Finish Your Family Business
“Shave and a haircut, two….” I hate it when things are left unfinished. Anything left unfinished sticks with us; we long for someone to finish it. “A, B, C, D, E, F….” Feel that desire to finish it? You may have already finished both of these unfinished phrases already. Chances are you will finish each of the following phrases before you can even stop yourself:
- “Think outside the ….”
- “Subway, Eat….”
- “Tomorrow, tomorrow. I’ll love you….”
- “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for….”
- “Toto, we’re not in….”
- “Elementary, my dear….”
We could list more, but I need to finish this blog. Unfinished business sticks in our craw; it keeps us on edge. Unfinished things are not forgotten. They roll around somewhere in our mind consuming our mental energy. Psychologists call this the Zeigarnik effect. Bluma Zeigarnik studied this tendency to remember unfinished business after noticing waiters recalled unpaid orders better than orders already paid for. In further studies, she found that participants completing simple tasks in a lab were about twice as likely to remember interrupted, unfinished tasks than a completed task.
Families are filled with unfinished business. Some good…most I’d like to forget. Our spouse, our parents, or even our kids might do something that hurts our feelings, offends our sensibilities, or just makes us angry. If we do not find a way to resolve that offense, it will stick in our craw. It will keep us on edge. That unresolved offense will just roll around in our mind, bump up against all our thoughts, and suck up our energy and joy. It will continue to rob us of happiness and intimacy until we find a way to resolve it—finish it, pack it up, and remove it. That’s the Zeigarnik effect, the tendency to remember unfinished business until it is completed.
So, for the sake of your happiness and your family intimacy, finish the unfinished business of hurt feelings, offended sensibilities, and anger. Practice forgiveness and teach your kids to do the same! Forgiveness does not forget or excuse the behavior that offended you. It simply allows you to think about the incident objectively, counts the cost of the offense, and then graciously release the desire for revenge. It catches the ruminating thoughts of revenge and transforms them from bitterness to compassion. It helps you recall the positive characteristics you have witnessed from the offender on other occasions. Ultimately, forgiveness allows you to let the offense go and finish the unfinished offense. It allows you to regain the freedom to live your life well, to finish with grace.
Don’t let your life get stuck in an unfinished merry-go-round of anger and bitterness that robs you of intimacy and joy. Take a lesson from Zeigarnik, finish the offensive business…forgive! Your family will love you for it.