The Problem with Not Forgiving
Most people have at least one person in their life that they harbor anger against for some reason or another. For some the anger is due to a serious hurt, whether physical or emotional, such as assault or abuse. For others the anger stems from less important issues, but the anger is just as real and just as debilitating. For instance the resentment that can build up in a relationship over many years over many small and large differences. For some, maybe it is a co-worker that angers you, they ask too much of you, they sabotage you, or they just annoy you.
Why do we hold onto anger? At it’s root, it’s because we want to hurt that person back. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t hurt the intended. It only hurts us. Think about it. Can you be happy when you are angry? Have you ever noticed that you have more accidents the more angry you are? So how do you get rid of this anger? By forgiving.
The Problem with Forgiving
If forgiving is the answer to releasing your anger, why don’t we do it? Well, because forgiving someone is hard! Another reason is that we don’t know how to do it properly. And then there is the fear that by forgiving someone we are inviting them to hurt us again or that we are saying what they did was ok.
How to Really Forgive Someone
1)Examine Your Anger – Take some time to understand your anger. It’s easy to say, “Well I just hate that person” or “That person drives me crazy.” For some the reason for the anger is very clear as in the case of assault, for instance. But other times, the root of our anger is not so clear. Why does this person “bug you?” Why do you get angry at your boss? Why do you flip out when your spouse parks the car “the wrong way.” The reason it is important to understand your anger is that if you identify clearly what the root is, then you can go about finding a possible solution. This doesn’t work in all cases. But try this first anyway. Then ask yourself what can YOU do to make the situation better? If it’s about trying to change a person, the only way to really impact a person is to love them, praise them and continually discover and focus on the good in that person. This takes time, but try it!! It really works. If it’s an intolerable situation and you can’t ignore it, find a way to not be around this person.
2) “Thank You for This Experience.” Have you ever noticed how good can spring up from bad experiences? Just like after a forest fire the first thing you see is lots of little green plants starting to grow. What did you learn about your inner strength from your negative experience? What did you learn about yourself that has made you a stronger person? This doesn’t make wrongs against you right. But it puts you back in the position of power, not victimhood. Remember, you have survived. Build on that! And little by little explore where you see small bits of green sprouting up in your life. Focus on that, have gratitude for that good, and you will be in the process of forgiving.
3) Relationship Resentment -Let it Go: Advice from the book “Follow Your Heart” by Andrew Matthews (one of my favorite books) is brilliant. In his book he talks about how we make up rules for how others should behave. If they don’t behave that way, we make them “guilty” and we hold a grudge. But does it change the situation? No. All it does it “ruin our lives!” He uses humor to make a good point, “When a seagull craps on your head, do you resent the seagull?” Do you resent the weather when it rains? So why resent people?
Whatever the “guilty party” got wrong, it is history. The question is, “Do you want your life to work or don’t you.” And he also takes on the hard situations too. For instance, he a friend who found forgiveness after having his 3 teenage daughters murdered. It wasn’t easy, but in the end he realized that only he had control over how he moved forward with his life. He didn’t want his life to be miserable so he “let go of anger” for his “own sake and his own survival.”
4) Meditate on Compassion: Imagine your antagonist as a baby. What has been their life? Why do they act in ways that hurt you or others? If you can find a small place of compassion, of understanding, then perhaps in seeing them as a victim of their circumstances, you may find a place of peace about what happened. Buddhism says: “for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.”Â Buddhism urges us to focus on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity as “a means for avoiding resentment in the first place.”
The Dalia Lama lives a life of forgiveness in action. The book, “The Wisdom of Forgiveness” gives an account his life in this regard. Again this doesn’t make crimes committed right. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily befriend a person who hurt you or that you should take your guard down in protecting yourself from a dangerous person. But if you can find a place where you can wish for their healing, you will find your own healing. If this doesn’t work, move onto #5.
5) Turn it over to God: Put your trust in God that God will take care of this situation in the long run. God will provide you strength. God will bring justice in the end. And hopefully God will heal the offender too. Take comfort in God’s love for you. If you have trouble understanding “why God let’s bad things happen” take a look at my post on Christianity and scroll down to the heading “Why Do We Have to Suffer.”
6) If you don’t believe in God, then at least know that in science all things eventually come to equilibrium. And so, turn it over to the universe. Turn it over to your friends’ and family’s love for you. Allow yourself to be comforted and strengthened by their love.
7) Write it Down. Take all these suggestions and journal about your feelings and then write down the answers to the questions: How will I forgive? What will I gain by forgiving? What is the good in all this? What have I learned? How will my life be better by forgiving?
What Have You Got to Lose? – Only Peace
Who are you holding resentment against? Who are you angry at? Who do you hate? Do you want release from this heavy yoke around your heart? Do you want peace and happiness? Try forgiveness… for your sake. Take it slow. It is a process. Over time you can watch your anger melt. The Dalai Lama is said to have the heart health of a 20 year old according to his doctors. Why is that? Perhaps it just might be that he holds no anger. Imagine what it could do for you!
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