teaching my students, and on to how we raise our children, and relate to partners and others close to us.

The reptilian part of our brain sees any threat as a threat
  • having a car screech its tires when you run out into traffic, 
  • Friday's spelling test that the teacher says you need to get a good grade 
  • or your mother yelling at you that you didn't clean your room in "that" tone
...are all seen as threats that put the body on high alert. Different levels of emergency that the limbic system treats identically.

This has implications for classroom teaching methods to be sure. But I'm much more interested in relationships, and how the need to listen well to each other goes down when the panic/threats go up. 

Is it any wonder that when a conflict arises, and tempers flare, and voices are raised...and the brain perceives a threat...that the ability to communicate effectively deteriorates. How often haven't parents or partners yelled, "You better tell me right now or..." (shutting the brain down) and then expect the responder to competently produce a reasoned response.

I've been actively working on this for a while, myself...wanting my junior tribe members to learn life lessons well when they goof...not just scramble to deal with the threat of my anger. I want them to discover their own lessons from their mistakes, because I have encouraged them to explore the situation, their actions, and the results. So, I'm working on waiting to respond when I find out something that puts my brain under threat which shuts my brain down, and I can't perform well.

Because I'm realizing I'm not my best self when my family's safety is a near car accident, or poor grades, or watching one strike out at the other. My reptilian brain gets threatened, and I'm not much an effective a couple of times, I've managed to catch myself and say:

Thank you for telling me what you just said. I think it was probably hard for you to tell me and I want you to be glad you did. So, can you give me a day or two to process and then we can talk about this so that we can have a conversation that we both feel good about?

Then, I can come back and shape the conversation in an encouraging way, letting the junior tribe member learn from the mistake/goof/error. And it has produced remarkably effective conversations, once I can encourage learning, rather than lecture and blame.

It's not gonna work all the time...sometimes immediate action is required. But most things can wait for a bit, doncha think? And why wouldn't we as parents or partners want to shape a conversation in such a way that actual learning can occur? Why wouldn't I want to salute another's learning to enhance it, rather than threaten and shame them?

Just something to think about...thank you, Sugata Mitra for teaching me something in such an encouraging way! :)

Here is his TEDx talk...the part that I really like starts at about 9 minutes and lasts for about 6 minutes.

Altered Memories or Lying?

- by Carolyn Bergen

When I was in Grade 2, we moved from a house that I loved and a neighbourhood I felt safe in--I loved my school, enjoyed my school, had great friends down the street, loved the beautiful elm trees arching over the street, and loved playing on the stone steps of the grand church nearby. I didn't want to move…y'know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I remembered that childhood home fondly, and occasionally shared with friends about how fantastic that home was. Shortly after I graduated from university, I found out that an acquaintance had purchased that very house…and she invited me over for the evening. I was thrilled to be able to visit this beautiful home that I had idealized for almost 2 decades.

Except it wasn't so beautiful. And it wasn't nearly as grand as I remembered it.

And the big beautiful bedroom that I had given up to move into the new home? 

Well, it had shrunk to half the size it had been when I was there! 

I was shocked.

Brian Williams, a respected and trusted broadcaster, was recently suspended for 6 months for breaking the trust of his viewing audience for embellishing a story about the circumstances of being in a helicopter a decade ago. He has told the story recently that his helicopter was shot by a rocket propelled grenade, when the story was originally related as the helicopter in front of his whirlybird that had been hit.

There is concern over how he broke the trust of those who have listened to the news.

That concerns me…and it seems to me that we have to remember that when we point a finger at someone else, three fingers point back at us. 

Surely, we know that the rest of us have also been accused of remembering things wrong, too, right? How many fishing stories haven't you heard where the fish was thiiiiiis big…and someone else who was there adjusts the hands to be only half as far apart? This just hasn't happened to Brian Williams. 

Unfortunately for Brian Williams, being in the press, his stories are all captured and recorded so they can be compared over time.

Why blog about Brian Williams? He's an American broadcaster and most of us don't watch him!

Because we have all been in Brian Williams' shoes at one time or another, and related a memory we have to others as fact, in a way other than how it actually happened if we had a movie camera.

