The positive psychology movement has taken off in recent years. It seems to have begun somewhere around 1997 with Martin Seligman. He had worked out that too much of psychology was about broken people – aimed at fixing mental health issues. He on the other hand set up some research into the things that make us flourish ( the name of his subsequent book). So his research kicked off a whole series of studies into what makes us happy.
The Independent UK wrote a story about the attributes of happy people. A sort of summary of the findings from positive psychology. Amongst other things recently that for people to be happy they need people in their lives. They said “researchers think that roughly 40 percent of our happiness is under our own control; the rest is determined by genetics and external factors. That means there’s a lot we can do to control our own happiness.”
Relationships are Important
Curiously, most of the things we can control are in your relationships with other people. Christopher Peterson one of the founders of positive psychology said – positive psychology is really all about other people. Seligman adds “Very little that is positive is solitary”. He said scientists have found the single most reliable momentary increase in well being is found in doing a kind deeds for others.
So if you want to be happy in your retirement positive relationships are essential. The independent put it this way “A major study followed hundreds of men for more than 70 years, and found the happiest (and healthiest) were those who cultivated strong relationships with people they trusted to support them.”
For many of you thats good news. You are in positive relationships and your life is humming along nicely. When you are down there is someone there to help you up. When you are up you can help them. In fact the bible says just that…
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesastes 4:12
Isolated and Alone?
So what about those who feel isolated? What about those who have no one? Can I encourage you to reach out to your family if you have one and apologise if thats needed? You may not consider that you have much to apologise for because they were at fault. But I have never seen a one sided disagreement. They are always two sided.
I recently visited a friend who died of cancer. She had told me on many occasions, about the troubles she had with her children. In fact, it was the great sadness of her life – the defining issue of her later years. And it affected her so much so that her last few years of life were spent pretty much alone. Her children rarely came to visit. Her sons who worked miles away, rang her very occasionally and her daughter never did. She never rang them because it was their job! The only ones she had much contact with were people from her local church. They visited regularly and took her to appointments and made sure she had groceries and the help she needed.
Then on her death bed when the family was gathered, she apologised to her family. The tears flowed and her daughter said how she had waited 30 years to hear those words. I can’t imagine how you can continue to justify yourself for 30 years and not even attempt reconciliation. Someone once said “unforgiveness is the weapon we use on others to harm ourselves!”
Now while I’m thankful that reconciliation of sorts happened before she died, I think the last years of her life could have been so much better if she had apologised earlier or if either party had made the effort to resolve the issues! Of course my friend didn’t think she had too much to apologise for and could always justify her position. But she paid the price for that justification – for years. If she had been willing to take responsibility for whatever her part in the breakdown of the relationship, she could have lived so much better and happier.
Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something
So friends, dont waste any more of your life. Sit down and write a letter of apology for what you have done. Simply state that you did this or that and are asking for forgiveness. If you need to mention the hurt you feel always use the I word. Say “I felt hurt when you…” Avoid any accusation. Avoid any blame or weasel words. Just state what you feel and where you want to go. And don’t forget to ask for forgiveness for your part. They may or may not respond with an apology for their part, but you will have asked for forgiveness for your part of the problem and at least opened up a conversation that may end in restoration.
Then comes the hard part. After you have written your letter, ring them and ask to see them. Then go and read the letter to them. You need to be able to look them in the eye. You need to be able to see their facial expression and they need to be able to see yours. But your words need to be controlled. Thats why you wrote the letter.
Friends reconciliation is the only way you can restore broken relationships. So begin today. Give yourself a few time to write and craft your words carefully. But start today. You don’t want to be on your death bed to discover forgiveness can change your life.