A lesson in ruminating


Many years back someone told me a story. I don’t recall who is was, where it was but it is a story I have often told professionally as a coach and trainer and to friends. This morning as I sat down to think about my blog about forgiveness, my husband reminded me of it. I searched for it on the internet and found a few versions. It appears that the story I had been told was an amalgamation of many stories from Buddhist lessons. So here it is:

Once up a time, two Buddhist monks were walking together on a path and they soon came to a river crossing. At the side of the river was a young woman who was prevented from crossing the river as it was swollen by recent rain. The woman asked the monks if they would carry her across the river. One of the monks immediately refused as he recognised her as a prostitute who lived in a nearby village. The other monk said yes and took her across the river, dropped her off at the other side and they went their separate ways, the monks continuing their journey. The monk who refused was shocked and appalled. Although he said nothing, he could not stop thinking about it. After some time, he felt he need to say something so he. “Do you know that woman is a prostitute? She does not live a good life. I can’t believe you helped her”

The other monk simply turned and said, “I left that woman back on the bridge a while ago. Why do you still carry her?”

I like any flawed human being often let emotions get the better of me and find myself ruminating on how people have said the wrong thing or done something to hurt me.

I love how perfectly descriptive the word ruminate is to this situation. Ruminate is a verb and means to go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly or to chew repeatedly for an extended period (think cows chewing their cud)

While it may be very easy to think things over and over, what is the cost?

Firstly, it may mean you are getting less sleep (that’s often when busy people think), not able to enjoy things and have lots of chatter going on in your head. You are probably not dealing with the issue and are boring, or even worse annoying everyone around you with your tale of how you were wronged.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people is to focus on what you can control and ignore what you can’t. For example, if you have been wronged, you can control how you deal with it, what you say and how you move forward. You can’t control what the other person does, e.g. apologise or make amends.

As a parent, how do you support your child practice forgiveness when someone wrongs them? You can coach them to:

Consider the other persons perspective – where were they coming from, did they realise what they was hurtful, was it an intentional act? My child when she was young easily over reacted to friends who called her "silly". When we unpacked it, she realised that her friend was not as mature as her and had chosen her words wrong.

Identify the behaviour that was hurtful and not the judgements. “He is such an idiot” becomes “He told everyone my secret”

Turn down the drama - If you are telling another parent or friend about it you are not helping your child deal with it. Subconsciously you are avoiding, maybe wanting the other person to deal with it or stand up for you.

Raise it. It’s time to help your child raise it with the person. They need to focus on the behaviour. Start with “when you told everyone my secret I felt really hurt…..” This gives the other person time to explain it from their point of view. Your child does not need to agree with them but they owe it to themselves to hear what they have to say. This may be a bit daunting for a young child but I found that when my children were young they understood the concept of dealing with the behaviour. It just takes the drama out of it.

Change your focus – Once your child has dealt help them put it away. I like to visualise that I put it in a box in my brain, some people like to write it down and burn it to symbolise the end. Practicing mindfulness may help too, when you start thinking bout it (maybe in the shower?) simply acknowledge it and quietly tell it to go away. Then focus on what you need to do or the people that make you happy.

Finally, you need to practice what you preach. We all know how much our children learn from watching us. The above step apply to you as well.

Forgive yourself – accept that you will make mistakes and wont always do this well but its better than being weighed down with the cost of not practicing forgiveness.

I would love to hear how you help your child practice forgiveness,

Teen Wellness Workshop.

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