Lifelong Amends

One of the things that I was taught as a child was that the best defense was a good offense.  Rephrased - never let them see you sweat.  Another refrain:  never, ever admit to anything (always ask for a lawyer even if court-appointed).  Yes, this is what I learned.

Not to deny the value of legal counsel - because I would NEVER do that...but this idea of never admitting to wrongdoing can be a real intimacy buster.  The value, of course, is that if you are really good at bullshitting, maybe you are able to wear people down when they initiate a conversation over some perceived wrongdoing on your part.  Over the course of a lifetime, it builds up a wall of distrust that sometimes even our super powers cannot climb.

I never give up on hoping that we can change and learn and grow.  This is one area where we can make changes, if this is the protocol we’ve been taught to follow when we do something wrong.  We can learn how to be more honest; admit wrongdoing; make amends.  However, it is extremely difficult to overcome this without a lot of trial and error.  

Struggling with this concept myself, I understood when a gentleman came to me wanting to rebuild trust with his wife.  He deeply regretted his financial irresponsibility and the ways he hid their true financial situation from his wife.  Once the cat was out of the bag and she did find out he had been lying about their financial situation, she was reluctant to trust him with anything.  He, in turn, felt like she was treating him like a kid and he was frustrated. Like a kid kept on too tight a leash, he kept sneaking around making other financial missteps.  None were egregious but all reinforced her distrust.

He wanted to stay married but was tired of living in the dog house.  This is where the concept of a lifelong living amends came into play.  After decades of living by the “if you ask I will not tell you the truth” marriage manual, I suggested that it would take decades to restore trust.  And he should stop whining and start rebuilding trust.  If he didn’t want to be treated like a kid, he needed to start acting like a man who valued his marriage enough to grovel.  Yes, grovel.  He needed to OVER share, OVER report, OVER account for his money, his time, his thoughts and even his misdeeds.  How long he asked?  I replied - for the rest of your marriage or for as long as it takes for your wife to see that you are a grown up man who takes responsibility for his actions.

This example illustrates the downside of getting away with stuff through the skilled use of BS.  We may wear people down and get them to stop asking us difficult questions that we do not want to answer, but in so doing, we are making steady and significant withdrawals from the bank of relational trust.  Some mistakes take a lifetime to live down.  

How can you avoid ending up in this position in your own relationships?