So…I don't have a hot clue about why Brian Williams' story changed over time. None of us do…and so I don't think it's fair for us to judge or criticize. We don't have enough information to be in a position to know.

But I do know why stories are related differently than how they occurred:

1. We are suggestible people

That's not wrong. That's just the facts, Jack.

Our memory is malleable over time. Everybody's is. 

Folks have spent their lives behind bars with eye witnesses swearing that they were seen at the scene of the crime…and then later it was discovered that with the lighting at the scene at the time of the crime, no one could have seen the shooter's face. No one. The witnesses hadn't intended to lie…but over time, it was suggested that it was a certain young man…and they came to believe it over the years.

I like the way Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist puts it: 

Our memories are constructive. They're reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.

She showed a video of car accident to a buncha people. When the investigators asked, "How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?" the speed reported was lower than when the investigators asked, "How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?"

Brian Williams saw footage of himself repeatedly with the helicopter that was hit by the grenade. His own helicopter may well have been shot at as well. Did the pictures influence his memory?

2. Trauma has us remember things differently

When a person is in a terrifying situation, they are worrying about their own survival…and the ability to pay close attention to what happened and how it happened decreases. Memory storage is seriously impaired as the brain is doing it's best to ensure survival.

Again, Elizabeth Loftus, a memory psychologist reports:

The subjects in this study were members of the U.S. military who were undergoing a harrowing training exercise to teach them what it's going to be like for them if they are ever captured as prisoners of war. And as part of this training exercise, these soldiers are interrogated in an aggressive, hostile, physically abusive fashion for 30 minutes and later on they have to try to identify the person who conducted that interrogation. And when we feed them suggestive information that insinuates it's a different person, many of them misidentify their interrogator,often identifying someone who doesn't even remotely resemble the real interrogator.

So…in Brian Williams' case, he and his crew spent three days in the desert with the military folks in the helicopter awaiting evacuation after their convoy was shot at. That's serious stuff. Wouldn't it make sense to cut him some slack?

Who amongst us doesn't remember the teeth of the dog that bit us as bigger than realistic?

I see this happen with couples when they have a massive fight. They come in and tell me how it happened, each with a story that opposes the other…and now they have another layer of conflict convinced the other is lying. When a person is married, and loves their partner, and has their lives intertwined and invested in the other--when there is a huge conflict…that can feel extremely threatening--which will distort memory.

I think we need to avoid rushing to judgement in situations where the story told is different from how others or the camera remember it. We need to take the perspective of the other and understand that the memories may be different for a reason.

3. We embellish to better tell an important emotional truth

Years ago, a Junior Tribe Member often crashed through the door after running home from the school bus, loudly and desperately claiming, "I'M STARVING". 

On the days when I had less reserve to be patient and loving, I would say to him, "You are not starving. I watched you eat breakfast, and I packed a lunch and two snacks. There is no way you are starving".

And we would fight because I was basically accusing him of lying.

(Yes, I recognize this story doesn't do me proud. We all have our moments.)

Other days, I would be able to hear the truth in his words. The loud telegraphic phrase, "I'm starving" actually was the only way he could transmit to me the depth of his hunger. It was a way to say, "My hunger is so big, that if I simply told you I was hungry, you wouldn't really get how hungry I really am feeling".

On those days, I could cheerfully say, "Oh my…that sounds like we better cut up an apple for you right now and get it into your tummy pronto". 

On those days, I could recognize how what he was saying was emotionally true, even if it wasn't factually true…and hear the truth and address it.

I think that when others say, "You never…" or "I always have to…" they are trying to say to us something that, in that moment, feels emotionally very significant. That's often when we start to quibble and say something like, "Well…last summer I did"…which is besides the point. With listening to the emotional truth of it we can respond to the depth of pain and frustration, rather than defensively nitpick on the factual accuracy.

4. We want to be liked and valued

Who of us hasn't embellished a story consciously just to make it a little better…and thereby have a better story to tell…so that we can be received better?

We tell ourselves we aren't lying, we are just telling a better story.

