Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I recently made a terrible mistake that has created quite a rupture in my family. I’m a Fire and have a terrible time keeping secrets. Last Christmas, after a great deal of spiked eggnog, my sister Lisa confided to me that she’d had an affair several years ago when she and her husband were having a rocky time. They have since put things back together and are expecting their first child this fall. Lisa never told him and was wondering if she should admit to it now and ask forgiveness so they could start their family on a clean slate. But now I’m the one who needs forgiveness! At a family gathering last month, I’d had a bit too much champagne and let it slip to our mother about the affair. Mum confronted Lisa and now they are both very upset. It’s been weeks and neither has forgiven me. Mum is an Earth and Lisa is a Water, although she’s a lot like Mum, so maybe she has a secondary Earth? What can I do to gain forgiveness from these two? And which element forgives the easiest? Signed: Big Mouth
Dear Big Mouth: Well, you’ve gotten yourself into quite a pickle, haven’t you? Yes, Fires have notoriously poor boundaries at times, but that’s little comfort when you have betrayed the trust of someone close to you. It’s especially bad to betray the trust of a Water because trust sits in Water. So, is there anything you can do to obtain forgiveness? Yes. But to help you out here, I’m going to answer your second question first: Which element forgives the easiest?
The short answer is that each of the Five Elements can forgive. But how easily they forgive will depend on what they’re being asked to forgive. Each element has different priorities and goals in life, so it will matter whether the forgiveness being asked for involves something that is really important to that element. The closer the infraction strikes to the core of the element’s identity, the harder it will be to receive easy forgiveness. Let’s take a look at what will be easy and hard for each element to forgive.
Waters value trust, optimism, and belonging to something bigger than themselves. If someone does something to disrupt this, Waters usually won’t easily forgive (or forget) the betrayal. Since close connections aren’t especially important to them, rather than create a scene, it’s less effort for them to float away from the betrayer. However, if someone asks forgiveness from the Water for interrupting a meeting, messing up a favorite joke, breaking Aunt Martha’s vase, or getting an order all wrong, as long as they believe it wasn’t intentional, it will usually be no big deal for the Water to forgive and forget. Unlike the other four elements, these things just aren’t important to Waters.
Woods value personal identity and accomplishments. If someone does something to undercut their ability to achieve success, Woods usually have a hard time forgiving and especially forgetting the infraction because the action will feel like competition to them. Worse case, the person working against them becomes the opponent, or even the enemy. For some Woods, this can last a lifetime. However, if someone asks forgiveness from the Wood for accidentally sharing a secret, stealing the limelight, missing an important family event, or using the wrong knife during dinner, as long as they believe the infraction doesn’t reflect poorly on them, the Wood usually magnanimously rises above the issue and moves on. Unlike the other four elements, these things just aren’t important to Woods.
Fires value inspiring people and being the center of attention. If someone does something to upstage them, Fires will not be happy. They will avoid the person who threatens their ability to entertain and might even refuse to associate with them anymore. But since Fires themselves have loose boundaries, this alienation might not last too long. However, if someone asks forgiveness from a Fire for questioning a philosophy, not following their lead, criticizing their friend, or refusing to follow a favorite recipe, as long as they believe it wasn’t a bid for attention, the Fire will easily brush it off and leap on. Unlike the other four elements, these things just aren’t important to Fires.
Earths value close and lasting connections with close friends and family, and often define themselves by these relationships (“Mother” or “brother” or “best friend”). Gifts given by close family and friends also matter a great deal. If someone does something to threaten a close bond, hurt someone important to them, or destroy a gift from someone dearly loved, the sweet Earth can turn into a ferocious Momma Bear. How long this lasts will depend on the nature of the infraction. But ultimately, the deep compassion of the Earth will kick in and forgiveness will be forthcoming. However, if someone asks forgiveness from an Earth for cynical behavior, taking credit for an idea, questioning their talent, or wondering about their expertise, as long as they believe it wasn’t meant to be mean, the Earth will immediately tell them not to worry. Unlike the other four elements, these things just aren’t important to Earths.
Metals value obtaining expertise and following the dictates of hierarchy and propriety. If someone does something to cast aspersion on their wisdom and knowledge, or blatantly violates a cherished protocol, the Metal will judge them, sometimes harshly. Because close relationships aren’t a top priority for Metals, it will be easy for them to simply cut the person in question out of their life. Metals usually have exceptional memories, too, so the banishment can often be permanent. However, if someone asks forgiveness from a Metal for acting hopeless, disrupting a project, taking center stage, or refusing to finish their meal, as long as they believe it wasn’t a challenge to them, the Metal will detach from the issue and kindly advise the person to forget about it. Unlike the other four elements, these things just aren’t important to Metals.
Now, let’s look at the issue facing you. Since Lisa is a Water, the difficulty for you is that Waters particularly value the ability to trust someone. It also means that once betrayed, Waters usually just float away from the betrayer. Lisa is probably as upset with herself for betraying her marriage as she is about your betrayal of her trust. But the good news for you is that Lisa is your sister, and as you have suspected probably a secondary Earth given that she has decided to have a family. Unless relationships become particularly difficult or thorny, Water/Earths usually stay connected to family.
When you apologize once again to Lisa, it will be important that you assure her your slip of the lip wasn’t intentional or meant to ruin anything for her. This will be meaningful to her Water. A sincere and deeply felt apology will matter to her Earth. Eventually, her Water will probably become philosophical about the whole thing and move on to more important matters, like the arrival of the baby this fall. This is certainly where her Earth will go. The other good news for you is that your mother is an Earth. Just like Lisa, she will also eventually forgive you because Earths are compassionate, caring people.
The bottom line is that you lucked out here. Had the parties involved been Woods or Metals, it might be a different story. As a Fire, I know boundaries are not a priority, but you might consider either refusing to take on confidences from people close to you or monitoring your discussions more closely if you have had “a bit too much champagne.” And remember, forgiveness is a characteristic of the human heart. Every element has forgiveness, but how easily it can be obtained will depend on what needs forgiving. Blessings to you!