Before becoming a speaker, author, and leadership coach, I was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. This role gave me the privilege of helping individuals, couples, and families share their stories, learn new skills, and turn around the unresolved conflict in their lives.
I often think of a woman named Jane who came to me in search of healing for her family. What set Jane apart in my memory? She was over 80-years-old
Committed to making her wrongs right, Jane shared the ways in which she had contributed to the emotional pain in her six children’s lives. Despite her age, she was eager to take steps to bring her family together.
This mother’s day, I share Jane’s story and the meaningful steps she took that we can all learn from.
Jane’s story of growth applies to all of us who want to have healthy relationships. My hope is that we can take lessons from Jane and apply them to both our personal and professional relationships.
Over several months, Jane wrote letters to each of her six children. In the letters, she expressed what they meant to her and appreciation of their strengths. She also acknowledged her own fault in problems they faced as a family over the years. The letters served as an entry for Jane and her adult children to talk about things from the past, to hear one another’s perspectives of events from long ago that had never been discussed.
Be willing to get uncomfortable
Jane acknowledged how different it was for her to step into new feelings associated with admitting fault. She said, “there is some kind of dignity in holding a grudge. Some of the feuds have been going on for twenty years and I can’t remember why they started. I guess sometimes we take pride in holding a grudge. It is unfamiliar to not hold onto ways I have been wronged”.
Despite her uncomfortableness with admitting fault and the steps she literally had to climb to come to my office to work through unresolved issues with her children, she persevered.
Each of Jane’s children told her how much her letters meant to them. Some of her children who lived in the area were able to attend sessions with her that allowed them to discuss the impact of the letters. Through tears and heartfelt conversation, they began to understand each other’s perspectives that led to cracks in the family foundation of anger, hurt, and cut-offs. Jane even had the opportunity to resume a relationship with one of her children that she had been estranged from.
What Steps Will you Take to Admit Personal or Professional Mistakes?
Jane’s story gives us three lessons you can apply today:
- It is never too late to mend relationships. It is never too late to find peace and prioritize reconciling relationships. This is true in one’s personal life and in the workplace. Who you were yesterday does not need to be who you are today and tomorrow.
- Most worthwhile things are hard to do.Admitting fault is never easy. Getting real isn’t a walk in the park. But the payoff is worth the pain, and Jane is a testament to that. Any leader who has earned their place within an organization can speak to the truth of this rule of life.
- There is great power in the words: “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” These words, backed with action, are the priceless beginnings of a story of strength and healing. These words remind us that despite past actions, we can always make wrongs right. Are you willing to be someone who admits to their mistakes or shortcomings and works towards better communication?
By addressing unresolved hurts from your upbringing, you’ll learn that you don’t have to carry those scars with you. You can heal the scars that may be driving the negative ways you react to conflict in the workplace and elsewhere.
If you’re holding on to grudges with someone at home or work, let’s talk. You can learn how to take the emotional charge out of wrongs done to you, so you show up every day as the person you aspire to be.
For every perfect Mother’s Day image out there, there is a human being like Jane. Willing to face her past with grace. Perfectly imperfect and ready to learn new skills and do the often messy, uncomfortable work necessary to heal and grow.
About the author
Bonnie believes magic happens when people have the courage to talk about what’s really going on in the workplace.
Drawing from decades of experience as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie works with executive leaders and team managers who want to stop divisive behaviors, resolve conflict, and build the team trust needed to create healthy work cultures that drive results.
Bonnie is an accredited leadership coach and professional speaker who’s known for helping leaders bring teams together so they get more done. For more stories about how real-life leaders mended family relationships and improved their leadership effectiveness, get Bonnie’s book How Did My Family Get In My Office?!