Y'know, y'say you didn't get ANY sleep that night (when you know you fell asleep about 4 am), or all these women were giving you their phone numbers (because three is a lot, but not nearly as shocking as "all"). Stuff like that.

We all want to be liked. We all want what we say to be valued and to reflect well on us. We all want to know that we were memorable to others. 

We were made for connection…and for most of us, there can be a small part of us that worries that if we tell the story as it really happened, others won't be so impressed, and the story will fall flat…and that will mean that we aren't seen by others favourably.

That's because of the shame gremlin…where all of us who are capable of empathy fear that we are flawed and therefore not good enough with the story we have…and so we invent better stories.

5. Others expect us to tell a better story.

When a person has been in a challenging situation, others can approach and ask to hear the story. They are looking for something juicy, something scintillating…something that will have them feel like they themselves have been present with something pretty special. 

We all long to be connected with the really cool, outlandish, newsworthy and famous.

And so, either consciously or unconsciously, we put pressure on the storyteller to tell the story we want to hear, rather than what actually happened. 

(And inadvertently, possibly suggestively shape the story the teller then tells in ways that even the story teller doesn't realize).

We want to hear the dress looks good on us. We want to know that people like our blogs when they read them (OK…I was a little too transparent there, wasn't I?)

The truth is always an insult or a joke, lies are generally tastier. We love them. The nature of lies is to please. Quote by Katherine Dunn. Poster by Bergen and Associates

I think we need to be a little slower to decide when people are intentionally lying. Storytelling is a whole lot more complex than simply "telling the truth". Memory is complicated. Emotions are powerful.

Compassion and benefit of the doubt is also powerful…and it builds bridges and creates opportunities for understanding and processing…and greater connection.

Whether Brian Williams was lying or not is irrelevant in your life…but I think this raises the issue that it isn't fair for us to be asking that question, and that question isn't even a helpful one. 

The Brian Williams story does create a helpful opportunity to decide what sort of conversations we can have with loved ones where it does matter…where what we assume, what motives we assign, what questions we ask, and how we dialogue when we remember it differently can ultimately change the course of a relationship.

We as witnesses

- by Carolyn Bergen

One of the things i love about being at Bergen and Associates is that it isn't just a place where I show up to do therapy with the fabulous people who are clients that I get to work with. 

It is more. So. Much. More. (and that already is a ton)

It is also a place where I show up to work with colleagues who inspire me with their own gifts and talents--and they are incredible people who are also great friends. I just simply love them...I like them, to be sure, but I love them too.

Kevin Beauchamp was an intern with us for two years. He and I met regularly for those two years for supervision. I had a chance to watch him develop his skills, to witness his passion for the work, and compassion for his clients. And I had opportunity to watch him work through his own personal stuff too, which is something all of us therapists have to do all the time to ensure that when we work with clients, we don't impose our crap into their work. Kevin was candid and open and vulnerable to do this, working through some challenging and tough stuff...and I hugely admired him for it.

He married Melissa yesterday...which is a celebration of tremendous proportions on so many levels. It was extra fun for me because Melissa was a student of mine as an Occupational Therapy student at the University of Manitoba when I was teaching there. I knew each of them and liked each of them, before they even knew each other. How cool is that!! 

Melissa and Kevin Beauchamp were married February 7, 2015 in Winnipeg

Several of us from Bergen and Associates were privileged to attend the wedding. What an honour to be included in those invited to be a part of such an incredible day.

Melanie Thiessen, Roshonna Plett and Carolyn Bergen attended the wedding ceremony of Melissa and Kevin Beauchamp

I liked how the minister opened the wedding.

Paul Stanley said something like:

You might think you were invited to be guests today. But you are more than that...much more. You are witnesses to the vows of Melissa and Kevin. And witnesses are sometimes called to bear testimony to what they witnessed.

There may come a day when you are out with the guys, and Kevin says something about Melissa that is unkind. And as a witness of today, I would invite you to remind him of the promises he made to Melissa today to be with her, and to support her.

