Most of us have had people in our lives who have wronged us. Sometimes to the point that searching for answers as to why leaves us bitter, frustrated, and downright angry. I’ve had several people in my life do this to me and I’ve inadvertently done it to others. We are all part of a combined network of people who are damaged, yet strong society that has the potential to live our lives with grace rather than with resentment. Where it gets difficult is when someone close to you hurts you in an unthinkable way, and you are being told to forgive them because it only hurts you.
There’s a lot of truth to this. So why do you think people hold onto the anger? Do you think it’s a choice they make? Or do you think that it’s a process that each person has to sort through? I truly think that forgiveness is different for all of us. When you find out that a person you love has been cheating on you, it’s difficult to just forgive and forget. There are people who can forgive but it’s a long road to healing. There are people who have forgiven others who murdered or severely injured their loved ones. Again, they forgave eventually but that doesn’t mean that the road was simple. There are friends who betray you by going to those you are involved with and butting into your relationships. Forgiveness is something that helps you heal yourself. You can’t control others actions. What you can do is take charge of yourself and start healing by forgiving.
I hate it when people tell me that I shouldn’t hold a grudge. In the past it’s been easier to hold the grudge but it doesn’t do any good. People have no preconception about their actions sometimes. They could care less about what you think. In fact, usually people have their own agenda. Let me give you some examples from my own past.
When my ex-husband and I were dating before we married, more than one woman came forward and told me that he was being unfaithful with them. I should have listened. After all, this was a man who lied to me a lot during our relationship. There was one afternoon after we had agreed to marry where he and his best friend at the time came to meet me at the college I was attending. We stood in the parking lot before my class and he puts a key in my hand. We had been looking for a house and he made me think that he had gotten us a home. A few minutes passed and he said “Psyche!” He just wanted a reaction out of me. A few days later, I got another jolt. He came by my work and told me that the money he claimed he saved for a down payment on a house for us was used to pay for a trust fund for his niece. Both instances happened before our wedding. That should have been a huge clue. I forgave him for both things and blindly went into the marriage thinking everything would work out. I was wrong. After our marriage ended, I found out that my best friend had told him to walk away from me in order to make me want him more. I also found out that other so called friends were telling him about how I was falling for someone else. They had no inkling the hell he had put me through and the ones that did thought that I was the crazy one. I wasn’t crazy. I was hurt, frustrated and didn’t know who the hell to trust. I became angry at the people closest to me. It started to feel like everyone I cared about had turned on me.
I’ve made so many mistakes in the past. I haven’t always been the most honest person and in some ways, karma caught up to me. Over the last few years, I’ve really changed things in my life. I’ve watched as people that I was once close with have drifted. Some of the jobs I worked in the past I had co-workers who detested me and schemed behind my back to get me in trouble for things that to this day I have no idea what I did to deserve their wrath. What I learned was that sometimes actions were done to me due to jealousy and other times it was to take out the weakest members of the herd. I was considered to be weak. I had to learn to forgive myself for things I’ve done and then ask for forgiveness from others. If they couldn’t grant that forgiveness, that was their issue. I had to be responsible for myself. I still do.
There’s another instance that comes to mind. A couple of my closest friends were arrested on crimes they didn’t do. Sure I know many of you will mock those statements but the law isn’t always just. All it takes is someone to falsely accuse a person of a crime they didn’t commit and that person is stuck with a financial and emotional burden of clearing their name. Sometimes it takes years to do. This was the case with two of my friends of different cases. One of them fell for a customer of his. She would come to the bank drive thru window and flirt incessantly with him. Eventually, he tried to get the nerve up to ask her out but before he could, he told his best friend at the time about how he felt. This same friend had neurological issues but he was one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever encountered. He took my friends information and started sending this woman gifts virtually every week. Flowers were sent several times and eventually the young woman, started complaining to my friends bosses. My friend was written up but he couldn’t understand for the life of him what was happening. She seemed to flirt with him at every opportunity and he was being written up for things that made him question what he was doing wrong. This young woman never told him that he was making her feel uncomfortable. She never said she wasn’t interested. Instead, she flirted with him and got him in trouble with his job. Now, before everyone starts defending the actions of the young woman, let me tell you the rest. My friend’s best friend admitted to me everything he was going to do to ruin my friends life. I didn’t believe him. He made everything he told me come true. He made sure my friend got fired from his job. He was arrested. His company wouldn’t even do an investigation to make sure that it wasn’t based on false accusations. The woman told the attorney false information. No one understood what was happening. It has taken my friend almost a decade to get his life and reputation back. It has cost him over a hundred thousand dollars to clear his name and become gainfully employed with a company that he has been able to sustain a good reputation. His customers adore him and his co-workers respect him. What I didn’t mention is this same friend is slightly disabled. He has the use of one hand and has difficulty standing for a long time. He had to learn to forgive his former best friend. In this case, he turned to his faith in God in order to move on. He has told me many times that if he didn’t forgive his former bestie, that it would destroy him because the anger would take over everything.
I think we can all relate to these kinds of stories. I know professionally there are stories of people who have stolen others work, their money, and their possessions. There are people who are currently in my life who are struggling to forgive people from their past. One of them is processing grief right now with a sibling that they are estranged from. They will never be able to get a decent relationship now because time has a way of changing everything for all of us. Eventually, the anger and resentment do subside and you begin to see that there are other things in this world that take precedence over the anger. These are some of the tools that can be used to help on your journey to forgive others.
If you are in a current relationship that you want to heal and continue, a serious and loving discussion is in order.
- Take your time to process your anger and hurt.
- Wait until you are reasonably sure that your partner will not repeat the hurtful or treacherous act (i.e. he or she regrets the wrongdoing, sincerely desires to make restitution, and confidently vows not to repeat the mistake).
- Tell him or her how you feel (use “I” statements). “I feel hurt/ betrayed/ afraid/ anxious/ grief-stricken etc.”
- Ask questions that you need answered. This is a moment for full disclosure –your partner’s. You have a right to know whatever it is you want to know.
- Set new boundaries.
- Explain that you are choosing to forgive.
If the hurt took place in a past relationship and you can’t seem to get out from under the anger, resentment, or heartache that it caused, then your process will be an internal one.
- You can talk to a close friend or life coach to speak your forgiveness, or write it out in a journal.
- Be sure you understand your feelings and express them.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. As difficult as this may be, trying to understand why he or she harmed you and your relationship is very important. (Understanding does not mean condoning, but is a step to forgiving.)
- Forgive yourself for your contribution to what happened.
- Leave it in the past.
- Find the beauty in your present life.
I won’t tell you that forgiveness is a piece of cake because it isn’t. But once you decide to forgive, it’s amazing how much lighter you will feel and you won’t be chained to the wall with anger and bitterness. When you decide to live your life with forgiveness, you find that you can make better decisions, open yourself up to endless relationships and possibilities and most importantly, give you the peace of mind to enjoy your life rather than dreading encounters with those who have pained you in the past.