I believe in second chances. It goes against the stereotype of growing up in New Jersey as a half Italian where jokes always abounded concerning whether my family handles grudges like Tony Soprano. But I think my belief in second chances stems from the understanding that I know I’m not and never will be perfect. I have messed up plenty of times and asked for forgiveness. It’s not always granted, but that’s something that comes with the territory of making a mistake.

I’d like to think we’re mostly all a bunch of imperfect people who know that we screw up and try to look past that to all the good there still is separate from the offending action. None of this means it’s always easy to give second chances, and these are the stages I tend to experience before deciding whether or not it’s worth it.

Don’t decide when you’re upset

This is not the time to make the decision. Whatever happened to make you this angry, you’re not in the right frame of mind to be asked for your forgiveness. But you need to feel mad and upset and bothered by whatever it was instead of squashing the feeling and letting it fester. There’s no hope for getting past the incident unless you experience the full range of emotions it incited. While you’re initially mad there’s almost no discerning between the severity of the offense at this stage. Did someone forget to invite you somewhere? Did a partner cheat? A friend lied? There’s so many factors and pieces to consider. Who the person is that upset you, what they did, whether trust was violated or they just behaved recklessly, none of that is being processed rationally yet, so you can’t even think about what comes next.

Take some time to yourself

You’ve finished speaking (or shouting) your mind but you’re not ready to calmly discuss where the relationship stands. You need space and time alone while the last vestiges of your anger leave and you think about what it all means. You don’t want explanations or apologies, you want quiet.

Talk to some people you trust

Once I’ve worked through the rampage of emotions that angered or upset me with a boyfriend or friend, I find myself sometimes needing an objective opinion on how to proceed. Most times this is my mom, but I also have a few select friends I can turn to who will listen and give their advice. The situation gets tricky when the person you’re feuding with is a friend and the people you would ask are mutual friends. Try not to put other friends in uncomfortable positions, it’s not fair. Instead seek out someone who isn’t as close to the situation and won’t feel awkward about being asked for their thoughts.

Hear them out

I can say with the utmost confidence that hearing someone out who cheated on me is still the last thing I feel comfortable sitting down to do. But that particular situation aside, if someone in your life misled you in some way or failed to be there when you needed them, it stands to reason that you can at least have a calm conversation about it before cutting them completely out of your life. I seriously dated a guy who bailed last minute on two important family events for me and I was livid. But I still had to discuss what was going on with us before never speaking to him again. Ultimately I chose to not give him a second chance after the second no-show, but I did the first time. I don’t regret it because I consider it an important lesson in how I forever going forward deserved better from the person I was dating.

Decide what makes sense for you

I think the reason that most people answered “it depends” to my poll is because the idea of shutting the door with such finality on someone in our lives is such a difficult thing to do, even in the instances that it turns out to be necessary. In my mind it comes down to the intent behind the action. Did this person behave in a way that completely disrespected your feelings and was it purposeful without sincere remorse? Because that is someone who doesn’t belong in your life.

But was it a miscommunication between friends that got blown out of proportion because of tempers and/or misinformation? Or even if the argument had a legitimate foundation, is it worth never speaking again? Second chances don’t even mean that everything goes back to how it was, it can mean that you get to a better more mature place with a more open flow of give and take. We also hear about second chances in love all the time. Sometimes people mature and try again and let each other back in their lives. Broken trust or hurt feelings is not something to be taken lightly and anyone who causes you to feel that way does need to understand there has to be a time for rebuilding. And we get to decide if they deserve that opportunity.

[Photo via NBC]