Because Melissa is human, and we all make mistakes, there will quite possible come a time when Melissa is discouraged and angry with Kevin, and speaks of him in a way that threatens to drive a wedge in between them. And you can bear witness to the vows Melissa made today, and challenge her to reposition herself towards a compassionate and loving posture to Kevin. 

As witnesses today, you are seeing that Kevin and Melissa are joined together. Their invitation to you to be here today tells you that they want you to know of this commitment to each other . And your role in their life now includes being a presence that encourages them to honour their vows that you will shortly hear. You are no longer Melissa's friend where you hear her talk about Kevin in a way that could increase the distance. You aren't pals with Kevin in a way that separates him from Melissa. 

Your presence here today means that you recognize their desire to grow together, and your witness to that today means that you will help them be a healthy couple…not one that says in 70 years: "Well. we gritted our teeth and made it somehow through that hell" Rather, you will help them to be a couple that will build each other up, support each other and encourage each other…they will be better people because they are married to each other.

(Ok…so I didn't record him, and I think he said something like that…and this was the essence of it…but I added my own flair to it…cuz it's now a day later.)
As witnesses, we may be called to testify and bear witness to the vows. Bergen and ASsocaites Counselling in Winnipeg

I loved how the officiant recognized the value of community. We sometimes forget how incredibly powerful we are in influencing each other. 

We belong to each other. 

We are wired for connection.

We do better with support of caring people who have earned the right to speak candid and honest and challenging things into our lives.

We bear witness. 

And it is an honour and a privilege to do so.

Prepping for Lifelong Love Part 2

- by Carolyn Bergen

So…with the Junior Tribe Member now engaged (Woo hoo--toooo exciting!), the happy couple asked the Mother of the Bride (MOTB) and Mother of the Groom (MOTG)--(that's me!!) to attend the Wonderful Wedding Show last month.

Sigh. Swoon.

When a mother is expecting, she dreams of the day that baby will find the person of their dreams. What pregnant mother doesn't imagine a grownup child at the wedding? And now it happened. And I was invited to tag along in the dreaming of The Wedding. An honour!!

We made an occasion of it. We met at Stella's on Sherbrook for brunch. The bride was a VIB (Very Important Bride, thank you very much!) and so we arrived early at the Convention Centre.

The Wonderful Wedding Show provides the opportunity for every bride to explore every option for wedding planning, and be able to discover extravagances previously not thought possible.

Picture this:

  • centrepieces with birdcages with live birds in them
  • some floral arrangements being in 4 foot tall vases, others in 6 foot vases for table centrepieces…which would you prefer?
  • tables with dozens of rose buds in a sunken pool under the plexiglass tabletop
  • a variety of flooring for your wedding (yes, flooring--I didn't know either)
  • magicians to loosen the crowd up at your reception (he fooled me completely--impressive!)
Centrepieces featured the Wonderful Wedding Show in Winnipeg, Manitoba 2015
And I could go on. 

Rows upon rows of booths of flowers, reception venues, honeymoon destinations, sound systems, DJ's, caterers, chocolate shops, cake shops, stationary designers, wedding favours, chair rentals, gift registries, jewellers, photo booths, photographers, men's formalwear, limo services…

And I could go on.

The four piece string quartet was exquisite. I stood there for a long time listening to them. The food that CanadInns let us sample was delicious--who doesn't like fruit run through a chocolate fountain? And the party limo/bus was a beautiful place to sit and rest for a minute.

But mostly, as the MOTG, I was a sherpa.

Myself, and the MOTB each had a large shopping bag on our shoulder (which increased to one on each shoulder for each of us by the end) and we obediently trailed behind the happy couple, one of us opening our bag after the visit to each booth to have the brochures and info deposited. The bags got heavy.

(That was after the bride put the pre-printed name-and-phone-number label on the contest entry at that booth--brides have been told to come prepared--seriously)

It was a hoot…but a little overwhelming. (scratch that--completely overwhelming!!)

And then we got to the end…and my back was sore, and while it was great fun…I. Was. Done.

…and then I found out we had only done one floor…and there was yet another whole floor awaiting.

Hundreds of booths preparing brides and their grooms and their mothers for the big day of the wedding.

