“Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.” – Jodi Picoult
When someone does us wrong, it is so easy to hold on to anger and frustration. But this negative energy is nothing but damaging. It gets in the way of our productivity, our relationships, and, of course, our ability to feel light, positive and happy.
To forgive and forget is an old idea, but do we fully understand it and use it in a genuinely useful way these days?
1. Challenge Your Point of View
To see a situation from all angles, you must debate with yourself. We all want to feel that we are in the right, but we must also consider our own part in any given circumstance. Grievances are rarely black and white, they are complex; your being apparently right does not necessarily mean that the other party is wrong, their view may simply be opposing. Grudges are toxic for the self, and trying to see a situation from all sides helps to alleviate this toxicity.
2. Be Calm and Collected
Anger often gets in the way of forgiveness. The rage or hurt we experience can easily get in the way of a more measured view of a situation. Of course, you are entitled to feel how you feel, indeed, it is important to have these emotions. But, when the majority of the flames have died down, take time to properly think about the situation and try to see it from all angles. Your old friend ‘meditation’ is also a good friend in this exercise.
3. Accept Your Own Behaviour
You might, on reflection, have behaved not as well as you might have thought you did in the moment. Be honest with yourself, and consider whether you have a part to play in the conflict. It is OK to be wrong and to make mistakes, it is what you do in the face of your own mistakes that define you. We all react instinctively in the moment, it’s what we when we have time to consider a response that speaks more honestly of who we really are.
4. Forgiveness Is Not Weakness
There is a preconception amongst some that to forgive someone, to hold on to your grudge because you feel that you are right or have been wronged is weak. This is understandable, especially if the person with which your grievance is associated is unable to apologise or concede to your way of thinking. In fact, to forgive is extremely brave, and a lack of ability to forgive is often a way to keep an issue at a distance. Not to forgive is to shut yourself off from reconnecting with another person, which can seem daunting and difficult.
5. You Might Not Win, and That’s OK
What is more important, to be right or to be reconciled? Sometimes holding on to your need to be in the right does more damage than it is worth. You can’t always get your way, and you can’t always get validation for your arguments. Accepting this and learning to let go and move on is a great way to make your life much less grudge and grievance heavy.
6. Be Grateful
Most circumstances can be improved by the practice of gratitude. In the face of conflict with another, this gratitude should not only be focused on the wonderful things in your own life, but on the good and great things the other person has done for you. This focus and positive energy towards the other person is a great way to start to heal emotional wounds between both parties.
7. Forgetting is Not Actually Forgetting
The ‘forget’ part of this process is hard. To forget is usually to eliminate a memory, remove all trace of a person or situation from your mind. In this instance, forgiveness has a slightly different function. To forget entirely is to eliminate any lesson you might have learnt on the way. To forget entirely is also to set yourself up to make the same mistake again. In this instance, to forget is to put aside the memory and associated negativity and to relate to that person despite your history. Put it in the filing cabinet of your mind; it is still there, but you seldom bother to go through the archives!
In the end, to forgive and forget is to strive to heal wounds that might otherwise be needlessly prodded and constantly reopened. In order to move forward in our work and in our relationships, we must learn to better accept accidents and disagreements, and work through them in a conscious and reflective manner.
By Chris Thomson
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