I have recently been introduced to the idea of completion. It’s a useful one.
I don’t know if it’s sound or not, but it’s useful and it has worked for me or at least given the appearance, which is quite honestly close enough for me.
Sammy feels sad because he hurt Nata and he did get to hug her and try to make it all better again afterwards, but the memory of this is not as strong as the memory of hurting her.
So I make up the blanket roll for him too, just as I did for Charlie yesterday. And he hugged it and thought of her and got to see for himself in his very active little imagination that she is all better now and all the cuts have healed up, the blood has dried up and been cleaned away, and her skin is white instead of purple with bruises.
I recommend this approach. If you think you did something wrong and hurt someone, don’t sit down and try to parse out whether it was really wrong or really your fault or really intentional. If it is not dangerous for you to do this, just say sorry and hug them. I have kicked countless people on crowded buses when really it wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t my fault—the bus was just crowded and lurching unexpectedly and God made me a bit clumsy to start with—and I said sorry. I admit I did not hug them, but I did all my bus-passenger-kicking in Los Angeles and hugging strangers is generally frowned on there. I think it is frowned on in most places, but it is very definitely frowned on there. So I held back.
You probably ought not to do this with people who have a strong orientation toward punitiveness, because they will see this kind of admittance of fault as a free pass to emotionally pummel you.
But otherwise, just say sorry and hug the person you think you hurt.
There is a Bible verse I can’t really ever get out of my mind completely, such was its power in my mind when I was growing up, when I had to do many, many wrong things. It went something like If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.
No, don’t cut it off, ask for a sorry and a little squeeze. As a species, we ought to have moved beyond cutting off body parts and into restorative justice. Hugs are at the core of restorative justice. In other circumstances, the hug is not always literal, but nonetheless a hug is the symbol for just a little bit of love. Love can be expressed in many ways, but the hug tends to get the message across better than many other gestures. Especially if you hurt someone you actually love. If you don’t love them, you might have to pick up cupcakes instead, or volunteer to give them a kid-free evening, or whatever might lift their day a bit.
You should do this for yourself too. If you did something malicious or stupid and landed yourself in a hole of negative consequences, try the self-service hug. If you just tore yourself a new one mentally for making a minor (or major) mistake, stop, say sorry, provide a self-service hug.
This is not letting things go or forgiveness. It is restorative justice and it completes the act of wrong-doing in a satisfying, natural way that, in the end, does allow you to let go.
Otherwise you just have the nagging, irritating sense that’s sort of like wondering whether you wiped well enough in the toilet or not. Which is just never a nice feeling.