And…sigh…this marriage therapist saw NOT ONE booth preparing the couple for their marriage--the rest of their lives.

And I couldn't help but look at all the very many excited VIB's and feel a sadness…because while they are excited about the wedding, statistically, only about 82% will reach their 5th anniversary. Depending on which set of statistics you read, about 30-50% of these women will become divorced.

For a good chunk for the starry-eyed brides…the wedding of their dreams will end up in heartache and disappointment. Devastation and loss.

That's not pretty, or fun to think about, or something that anybody wants to contemplate. But, dem's da facts!

 “People do not get married planning to divorce. Divorce is the result of a lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.”  ― Gary Chapman, Poster by Bergen and Assocaites Counseling in Winnipeg Manitoba

This is a plea for engaged couples everywhere to prepare for the rest of their lives…the marriage is more important than the wedding.

That sounds so obvious…yet what percentage of effort do couples put into couples put into their marriage vs the wedding? What percentage of the budget is spent on preparing their relationship for the rest of their lives vs. "The Big Day"?

Advantages of Premarital Counselling:

  1. It lets both bride and groom be in a counsellor's office together and know what it feels like. It lets them get to know a therapist--it makes the walk into the therapist's office a shorter distance when in the future there are significant issues that need resolving.
  2. It affirms to the strong couple that they have extensive resources in their relationship. They know what their strengths are and are better able to access them in their relationship.
  3. It highlights growth areas. No one likes to focus on those. It's uncomfortable to talk about areas that aren't going well. But guess what? Not talking about them doesn't avoid them…in fact, they are more likely to undermine your relationship if they aren't acknowledged and addressed.
  4. It points out under discussed areas. How can a couple address a blind spot if you can't see it? Some couples I've worked with haven't even thought to talk about how they would raise children, or how they would combine finances.
As a bride and groom planning your big day…will you also consider planning for the marriage?  You WILL hit rough spots that you can't imagine or plan for. Life will throw you a curve ball, you will hit a rough patch, and conflict you hadn't foreseen will happen.

By doing premarital counselling, you position yourself to be better able to weather the storms that life will inevitably bring to your marriage. It's not gonna magically bulletproof your marriage, but it will begin to give you tools and strategies for dealing with the challenges that will happen…and connect you with a resource you can return to, should the need require. 

We have a premarital counselling package that I'm proud of, and that I think works. But don't use ours if you have another option you like. Do your research. Go where you are comfortable. Check with your rabbi, imam, pastor, priest or whomever what they would suggest. 

Get good premarital preparation somewhere. Please.  I'm not pushing our program…I'm encouraging you to attend a course of counselling that you are convinced is of good quality and will meet your needs…any good quality preparation is soooo important. Go where it will work for you. Please.

Wedding preparation is a blast…a dream come true.

How about making marriage preparation the same?

Wouldn't you love to be able to, several decades from now, be the way this couple is?

Prepping for lifelong love Part 1

- by Carolyn Bergen

One month ago today, something very important happened in my life.

It's true that it was likely more important in a Junior Tribe Members life…but this is my blog :) and so I'm making this about me. After all, I am now a MOTG (mother of the groom).

It was in summer that he began talking about the proposal around the dinner table. They'd been dating each other since early high school…they have a solid relationship with no drama. She's been a part of our family dinners and occasions for years…now it is time to make it official.

JTM would throw out ideas, and we would toss around possibilities for how to make it special. He was in charge of what would happen…but he made it fun by letting me suggest tweaks. Some he took. Some he didn't.

He got T's input on the ring by casually browsing with her over the spring. She had some ideas…and they evolved and developed over time. He knew what T liked. What she didn't know was that he took her ideas and had the ring of their dreams made. All those years of seeing each other and dreaming and planning suddenly became a concrete expression of love in the ring.

Only trouble for me was that special ring was in the house for almost 3 months before the big reveal. That's a long time to hold such an exciting bit of news quiet. My life as a therapist is holding the confidences of many--I'm a pro at keeping quiet--but when its a JTM and its about the love of his life and the ring is beautiful and I'm excited…well, my well honed steel trap was tested significantly (but prevailed, I proudly say).

