I had this brilliant post to close out my series on forgiveness, but I could not press publish. It’s been sitting in my drafts—being worked and reworked—for months. It was about forgiving like a child, and just stating your issues and moving forward, all carefree and happy like a toddler. Not storing the hurt and pain. Oh, it was awesome. Then I realized that, while children do move forward quickly, they don’t always let go. It’s not always gone.
My little Monster is a bit of a grudge holder. [Sigh] I told you it was genetic. He will forgive in the moment, but rest assured he will remind you about what happened “the last time” in vivid, dramatic detail, probably at a very high volume. And then he’ll remind you again.
Monster: Remember when Munchkin pushed me down? I didn’t like that!
Me: Stink, that was last year when you were 2. Let it go.
So, needless to say, he’s one of the main reasons that brilliant post has been on sitting on ice. In fact, it’s been sitting so long, he’s now 4 as of last week.
Instead giving “forgive like a child” advice, I’d like to discuss the choice of forgiveness and how it is a constant battle.
For the first few years of a child’s life he is constantly being told to “use your words.” Meaning, do not have tantrums. Do not yell and scream. Just say what you want.
Then he grows a little older and begins to stay quiet and bottle up his feelings. In fact, he’s asked to. Society teaches us to pretend to be okay, even when we are not okay. Before long he begins to store the memory of transgressions against him like squirrels store nuts. Every hurt is saved in the back of the mind for a rainy day. Eventually those hurts become triggers. And when someone else does something even remotely close to that thing. . . BOOM!
What is the benefit of storing pain?
I’m going to tell you something you may not have heard in years. Use your words. If someone hurts you, say it. Do this gracefully. Trust me, you’ll get into less arguments that way. Tell them what they did wrong, allow them to respond, and when the conversation is over let it go. And, agreeing to disagree is a real thing. Not one my controlling heart is fond of, but it is sometimes necessary.
And keep letting it go.
Keep forgiving them.
Now if you are like me, you will probably replay the conversation and critique it. Why did they lose their cool? Did I lose my cool? Did I state all my points or let myself be derailed? Crap, I should have said that one thing about that one time. It was the perfect example!
Stop doing that!
Let it go.
This behavior is unproductive and locks you into shadow boxing. The fight is over, but you are still fighting. Still trying to clarify your point of view. To no one. . . No. One. The person you are fighting doesn’t even know these arguments exist. In reality, your opponent is ready to hang out and make up, but you are still peeved. So, in theory, you are fighting yourself, with the convenient face of the last person you got into a disagreement with.
Every single person in your life will do things to annoy, disappoint, or hurt you more than once. More. Than. Once. Don’t fall into the temptation of pulling out all the transgression cards you’ve been holding for the next disagreement. Deal with each matter as they come.
Truth? This is extremely, painfully difficult. I know. I have been trying to practice this for a year. But I’ve come to realize that people spend an exorbitant amount of time nursing past and perceived hurts. Subconsciously we’re all waiting for shoes to drop as if there are magical shoe clouds in the sky that follow us around, waiting for the perfect time to ruin everything, and drop smelly, old Nikes on our heads.
Hint: Clouds aren’t made of smelly, life ruining shoes. Shit happens. Life is a complex blend of good and bad events. That is all.
Why practice forgiveness?
Not choosing to forgive makes it nearly impossible to mend and nurture our relationships. In doing so, we are, subconsciously, constantly waiting for the other person to fail. As previously stated, all people disappoint, so you then feel vindicated when they do. Ha! See I told you! You never put the toilet paper roll on the right way, even though you’ve been doing it correctly for six months, and you replaced the roll in the dark last night, at 2am when you went to pee, you did it wrong to spite me. You never listen to me and never keep your promises! You feel righteous in your choice to not forgive. And your righteousness further taints your relationship.
Now, let me be clear. Some ties NEED to be broken. When it’s time to end a relationship, end it. Unapologetically. Wish the person luck in life and move forward. But forgive them to cleanse your soul of the negativity associated with the experience.
If you need to confront someone, do it with tact and compassion. Do not approach them like you are an omniscient, perfect, blameless being. Confront them knowing that, real or perceived, they may carry similar disappointments in you.
It took me nearly 27 years to realize that honesty without tact is cruelty. Keep it real all you want but do it with diplomacy. Let me state this clearly. “Keeping it real” and rude makes you a bitchy asshole. I should know, I’m reformed.
Let’s sum this up.
Humans are complex and flawed, and life dictates that humans will inevitably disappoint one another.
Some people are hateful, pieces of shit. They don’t love you. They don’t want what’s best for you, and they need to be removed from your life. Kiss them goodbye and live happily without them.
Forgive them too.
Not forgiving gives people the power to sway your emotions and steal your peace. Do not give anyone power over you.
Once in a while, you will be the transgressor. You will hurt someone or do something that does not align with your values. Learn from your mistake. Then forgive yourself. And ask for forgiveness.
Last but not least, practice this every day. Choose to forgive every day.
This is hard. Almost saintly. But I’ve noticed that the moment I start being a transgression squirrel I also begin to feel more stressed and emotionally drained. And it snowballs. Suddenly, I not only hate the mean parent on the phone, but also the little old lady who cut me off on the highway, and the bird who pooped on my windshield knowing I’m out of washer fluid. No one can really afford the amount of energy it takes to be a curmudgeon. So, take a deep breath and let it go.
There is a part in the book “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh describes true empathy as being able to see both sides of any situation. To be able to see yourself as both the survivor and the assailant and attempt to truly understand the realities of both lives. Once you can do this, even if the actions hurt you, you no longer feel you have the right or the need to judge others so harshly. This lends itself to the ability to forgive more freely. There is nothing simple about this; as I’ve said, it’s almost saintly. People are quick to say, “I would have never,” and “if it were me,” but always from the point of view of their own lives. Of course, you would never steal diamonds from a jewelry store if you grew up middle class where credit cards are a click away, and your parents made sure any jewels they purchased were conflict free. You have no clue what the burglar’s life is like. Therefore, acknowledge that you as you have no reason to steal. You may or may not make a different decision if you were him.
Forgive daily. Forgive yourself. Forgive those around you. Forgive knowing that, just like with a diet or new exercise regime, even with the best intentions, people will falter. There are always fits and starts to change. Expect it. And be prepared to forgive the small hiccups. Forgive because life is too short and too hard already. Carrying every burden and transgression will just weigh you down. To quote one of my favorite Erykah Badu songs (“Bag Lady”), “Bag lady you gone hurt your back, dragging all them bags like that, I guess nobody ever told you, all you must hold onto, is you…”
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