Written by: Jancy Mathew
Have you ever wondered why it is easier to forgive and forget a stranger than it is to forgive someone who we knew, loved and respected? It’s like pain amplifies itself and becoming directly proportional to how much close we were to this person and Forgiveness - inversely proportional!
Perhaps it’s to do with the expectations? The closer we are, the more expectations we have, and hence the more we trust the person to not hurt us.
Or perhaps it’s to do with how much we think they know us. Despite knowing us, who we are, knowing what hurts us, our vulnerabilities, they chose to do this to us. It almost seems intentional and personal. And when it feels personal, it is definitely not something easy to let go.
I think it’s safe to say that we consciously or subconsciously ponder over these three aspects before we decide who to forgive:
Intent — Was it intentional? Was the person really trying to hurt me or was I caught in the crossfire? Why did they do it to me? Is their reason good enough to be forgiven?
Repetition — Has the person tried to cause harm to me before? Why is it easier for them to hurt me again?
Accountability — Would they learn a lesson if I forgive them? Is their apology genuine enough or just another tactic?
More often than not, we get caught in the rigmarole of negative emotions -resentment, anger and hurt, that make it even harder for us to forgive. However natural these emotions, they can cause to get stuck in the past and refuse to allow us to live in the moment. The negativity can weigh us down a lot more than we can imagine, affecting every aspect of our lives and causing us to become into a bitter person.
But what if, forgiveness isn’t a compromise or a sacrifice like the way we think it is. Perhaps, forgiving someone doesn’t equal to ‘accepting defeat’, but rather choosing not to fight this exhausting game that is burning us out in the process. We forgive them knowing they wronged us, but valuing our happiness over our pride.
Maybe choosing to forgive doesn’t undo the past or invalidate your pain. Perhaps, it only changes the way you look back at the experience, with compassion. Like Dr. Wayne Dyer quotes, “who said you can be happy or you can be right, but you can’t be both?” You accept that you were wronged, you accept your weakness of not standing up for yourself. And once you have made peace with your pain, you forgive yourself first and then them.
Maybe forgiveness doesn’t mean you free someone of the consequences of their choices. Rather it is realising that they acted from a place of weakness or fear or insecurity. We understand what they did was maybe something they thought was the best way to handle that situation. Their apology means they know better now and would act differently if the situation repeats itself.
Maybe forgiveness isn’t permitting someone to hurt us again. Some people are very difficult to forgive and a representation of everything we hate. We let their actions affect us far too long. And yet years later, what plagues us is not the people themselves, but our interpretations of them. Stop narrowing people to boxes of good and bad, rather look at everyone as an individual fighting their own battle. You don’t have to understand or agree to their choices, you can walk away from them. And sometimes it’s okay to forgive people without letting them back into your life.
Maybe forgiveness doesn’t come from the place of weakness. It infact comes from a place of strength and compassion. Author Mario Martinez aptly said, “rather than forgiving the perpetrator or minimizing the intensity of the misdeed, you recover the empowerment and self-worthiness you thought had been taken from you.” Compassion is in knowing and believing that people are capable of changing, and that they are doing their best to be better.
Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a choice that seems difficult, yet something that could be gratifying and very rewarding.
Forgiveness is telling yourself “yes, they messed up big, but I’m going to let it go.”