Sometimes boys cut corners. A JTM can think he cleaned up supper when the dishes make it from the table just to the counter. The laundry is as good as put away when the laundry basket reaches the bedroom. 

Sometimes boys recognizes there are places and times where cutting a single corner just won't do. All stops are pulled out. There is an investment in getting Every. Detail. Perfect.

This proposal was one of those times when he rose to the occasion--he put in a ton of effort and paid attention to each little aspect of the moment when he would ask her to spend the rest of their lives together. He loves her, and the extravagance of the proposal was significant to him to be able to have her know and remember that forever.


Sometimes those JTM's do make a mama's heart fairly burst with pride, joy, love, and a whole buncha other stuff. I mean, seriously…there are days in raising these children where you wonder if they will ever be able to match socks, actually put the laundry into the hamper, or say thank you without being reminded. And then one day, you turn around, and he is spending the fall season dreaming about how to make a moment in time the memory of a lifetime for the love of his life. I'm crazy thrilled about his efforts.

That's awesome (and I don't use that word lightly!)

So…in the weeks before the big day, Engagement Central (aka our living room) the crack in the ceiling was repaired. The entire room was repainted a beautiful soft white. The ceiling and trim and fireplace got a fresh coat too. We went and ordered flowers and purchased candles long before. We made ice candle holders, got an ice bucket ready, and made the lists. He planned his speech, and I made plans with her for a pedicure for the appointed time and day to ensure that T kept her schedule open.

The before we ironed and hung curtains (long overdue to be done--better late than never), removed the furniture, ironed tablecloths, and checked the final lists. He wasn't sleeping from excitement…which was ok, as it gave him hours in the night to practice and refine his speech.

The day of the engagement, I took the day off work..ran errands in the morning getting last minute details done. It was a family day helping one of our own fulfill a dream--that's the best sort of day. And in the afternoon, we picked up the roses. 23 is this couple's number…they started dating on the 23rd, and they often mark special occasions on that day…and now they were getting engaged on the 23rd. So…we trimmed 23 dozen roses and put them in vases. We arranged 23 candles all over Engagement Central. We lit candles in ice holders by the sidewalk, and into the room. We curtained off the rest of the house. We set the table for a romantic dinner for two. He showered put on his suit…and then T said she'd arrive in 10 minutes. The room was beautiful…it was enchanting. 

We were hoping for exquisite. It exceeded our expectations. It was magical.

We lit the few last candles and everyone except the future groom tore out of there in 4 minutes. Turns out her 10 was actually 3.75 minutes. We were just getting in the car to leave when T pulled up. 

I panicked. And did the first thing that occurred to me. We ducked. 

Not my finest momentNothing graceful about it. After what seemed forever, she got out of her car and walked past our car, curious about where we had disappeared--but she wasn't suspecting anything. 

He cued the music, turned on the camera, and the two of them formalized the commitment for a lifetime together. They have the video…no one is allowed to hear the private moments they shared…but he did share a still photo from that specie moment with me that I now share with you…

I love you for all that you are, all that you have been, and all you are yet to be. Poster by Bergen and Associates Counselling in Winnipeg

I had no idea it would be so great to have a JTM get engaged. I had no idea how wonderful it would be to officially be expecting a daughter. 

He put so much energy into the engagement. Now they are officially planning the rest of their lives together. The relationship is wonderful…it has matured from a junior high crush to high school sweethearts to college aged boyfriend-girlfriend to now future husband and wife.

The maturation does not stop now. The relationship doesn't climax with engagement…or marriage for that matter. This relationship, as with all relationships will continue to move…and relationships that don't move forward and develop and deepen..those relationships--well they deteriorate.

I trust them not to do that. I do. But we have talked about the value of good premarital counselling. Deliberate, mindful attention to their relationship. 

  • To celebrate the strengths. 
  • To work out the kinks that all relationships have.
  • To talk about topics that might not have occurred to them to have.
  • To wrestle with how they resolve differences and to recognize patterns that are healthy and ones that may need shifting to become healthier
The engagement was planned and executed with excellence…now they intend to plan the marriage with the same attention to detail.

