For something that’s ingrained into our everyday lives, the power of forgiveness is often overlooked. Whether it’s stepping on your new shoes or taking the last piece of pizza when you were eyeing it, we forgive on the regular. But often times when it’s less petty and more serious, it’s harder to do so. When you’re hurt by someone else’s doing or mistake, their recklessness can seem intentional sometimes.
It’s encouraged to be courteous and conscious of others’ feelings to keep peace and to overall be a kind human being. But what happens when someone makes a mistake knowingly or unknowingly that affects you? What is your process in deciding how you feel about that person? Everyone has their own threshold of what is forgivable and what is not; some are more forgiving than others.
I believe in forgiveness for several reasons. To put it frankly, I would be a very fucked up, jaded, resentful person if I didn’t learn how to truly forgive. Forgiveness is just one cog of a peaceful way of living that I want to incorporate in my life for my own mental and spiritual health. It works in conjunction with patience, understanding, empathy, among other utopian guidelines. So here are my thoughts on forgiveness and how I open my mind to it:
Everyone has a mistake they’d never make:
When we make an unconscious mistake that upsets someone, it can be because it’s something that in our minds would be forgivable or mutually understood; as in we can’t see someone getting too upset about it. Everyone has that thing that makes them tick which they tend to be more conscious of. Some of us would never cheat, some of us would never steal, some of us would never physically hurt anyone. So when someone is careless about something you always try to avoid being careless with, being upset is second nature. But you could easily be on the other side, being more relaxed about something someone else cares about that you don’t always think of.
These things we care about are embedded in us so it always feels like it’s the “right” thing to do and doing otherwise is “wrong”. But if the other party believes you overreacted, then who in the situation is right? No one. No one’s a winner, but everyone has a preferred way of being and doing. If we back away from the binary idea of being right and wrong, then there would be less to be upset over.
We don’t forgive because we think we’re better than others:
What’s another reason why you wouldn’t forgive someone? Because they hurt you in a way that is so low and you’d never stoop to their level. You’re superior. We can be in denial about it but it’s true. Even I say it for myself when I think about the time I was mentally and physically abused by someone close to me. Where I thought I’d never forgive that person. I thought it was okay to keep a grudge because this person hurt me in ways I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I wanted to see them fail and never make a life for themselves. So yeah, I thought I was a better person. Being long gone from that situation made me realize no, I wasn’t.
This mistake – no matter how negatively it impacted my life and mental health – did not define that person. It says something about what they’re capable of, but the bigger picture of it was that something in this person’s life or a series of events made them become this way and some things are out of our control. I can’t be angry at someone for the life they couldn’t choose. If we take a step back and put ourselves in others’ shoes, we would be more willing to forgive. By the way, he’s doing much, much better now and I’m proud of him.
We often make mistakes under the pressure and stress of our lives and the most human thing we can do is be aware and patient with others. At a surface level, any mistake can seem intentional if we don’t attempt to understand anything more.
Forgiveness isn’t a gift to others, it’s a gift for yourself:
Sometimes you’ll hear “he doesn’t deserve my forgiveness” or “I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget”. At first glance it sounds like you’re a worthy person with the ability to offer the gift of forgiveness to someone who has wronged. But if you think about it, who is the forgiveness really for? Does it really make you the bigger person to utter the words “I forgive you” but still hold it against him or her? To full heartedly forgive is a gift to yourself. No one knows if you have truly forgiven but yourself. Why? Because it will still hurt you.
When you hold a grudge, it’s not only a punishment for another person but also for yourself with all the energy it takes to constantly think of someone negatively. Some will say “it’s no big deal because he/she really doesn’t deserve it”, which only shows that you never let it go. You can say “I don’t care anymore, I’m over it”, but do you still roll your eyes when someone is mentioned? If you had to forgive someone but still feel bitterness when you hear their name, have you truly forgiven them?
Forgiveness requires you to be honest with yourself. If you’re constantly putting up a wall to hide the embarrassment that someone has the power to hurt you or make you feel bad, you’re going to have a hard time with it. Get real with yourself. Honesty heals, denial hardens.
Not every situation calls for forgiveness. I’m not saying you should forgive someone that murders your family, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t either. Some things are downright wrong. Sometimes it’s best to forgive by keeping a distance to keep a relationship healthy.
Bottom line is forgiveness is a tool that helps you and only you grow and move on. It is not for anyone else. You can hold a grudge against someone but it will not stop them from living or moving on. So why do that to yourself? Give yourself the gift of imperfection. If you expect people to be perfect all the time, you’re either expecting too much of yourself or think too highly of yourself. It can be a shitty world, and if you let it get to you and jade you then you only have yourself to blame. Not all things will be in your favor, so make favor. Someone doing you wrong isn’t factual, it’s optional. Choose to forgive.
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