Many of us have been mistreated. We’ve been talked down to, verbally abused or gossiped about. You may have realized this person, who you thought was one of your closest friends, have said or done something malicious to deliberately hurt you. Or a family member who didn’t defend or speak up for you when you really needed them to.
This will usually result in many different reactions from us. Disappointment, a sense of betrayal, anger, hurt and sadness.
When a stranger says something awful to us, we get angry. But the anger doesn’t last very long. Thats because there’s no history, no love, no time and effort spent on that person for the hurt to be strong enough. Most times, we’d get pissed off for a while and then it’s forgotten pretty quickly.
On the other hand, when someone you’ve loved, cared for or even thought highly of – has betrayed you, said something to really hurt or harm you, you’ll find that it’s so much harder to forgive this person.
Why should you forgive that person? You’ve put in so much time and effort into this relationship (friendship, marriage, family etc), and the one you thought would be the last person to hurt you; has betrayed you. This person has broken your trust.
Many think that forgiving someone means you’re weak. Or that you’re accepting bad behaviour. Or that you’re allowing this person to continually hurt you again. And so, you refuse to forgive. You want that person to know that you’re so angry with them that you’ll never forgive them. Ever.
What you may not realize about forgiveness is – that it’s not just about them. It’s about YOU too. Forgiveness and “letting go” – go hand in hand.
Maybe you can’t forgive what this person has done to you just yet. But you could forgive this person because they might’ve had a terrible upbringing as a child. It could simply be because they had the worst day ever that day. Forgive them because maybe they were taught differently or that they might have low self esteem or even a personality disorder. Or… They really didn’t mean to.
That’s not making excuses for them. That’s learning that everyone’s actions come from something they’ve learnt or experienced.
Letting go is just as important. If you find it hard to let go of what happened, you’re choosing to continually be angry and hurt. Of course – you need time to process all those feelings, in fact it’s very important you do so; but at some point – you must let go.
How do you let go? First, find small reasons to forgive. When you find the smallest reasons to forgive, you’ll see the person as a human being again, just like you are (this can be hard, if you think that person is an animal!). Keep focusing on the small reasons.
“I forgive him because his parents were cruel to him.”
“I forgive her because she used to be bullied at school.”
“I forgive him because he was never taught to care for others.”
“I forgive her because she was never challenged when she was growing up.”
Finding little reasons to forgive, can slowly help soften your anger, and more importantly, you’ll feel compassion. Not just compassion for that person, but compassion for yourself. You’re telling yourself – that by finding reasons to forgive that person, you are caring for your own well being. Otherwise, your anger will consume you and you may end up hurting yourself more than anyone else around you.
Choosing to stay angry is like choosing to carry a backpack full of broken bricks.
Those bricks are broken, and you can’t use them for anything. Yet you choose to carry it on your back everywhere you go and letting it weigh you down.
Forgiving someone doesn’t always mean you should continue to have a relationship with that person. It might actually be better for you if you severed ties completely, or at least distancing yourself from that person. You must always have self worth, you must stand by your own values and beliefs, and show them that you respect yourself enough to not tolerate their bad behaviour.
Forgiving someone means you have chosen to let go.
You have chosen to take the straps off your shoulders, and gently placing that heavy bag of broken bricks down. You will feel lighter and happier within yourself. Because only you are responsible for how you feel and how you react to everyone around you.
I personally, have done this myself. I can’t tell you how liberating and empowering it feels, to no longer feel hatred and anger for people in my life who have hurt me tremendously in the past. Because I came to realize that the anger I had, I carried it all on my own. Making that choice for myself to look for other reasons to forgive those people, made it so much easier for me to let go. But it took a lot of mental work. I worked very hard to forgive these people and let go, because I decided my mental health was much more important.
This is not something that can be done overnight. You need to feel the anger, hurt and disappointment, process it in your mind, then accept what’s already happened, and knowing you can’t change the past. Only then, you can start to walk on the path of forgiveness.