people-1105593_640-1“Life always offers a second chance. It’s called tomorrow.” – Dylan Thomas

Months ago, I had the opportunity to speak before a group of young women in business. I prepared a brief presentation on communication in the workplace, but as it turned out, they didn’t want to talk about business at all. Instead, it became a brainstorming session about their personal relationships. One relationship, in particular, inspired me to write this blog.

Jessie, in her early 30s, is happily married to a CEO of his family’s business. They have a seven year old daughter named Daisy. When Jessie got married, she thoroughly understood that she was marrying a whole family.

Enter Sarah, the sister-in-law who, I’m told, has been spoiled and enabled her whole life. Sarah has been in and out of detox facilities and drug rehab programs for many years. Clearly, her family’s money has afforded her the best treatment but, according to Jessie, Sarah is and always will be an addict. That being said, Sarah also is a kind, loving and attentive aunt to her niece, Daisy.

Here’s where the question of second chances becomes relevant. Jessie explained to me that both Sarah and Daisy have been clamoring to see each other.  Sarah has been asking to take her niece for a “girls’ day,” but Jessie won’t consent because she doesn’t trust Sarah to be alone with Daisy.   Daisy, at seven, doesn’t know anything about her aunt’s substance abuse. The obvious solution would be for all three of them to spend the day together, but Jessie and her sister-in-law have a volatile relationship.

As a Family Mediator, I’ve been trained to look for common ground.  Clearly, both Jessie and Sarah loved Daisy, but both women were so committed to fighting with each other, that neither saw the effect it had on Daisy.  In our conversation, Jessie seemed intent on listing the negative history of her sister-in-law, so I posed the question, “does Sarah deserve another chance?”  A pretty lively discussion among the women ensued.  Everyone, it seemed, either was given a second chance, or had doled one out.  There was my common ground.  And once the challenge was perceived as a second chance, hands were raised, ideas presented, the volume in the room increased, and Jessie suddenly had options.  She also had the encouragement and support of her peers.

While most of the group could not relate to an addictive sister-in-law, they all could empathize with the concept of second chances.  If we’re being honest with ourselves, haven’t we all had the benefit of another chance?