I was recently reminded of how painful it can be when it doesn’t seem like there are consequences for someone’s toxic behavior. When we’ve been hurt by a person’s choices, it’s natural to want to see that person take responsibility, make amends, and apologize. Why? Because our brains want things to make sense, balance out, be equitable, get better.

Maybe someone you know appears to have gotten away unscathed after wreaking havoc in your life. If you’re in that place right now, there is a way to navigate this. In fact, it’s possible to even feel gratitude for the jerks in your life.

How is Gratitude Possible?

It takes courage to believe that we can feel hurt and still come out stronger than before. But you can build a more resilient, powerful you, not in spite of the difficult people in your life, but because of them and exactly how they choose to show up.

Below is a framework I call “The Resilient Eight.” It works with the fact that your brain is a muscle, and when you use irritating, upsetting or stressful situations to stretch yourself beyond comfort and into the discomfort zone for a bit, you can discover the higher potential in yourself and reap rewards that are tangible and measurable.

The Resilient Eight are meant to be steps along a journey to a stronger you. If taken in sequence, it can be transformational. Take as much time as you need with each step, just don’t allow yourself to get stuck. This is a process meant to take you through and forward.

Creating a Stronger You

Step 1. Show people the real you.

Are you willing to live like Instagram smiles aren’t the only thing going on in your life? “I’m fine” and “I’ll just deal with it” is toxic for us all. You’re having real feelings that are worth getting curious about so you can learn more about yourself, be compassionate with yourself and give yourself what you need. The more willing we are to be real in good times and bad, the better we will be able to help each other work with the inevitable highs and lows of life.

Step 2. Tap your tribe.

When you are distressed, connect with the mentors, coaches or friends who listen well, let you feel and express and won’t let you forget it makes perfect sense that you’re upset right now. Just make sure you keep moving forward to Steps 3 through 8.

Step 3. Listen to yourself.

What do you wish that person would say? Write a letter including everything you need to hear as if the person was taking responsibility for their actions. If they were really healthy emotionally, they would actually say all of those things to you. Then, remind yourself there’s a whole life outside of this situation waiting for you. What could you read or listen to that inspires you? What plans could you make that would bring you joy?

Step 4. Own your junk.

Emotional adulthood is reflected in your choices, in how you behave, especially when you’re upset. Rather than attack, blame, ridicule, feel self-righteous, and get resentful, choose behaviors you are proud of. Knowing how crappy it feels when someone else doesn’t own their part, be sure you’re a person in the world who does. Double down on your commitment to being accountable (and, if you’re a parent, raise people who take responsibility, too).

Step 5. Suspend judgment.

Others aren’t taking responsibility, but your judgment and non-acceptance of the situation is holding YOU back. When we stop judging and accept others as they are, we can funnel our energy into something more productive. They’ve made their choices. Now, what choices will you make that reflect the emotionally intelligent, capable, kind person you want to be in the world? This question tees you up for Step 6.

Step 6. Become the hero.

The words we use in our internal dialogue to describe what happened has a huge impact on our brain-body chemistry. Spend a few minutes with this question: Which one of these phrases puts you in a power position: “I feel upset” or “She upset me”? When we have an internal story that puts us in the role of victim, we drain our energy and disempower ourselves. Retell it, but with yourself as the hero this time. For example, own your own feelings and explore responses and choices that put you in the driver’s seat: “I feel upset by this so I’m going to:  ask more questions… confront this situation head on… keep an open mind here… consider the possibility that this is the best they are capable of at this moment… recognize they are on their own path of emotional maturity… use this as an opportunity to practice a skill I’d like to cultivate in myself… give myself some space to process… be grateful I am able to see beyond this to the bigger picture…” Putting yourself in a place of empowerment is how to make the shift out of a negative spiral and into a leadership position in the situation.

Step 7. Go for the gold.

We are all learning, and we all make mistakes. The hope is that we make small mistakes and learn from them. Your job is not to worry about anyone else’s learning but your own. What are you learning right now? What can you take from this? See any situation you find tough as an invitation to further your development. The way through is to focus on the “gift in the garbage” and keep taking the next step—that’s how you turn stumbling blocks into steppingstones.

Step 8. Choose compassion.

A great teacher once said to me, “When you are aware that the mistakes others make are more painful to them than anyone else, you will never take away your kindness because of something they do or don’t do.” Check in with yourself here. Don’t rush this part. See if/when you’re willing to let go of your own upset and redirect your attention to this question: Given that this person’s behavior is more hurtful to their lives in the long run than to mine, can I feel compassion for them? If your answer is no, revisit Step 5. If it’s a yes, then ask: What is one positive action I am willing to take now?

We all want people to be accountable, but we don’t always get it and we can’t always expect it. In fact, many people haven’t learned how to do the self-awareness work necessary to take radical responsibility for their lives. Only those of us who have gone through real personal growth know the value of those conversations and have earned the freedom that comes from being accountable and taking ownership. We can hope everyone eventually gets this, but we can’t hold out for it. What we can do is recognize that we are all doing the very best we can, based on what we believe, our method of solving situations and our current level of intelligence (emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual).

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