The Better Me Project—Day 18
Is this starting to sound like a 12 step program yet? No? Okay, well how about this for today’s precept—forgive someone who’s hurt you. I’m pretty sure almost every recovery program includes a step of that nature. It doesn’t matter if this person has apologized and you’ve refused to accept their apology in the past, or this person is completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve even done you wrong. This day is all about being forgiving.
Why Should I Forgive Someone Who’s Done Something Wrong To ME?
Did you ever hear the saying that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? Well, the reason that saying is so true is because of the anger and negativity associated with holding a grudge. That negativity eats away at the person who refuses to forgive, causing them unnecessary stress and sometimes even illness. Yes, you can make yourself sick from being mad at someone. I think I’ve done it before.
I Hold Onto a Grudge For WAYYYYY Too Long
I admit it. I’m notorious for this. If you’ve pissed me off, I may not say anything, but I’m silently seething underneath. And I will keep it in till the end of time.
I’m not saying that I’m mad at everyone who has ever hurt me. That would be a little ridiculous (and that list would include people I care a lot about). If I’ve have it out with someone who’s hurt me, chances are they’re forgiven. But many times, if I haven’t hashed it out with someone, I may still be mad at them, even if it was eons ago. Someone who wronged me in kindergarten may still be on my $hit list.
This isn’t to say that I’m not a forgiving person. No, I think quite the opposite. I like to believe in the best in people (although I have found myself often disappointed and kicking myself for trusting certain people in the future). If someone is genuinely apologetic for hurting me, I will most likely forgive them.
But What if Someone Has Done Something Really Terrible to Me?
While I want to be accommodating and understanding, I don’t want to be a doormat. I don’t take a lot of crap from people—this is probably why I tend to hold onto my anger unnecessarily. There are some people on this earth that have done really abysmal things to other people. While I’ve been heartbroken and bullied in the past, I’ve been fortunate enough to never had anything that is truly unforgivable done to me.
But I understand that there may be readers out there that have been in such a situation and they’re carrying around that pain for a tremendously long time. I can imagine that it would be pretty difficult to forgive in that situation. And I can imagine that such a feeling would eat away at you for many years and end up controlling your life. You might miss opportunities because you are too upset to confront them or come in contact with them. You want to punish them for the misery they’ve bestowed upon you. Why should you forgive them?
Forgiving someone is not giving them a pass for what they’ve done to you, though. Forgiving someone is mentally telling yourself that you’re not going to be held hostage by your feelings created by this person’s actions. This is for you, not them.
The Great Part Is, You Don’t Even Have to Tell Them You’re Forgiving Them
Maybe this would work a whole lot better if you told the person you were mad at them for whatever. And then the person would actually apologize and you could say to the person, “Okay, I forgive you.” And you hug and go get a drink and forget you were even mad in the first place. I bet that’s the most cathartic way to go about this.
That’s probably not the way it’s going to go down, though. Sometimes you really can’t talk to the person who’s hurt you. They may have passed on. They may be in prison. You may have completely lost touched with them. Or maybe not. Maybe you just don’t want to confront them about it, but you still want to forgive them. At least that isn’t the way it went down for me.
She Had No Idea
So I was carrying around this grudge for about three years. The person I was mad at was once a really close friend for about ten years until she did something really crappy. If I told you what it was, you would probably say, “Wow, that is a crappy thing to do, but I wouldn’t end a ten plus year friendship over it.”
Well, I didn’t end our friendship over it, but it started opening my eyes to things that she did that weren’t very friend-like. And weird. Every little thing that she had done for ages suddenly annoyed me to the point of exhaustion. Stuff I wouldn’t have even noticed before drove me so nuts that I found myself rolling my eyes at every one of her Facebook posts or texts. The stupid anger I had was brewing inside me like a tea bag that had seeped too long, making me as bitter as that tea would be.
I kept my distance as not to get bent out of shape over it. I knew deep down inside that her personality flaws that had never bothered me before weren’t even the source of my anger. It was that one stupid, little thing she had done (or not done) three years ago.
I Said To Hell With This
I woke up one morning towards the beginning of my Better Me Project and meditated like I do. The night before this person had texted me and asked me to do something for her that I didn’t want to do (that was another thing, she only contacted me when she wanted something…grrr). It made me so mad. I ignored her texts. I even bitched and moaned to another friend about her. I went to bed vowing not to get upset, but I was still stewing about it the next morning.
So much in fact that I couldn’t even clear my head to meditate properly. She was getting in my brain and making it difficult for me to be happy. I needed to let this go. Should I call her up and say, “Hey listen, I don’t want to be friends anymore?” No, I couldn’t do that. She would want to know why and to be honest, whenever I voiced my reason out loud, it seemed so insignificant and irrational that I knew I would look ridiculous.
And in a way, it was a little over the top, but what had started out as this little seed of anger, had blossomed into this out of control weed growing inside me.
I Forgave Her Without a Word
So with trembling hands, I picked up the phone that morning and I called her back. I said, “Sure, I’d love to do that favor for you!” And even though I really didn’t want to, I did it without a single complaint. It turns out it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, either. My judgment was so clouded when I was mad that I couldn’t even remember why we were friends to begin with. By forgiving her, it suddenly became clear.
She wasn’t as bad as I thought she was—we all make mistakes, after all. I allowed myself to forgive her, without saying a single word about why I was mad in the first place—I let go of all that built up anger I had been holding onto.
And do you know what? It really felt good. It did nothing for her (since she didn’t even know I was mad to begin with), but I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest and I could breathe again.
Day 18—So do yourself a favor; make a list of people you’re holding a grudge against. Take pen and cross them off, one at a time. Forgive them for you.