Recall an incident when someone hurt your feelings. It can be an event that happened recently, months or even years ago. What happened? What led up to it? When was the exact moment you felt the emotional tinge? How long did you brood over the issue? How many people did you rehash the incident to? How many hours, days, or years did you spend thinking about it? Does the hurt still linger within your soul?
Forgiveness is an extremely complex action of the mind. When someone says or does something rude or is disrespectful to you, it’s difficult to recover. It’s rare to spring back quickly. If you talk about the incident to other people, after awhile they may tell you, “Get over it already. You just have to forgive and forget.” You think, “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say because you’re not the one who got your feelings hurt.” Sound familiar?
Pardon my personal honesty, but when we women get our feelings hurt, whether it’s a big deal or little, we remember it forever! The event is branded in our brains. In contrast, men have a tendency to remember major occurrences in which the hurt was life-altering in some way. And because men are taught to be stoic and stifle their deepest emotions, the hurt often gets shoved under the rug only to surface in the form of displaced anger, overeating, or other destructive behaviors.
Fortunately, there is a way to truly “forgive.” The “forget” part, well I don’t think we ever completely forget. However, though we may not forget, real forgiveness frees us from the hurt, the emotion, attached to the incident. The solution to true forgiveness is the “Gumball Method.”
The Gumball Method
Set Up: The Gumball Method begins far before any hurtful incident occurs. Envision a large, clear, empty jar about two feet tall and a similar circumference. As you build a positive relationship with someone by sharing good times and laughter, doing kindnesses for and with each other, and experiencing other moments together, the jar fills robustly with gumballs.
Test yourself. Stop for a moment and think about someone with whom you have a great relationship. Mentally add up all the wonderful times and many occasions that have brought the two of you closer together. Use your imagination and transition these experiences into gumballs in your jar. Can you “hear” the clinking and clanking as you pour gumballs into your jar?
Day of Devastation: Low and behold, a day comes along when this person does something that hurts your feelings. Examples: Maybe a friend in your social group invited everyone out to lunch except you, and coincidentally, you end up at the same restaurant only to realize you’ve been left out. Or, you’re at a family celebration and a family member who’s been your buddy for years says something denigrating about you in front of others. Or, your spouse/partner/significant other gets ridiculously mad at you over a perceived mistake without having all the facts. When these “You hurt my feelings” events occur, gumballs are extracted from the jar.
Gumballs to the Rescue: Although gumballs are removed when your feelings are hurt, because your gumball jar is kept well-filled, this relationship is strong enough to withstand the incident, i.e., there are plenty of gumballs left. You justifiably feel hurt by the event, but, in time, through honest communication to clear the air and new experiences together, the relationship/gumball jar will regain the gumball deficit plus more.
This is how “forgiveness” truly happens.
Positive relationships: The Gumball Method works in relationships in which the two people have a strong, positive bond. This is not to say that their interactions must always be happy and joyful, but rather, they experience life together in ways that are supportive, nurturing, and caring.
Fluctuating relationships: Some relationships are a chronic mix of positive and negative, love and toxicity. The number of gumballs in their jar increases, shrinks, increases, shrinks, etc. “Forgiveness” can occur, but only temporarily.
Toxic relationships: The Gumball Method doesn’t work in toxic relationships, relationships in which hate, anger, and spite are continually volleyed back and forth. Why? The gumball jar never fills. A few gumballs may be added now and then, but they spill out as quickly as they’re added. Or, in the most destructive relationships, the gumball jar always remains empty. In toxic relationships, true forgiveness is impossible.
We’re human. We all make occasional mistakes by saying or doing things that hurt those we care about most. The key is to continually focus on filling your gumball jar for each relationship in your life. Then, when these slips occur, your gumball supply kicks in. Yes, the relationship suffers some impairment, but it’s temporary because your supple supply sustains the relationship. With the right effort, forgiveness will occur. Your relationship recovers as your gumball jar refills, plus you’ll likely have new gains. Using the Gumball Method, you can be assured of many meaningful and lasting bonds that grow and thrive throughout your life.
As The Relationship Insider, Sheryl Kurland provides easy and practical relationship advice based on her interviews with hundreds of couples happily married 50-plus years. Sign up here for off-the-beaten-path easy relationship tips to make your love life soar. Follow her on Twitter @SherylKurland.