MASTER COACH TRAINING
Module 18. Coaching Radical Relationships
Video One: Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation
Welcome to Video #1 in Module #18. This is all about coaching relationships as is both Module #19 and some of Module #20. This makes sense for it is quite possible that around 90% of the people that you work with will, initially at least, come to you with some kind of a relationship problem, expecting you to have a way to solve it for them. That’s the medical model as you will no doubt recall, but unlike your client, you, of course, will have those other 3 questions in your mind.
Allow me to jog your memory as to what they are because nowhere is this mindset going to be more important than in the area of relationship.
1.“What is perfect about what is occurring with this person?”
2. “How is the perfection revealing itself?”
3. “How can I get this person to see the perfection in the situation?”
That said, a lot of what is to follow in this and the other two modules is very much grounded in the practical elements of how you might structure the coaching process and what kind of tools That you will have available at each stage. This is on the assumption that by now the theory of Radical Forgiveness is so embedded in
your consciousness that you will know how to transition from the medical model to the Radical Forgiveness model.
You also now know from the last module how to recognize which of the 4 stages of a relationship your client is in and will be able to zero in quite quickly on what steps to take and which tool, if any, is the appropriate one to use.
But, before we go there, let me make sure you have it clear in your mind the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, because they are not the same.
By now you know what Radical Forgiveness is, but since you will be up against academics and other experts who offer only descriptions of the kind of forgiveness we were brought up with, let’s take a quick
tour of some of them, just for fun. It is fun because we get to see how people squirm and wriggle with the concept of forgiveness but fail miserably to provide a good working definition of it and give us no instruction on how it might be achieved.
Starting with Webster’s Dictionary, it says that forgiveness is, “Letting go of resentment against someone or giving up the desire to punish.” But, exactly how do you let go? By what method do you let bygones be bygones, that being a common colloquial version of the same idea. No one tells you how. Letting go is one of those words you hear bandied about a lot by people who don’t know what else to tell someone who is in pain.
Others say, “Forgive and forget.” But, how can we forget something that happened that remains burned into our memory? In any case, we need to forgive and remember, not forget. That way we learn not to repeat the error.
Robert Enright and the Human Development Study Group defined it as, “Not only a decision or a choice to abandon one’s right to resentment and negative judgments but an imperative to replace those with compassion, generosity, and love.”
Really? Come on! It’s one thing to make a decision at the intellectual level to give up resentment and replace it with compassion, but it’s quite another to actually make that happen. Emotions are controlled by the limbic brain, not the neocortex. You can’t mentally decide or choose to feel anything. Compassion is not a choice. You cannot decide to feel compassion any more than you can decide to love someone. It’s either there, or it’s not.
Paul Wong, Ph.D., also says, “Forgiveness also involves a compassionate embrace of our enemies in spite of our natural feelings of bitterness, animosity, and fear. It is a voluntary and deliberate act to overlook their flaws and wrongdoings, cancel all their ‘debts’ and start a new chapter.” And, he adds, “It is nothing less than a very demanding task.” And he, too, offers no methodology.
So, it’s not so much the intention to forgive that’s the problem. It’s the how. No one can really tell us how it might be achieved or how we would recognize it if and when it arrives.
Now, whether we are talking about traditional forgiveness or Radical Forgiveness, it is something we do for ourselves, irrespective of whether the perpetrator knows that we are forgiving them or not. They may not even be aware that they have upset you. It’s not necessary.
Imagine my surprise then, to find in a prestigious academic book with the one-word title, Forgiveness, as if the book contained the only definitive version of forgiveness, that put forward most forcefully and in the kind of convoluted language that university professors seem compelled to use, presumably to secure tenure, the
most egregious and frankly ludicrous definition of forgiveness I’ve come across. The author was one Charles Griswold, Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, no less. He insists there has to be reciprocity between the injured and the injurer. “For it to be true forgiveness,” he says, “the perpetrator must offer an apology which has to be accepted. “Without some kind of restitution or amends from the perpetrator it does not count as forgiveness,” he argues.
By using this as his definition of forgiveness, he effectively disempowers the forgiver by making forgiveness dependent on the perpetrator, which only compounds victim consciousness. In effect, it puts one in the position of having to say, “If it wasn’t for you, I could forgive!” or “Because you won’t apologize, I can never be
free of this pain.” And if the person is dead, what then? Is forgiveness then out of the question? Of course not.
This is the perfect illustration of the confusion that arises when you conflate those two words, forgiveness and reconciliation. The truth is that with forgiveness, the only one involved is the forgiver, while reconciliation demands that both parties are involved as participants in the process.
With reconciliation both the injured and the injurer must have an intention to reconcile. Both need to recognize that an injury occurred to one or both of them and they should both have a desire to heal the wound and repair the relationship.
The requirement for reciprocity is met when the victim agrees to give up his anger and need for revenge, while the perpetrator is relieved of his guilt by offering some sort of apology or amends.
Where an estranged couple tries to come back together in order to save their marriage, the work they do is more likely to be in the form of reconciliation than of forgiveness — even if one party had done something for which forgiveness was necessary in that instance. But, for the relationship to truly come back to a meaningful partnership, it usually requires the give and take that characterizes reconciliation, not just forgiveness.
In the next video, we’ll look at how to coach a couple who are at the point in their relationship where they are contemplating breaking up.
We’ll see you then.