FAQ's about forgiveness

- by Carolyn Bergen

Seriously, you're gonna write about forgiveness? You're gonna make me feel bad for how I angry and upset I am. I already feel bad enough! How dare you!

Yeah, I get that. Living in a state of enormous hurt and pain after someone has hurt you, often with anger and resentment, that's bad enough. But to read on a therapist's blog about forgiveness--because, let's face it, things can look so simple in black and white on a computer--is likely to create more feelings of covered by a layer of shame feeling like you should be able to get past this. 

Like you need that, right?

Please don't read this feeling like I think you "should" forgive someone. That somehow its a character flaw if you hadn't forgiven and choose not to, or that you are a failure if you've tried and the feelings of resentment and betrayal and wounding persist.

This is merely an invitation to consider how forgiveness can create internal shifts that give life to the forgiver. It's not easy. Not at all.

What does forgiveness look like?

I was in first year university the year Candace Derksen went missing. She was a student at the school I had just graduated from a few months before. I would wear my school jacket on the bus and folks on the bus would ask me if I knew her.

She was found, murdered, in the dead of winter in a cold shed. And the whole city grieved.

The evening she was found was recounted in the book, David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Her parents were closing the door after a full evening of visitors, when a stranger came to door, announcing he also was the parent of a murdered child. He came with the mission, "I'm going to tell you this so let you know what lies ahead." He proceeded to go through his notebook, explaining the process of the trials, the bills, the sense of injustice, and his anger. The father of this murdered child couldn't work, his health was poor, and he had a shell of a marriage. Wilma Derksen, Candace's mother, said, "The whole process had destroyed him…He didn't talk about his daughter. It as just this huge absorption with getting justice."

The Derksen's decided that evening to use his words as a warning shot across the bow…"This is what could lie ahead." They chose to process their daughter's death differently.

The next day, when they faced the press after the funeral:

"We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people's lives." Cliff said.

Wilma went next. "Our main concern was to find Candace. We've found her." She continued, "I can't say at this point I forgive this person," but the stress was on the phrase, "at this point." "We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to."

(Page 253, David And Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell)

Wilma Derksen's words remind me of a story in the Christian Bible (in the book of Matthew, in the 18th chapter for those of you who would want to look it up) where a metaphorical story is told of a fellow who owes a large amount of cash to the king…a boatload of money. He can't repay it, panics at the thought of he and his family being sold into slavery to pay the debt, begs for the king's mercy and receives grace. His debt is pardoned. He leaves the king's palace and happens upon a man who owes him a fraction of what he was just forgiven. The man pleads for time to pay it back. The fellow throws him in prison because he can't pay it back on the spot. The king finds out…and let's just say it doesn't go well.

In my mind, I conceptualize forgiveness as "cancelling the debt"

It's a way of simply saying, "I have been wronged, but I'm not gonna hold out hope of payment. I'm gonna consider the debt gone." It's acknowledging that you aren't gonna be able to collect on the debt, and are choosing to not still have it on your books.

So forgiveness isn't about "forgiving and forgetting"?

Forgiveness is not saying, "It doesn't matter."

Because being wronged matters. It does.

Forgiveness is not saying, "I'm fine."

Because being wronged hurts…and the hurt doesn't magically disappear with forgiveness. If you forgive someone who has hurt you--the wound doesn't disappear.

Forgiveness is not saying, "You can keep hurting me."

Because forgiveness is not about giving permission for the same behaviour to continue that is so hurtful. In fact, I would suggest that part of forgiveness is ensuring that you won't be further hurt. If you cancel a person's debt to you…to loan money the next day to that person isn't part of forgiveness. I think that's foolishness.

Forgiveness happens best from a place of safety. If you are in an abusive relationship, forgiveness best occurs after the relationship is over. If you are in a healthy relationship where someone messed up (because messing up is a part of every single relationship on earth), the wrong is acknowledged, healed with plans in place to move forward to reduce the likelihood that this wrong will occur again. (but it will, because that's how us humans are.)

Forgiveness is not easy.

