I frequently hear folks say to me that they cannot forgive someone for some god-awful thing they’ve done...for some horrific wrong that’s been perpetrated against them, because to do so would be to lessen the impact and seriousness of the offense.
They say that if they forgive, the person will think what they did was either not that bad, or was actually ok to do...They say that they must hold on to the pain and memory of the offense in order to keep it from happening again. (mystical, magical thinking, if I ever heard it!)
They say they can NEVER trust that person again.
And...I’m told that the offending person MUST continue to suffer because of what they’ve done. (What rule book did THAT come out of, I wonder...?)
And to that I say...
The truth is...none of the above is true!
Let me explain.
To refuse to forgive someone does not affect the person who wronged you nearly as much as it negatively impacts you. When we hold on to painful stuff that has happened to us, guess what...? We are the ones who suffer, because we are the keepers of the bad memories, the anger, the angst, and all the other not so good-feeling feelings we are hanging onto!
So...onward and upward to talking about the benefits to YOU of letting go and moving to a place of forgiveness (where you won’t have to pay as much in terms of your own unhappiness!)
First of all, not being willing to forgive is a “one up” position to be in...Actually...it’s a superior position...meaning that you think you have the truth of what is ok and what is not, and what is worthy of forgiveness and what is not forgivable. In other words, you think you are better than they are.
But remember...“Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Second of all, if you won’t forgive, then at some point, you have no one to talk to. We all err, we all screw up...Eventually every one you know will do something that hurts you, or that you disagree...or disapprove...of. What then...?
You’re gonna get real lonely!
Third of all, as stated earlier, hanging on to stuff that’s been done to you hurts you...more than it hurts the one who did it to you. You won’t be able to be as happy with a napsack full of remembered wrongs done to you!
If you can recall a time when you were able to forgive an offense, I imagine you also remember how good you felt after you let it go. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of you! It also allows the goodness of being in relationship with someone to flood back into your heart!
Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to feel that!
Why would you choose to hang on to something that is already in the past and can’t be changed anyway? It makes no sense, if what you really want is happiness, and good relationships that make you feel good!
Fourth of all, if you are ever in need of forgiveness...and trust me, there will be a time when you will screw up just like everyone else does...You will be the one who hopes for forgiveness, because to not be forgiven can really feel rotten!
So...how about modeling forgiveness to everyone you know, so that when the time comes, you will increase the odds of also being forgiven!
Fifth of all, I suspect that most of you are just trying to let the person who wronged you know that what they did was hurtful to you and that it was not ok for them to treat you that way.
The truth is, there are more effective ways of getting that message across to someone. And if what you want is to reduce the likelihood of being hurt again, you want to handle the situation in the most effective way you can, to help the person know where you stand with their thoughtless mischief right from the get-go!
Then you can still have the relationship (and we really want to value our relationships and keep them intact if at all possible, don’t we?) with less chance of repeat mischief!
So, here’s a bonus.
Three Effective Ways To Deal With People Who Do Hurtful Things
1.Refuse to be hurt!
If you recognize that it is actually impossible for anyone to physically, mentally, or emotionally hurt you, that you are, in fact, in charge of whether you choose to take on the emotional pain of what they have done, then you are one step closer to being able to avoid the painful feelings of someone else’s behavior. Then it is not only much easier to forgive them, but you also are in a better position to feel compassion for the way they are sabotaging their relationships and their own life...
You are then able to be a part of the reconciliatory process rather than part of the problem that keeps you from being in relationship with others in your life!
2.Talk to the person about how it felt to be treated poorly.
We hear all the time about the importance of good communication skills! Here is one of those times when it pays to be willing and able to talk to someone about what’s going on with you rather than just reacting emotionally to the situation!
In many cases what you will discover is that the other person was unaware they had behaved as badly as they had, nor were they perhaps aware of the effect their behavior had on you!
So check it out!
It’s possible they would feel badly about having hurt someone’s feelings, and having that information might help them do things differently. But even if talking to them doesn’t change what they do, or improve the way they relate to you...and to others, talking about it will most certainly help you to more easily let go of it, if you choose to!
It is then your decision whether you will continue a relationship with them, or the type of relationship and degree of closeness you feel you want to have with them.
3. Focus on the good stuff in your relationships.
Even the people whom you believe have hurt you in some way, have also most likely also done some good stuff for you and others.
No one is all bad!
It’s important to realize that human beings tend to “see” what supports their belief about what is going on. So, if you think someone has hurt you, you most likely tend to “see” them in a negative light in general.
What we focus on gains strength and prominence in our lives. (ie: if you exercise a muscle, it gets stronger...if you “exercise” negative thoughts and beliefs you tend to find more evidence to support the negative beliefs and perceptions you hold.)
So, work to see the people in your life in a more holistic way, and it will put things in better perspective regarding your interactions with them.
So...forgive and hope to be forgiven, and life can be wonderful for you and every one with whom you share your life!
By Char Ellen En