I was raised by a woman who could not forgive. If someone made her angry, hurt her feelings or embarrassed her she would cut them out of her life. This included her sisters, her good friends and even her children. One sister was on the outs for more than ten years. She didn’t speak to me for four years once. I can’t remember what I did but she must have felt slighted. I was in my early 20s with a young family of my own and while it was troubling, I knew her history and one day she’d decide to forget it.
Because of this background, I decided at an early age that I never wanted to cut myself off from family or friends because of some perceived hurt. I say perceived because it could very well be that nobody intended to hurt my feelings or act in a shitty way toward me, it was only how I felt that made the difference. That’s something my mother could never understand.
For those times when I have been hurt by someone else, I take the time to lick my wounds and then right away try to figure out what it was that I did that brought about the situation. There are always two sides and maybe rather than sitting around angry and hurt, I should learn from it, let go and continue to be happy. We’re never going to get along with everyone but those we love and respect (most of the time) shouldn’t be out of our lives.
I have a friend who’s had a grievance against her brother that’s gone on for 14 years. Imagine that! She’s held on to this anger and hurt for so long and every time she thinks of her brother it makes her sad. We met for coffee last week and I pointed out that forgiveness could change her life.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you blot out the past as if it had never happened nor does it mean that you have to forget it because I don’t think you can. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself that allows you to let go of the anger and hurt and move on to a happier place.
When I told my friend that every time she relives the event that caused the hurt, she’s creating brand new pain and she COULD commit to letting it go. She’s carried the pain for 14 years so letting go isn’t going to be an instant thing but she can commit to releasing it from her life.
Everything is always a choice. It is with forgiveness too. You can choose not to relive past hurts and move on. Don’t be like my friend or my mother, instead try to empathize with the person you’re angry with. Maybe they were having a bad day. Maybe they’d been hurt by someone else just before they talked to you. Maybe this person really regrets what happened but knows you don’t want them in your life any longer.
Live in the now. Living past hurts means that’s where your focus is — in the past. The hurt isn’t still going on. It was over ages ago but when you keep it current, you live with stress, unhappiness and pain. Get out of the past and into the present where things are happy, fun and forward looking.
Compassion. It’s a wonderful word to use when talking about forgiveness. Understand their humanity because nobody is perfect and there were good reasons to like or love this person and those haven’t changed.