When you choose to cancel a debt, that costs a person. When you cancel a financial debt, you are out that money…and that may bring anger back when you realize that you have to make tough choices or go without because that money won't be coming back. Of course that is going to require re-processing. It's gonna be hard. Forgiveness is a cognitive choice first--it's a thought--that can take a long time to sink into a person's soul so that they feel the forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation

Forgiveness may be a part of reconciliation, but they are not the same. Sometimes, forgiveness occurs long after the person who wronged you has left your life. Sometimes, forgiveness occurs but distance is still required to maintain boundaries for healthy living.

What's in it for me to forgive?

Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behaviour. It prevents their behaviour from destroying your heart.”  ― Hemant Smarty Poster by Bergen and
Huge, huge benefits. Forgiveness has huge benefits for the forgiver. Mayo Clinic says the benefits for forgiving are:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem
Forgiveness is a way of removing the power of the damage from your life and stops the power of the damage from wreaking further destruction. Notice I said the power of the damage, not the damage itself. It stops the poison from infecting other relationships.

But I tried to forgive. I've put in the effort, and I want to put it behind me, but I can't. I'm still feeling the feelings of unforgiveness. What do I do?

Yeah, oh that it were as simple as saying, "I forgive you" and then it's done. For most of us, it's a lot more complicated than that. And harder. 

Forgiveness comes in layers…and sometimes takes years. And then when you think you're done, and you've arrived at a place of forgiveness, life throws you a curve ball and you need to re-enter it all over again. Painfully.

The choice to not be vindictive or revengeful was a conscious choice for Wilma Derksen. 20 years later, when her killer was charged…the theoretical forgiveness came very real and tested hard. She had to work through anger and vengeful thoughts at a whole different level. To look at the man who ended her daughter's life to satisfy his sexual perversion filled her with rage. She is free to admit that she is not always forgiving: "It's the last thing you want to do." …but she made choices. She challenged herself in painful ways about her anger, her injustice and encouraged herself to look forward. She debated not forgiving as she heard more details about the murder and thought of the advantages of holding the hatred and resentment, and then thought:

But then it would have gotten harder. I think I would have lost Cliff, I think I would have lost my children. In some ways I would be doing to others what he did to Candace.

I admire Wilma's courage to think "big picture" in ways that shape her well being.

I've been wronged, big time, in my life. I've struggled with the rage and resentment as I deal with the impact of being screwed over in ways that cost me huge over a long period. I have personally decided, for myself, that an important value for me is to live in positive spaces, not negative ones. my mind, what I do is this: I ask myself, "What direction am I facing? Am I facing the one who owes me, or am I facing the direction of having been forgiven?" It helps me refocus and redirect my spirit to life-giving directions…to ways in which I have been forgiven. To be reminded that I wish to have forgiveness extended to me on an ongoing basis for decades to come by people who I will hurt--because I am human. I choose a life of forgiveness and forgiving--and remind myself of this often when I am pulled to the ugliness of unforgiveness. In my brain, I shift my posture and decide who I face…I turn around.

For the record, there are days I suck at it.

What does forgiveness do in relationships?

So much. So much.

Forgiveness is an act of grace. It is kindness and gentleness in action. It restores relationships. 

We are wired for connection. But we are connected with human beings…and we are humans. And that means, despite our best intentions (and face it, we aren't always giving our best, either), we mess up. Forgiveness is the means of relationship repair.

To receive mercy from a loved one says to the forgiven restores relationships.

Forgiveness…it's hard. But it's worth it. If you have a struggle with it, talk to someone about it? Talking about it--connecting about forgiveness--can help move the process forward.

Last week: Part 1, Apologizing

Older posts »

Blog ~ A Thoughtful Look at Life

March 4, 2015

Bystander apathy? We were created to be in connection…then why don't we help others when we are in a crowd?

Take a look at my newest jewelry…the ring I will wear for the rest of my life!

Announcing Carolyn Bergen's engagement. I'm getting hitched!

Introducing Melanie's grandson Beckett…she's getting over there for cuddles as often as she can…but is now back to answering our phones too! :)

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