With today being Global Forgiveness Day, it seems an opportune time to truly pursue this concept that to many seems so “out of reach.” Forgiveness is a concept that we know has been written about prolifically. It is found within virtually every religious book, and is part of many self-development trainings as well as psychology courses. With all of this extensive attention, why does it remain so elusive for many?
Let us start with our “normal” human psychology: you do something wrong and you should pay! We develop this mindset due to our society having a very expansive criminal justice system which applies at virtually every level. We have a plethora of laws against hundreds of misdeeds by people at both the city, county, state and federal levels. With each and every one of these, we are attempting to hold people accountable for what society has deemed unacceptable behavior whether a simple misdemeanor or as egregious as a felony. Most feel that those who commit such crimes “ought to pay the price.” The concept here is based on a belief that to change a person’s behavior, if they pay a price consistent with the level of the crime, that will cause them to never repeat that behavior again. This is clearly not always the result.
How is this similar to our judgement that negatively impacts relationships in our lives for situations where we perceive we were wronged? Well, due to being influenced by our extensive criminal justice system, I believe that many of us act as the judge and jury when any person does “wrong” to us. “They need to pay the price” (which typically is losing our friendship/relationship). I encourage you to take the time and write down a list of all the times you can remember where you were treated unfairly from your perspective. NAME (person or group or….), ACTION and then YOUR RESPONSE. If you find yourself still writing after 30 minutes just work with the initial list for purposes of the exercise as you can always go back and complete your list (and I am hopeful you do).
Now examine “WHY” you continue to hold any negative feelings towards any of the people who may have caused (or appeared to have caused) the “wrong” that you still carry. In most cases the reason is “I am right about it.” These grudges we hold typically deny any type of relationship or closeness with the person(s) involved in the event(s)…and we lose connectiveness including closeness, community, contribution, love, etc., an endless list of priceless benefits. The price we pay is way too great in many circumstances but we sure can rationalize it. Do people need to deserve our forgiveness? I suggest no. If we choose to forgive them, do we have to associate with them? Only if we choose, as the real damage is our carrying the negativity within us.
In thinking about things you may have done wrong, make yet another list. No man is perfect and most of us can come up with quite a list where we may have tripped up in a relationship, a job, an activity, etc., and perhaps without even knowing it, caused others to be hurt or let down in some way. Can we also m
ake a list of those?
Now, evaluate the loss you and they have suffered due to the “mistake” “mishap” “error in judgment” that may have been exhibited in each and every one of those events. Evaluate the costs you have paid in each and every instance losing community with each and every one of those people starting with the losses that were most painful at the time.
What does it cost you to drop a note, make a call, whatever effort you choose to support restoration of that relationship (whether you want to actually rebuild the friendship or acquaintance or not)? In many instances some of those people do not even realize they caused a wrong…but even those who did could feel so ashamed (especially due to the loss of your relationship), they are at a loss on next step.
I encourage you to step into this Global Forgiveness Day by taking the time to uncover all those wounds, take the effort to “let go” of the need to be right, and make the contact you feel most comfortable with so you can truly let go of the negative feelings that only “weigh you down.” Deserving it or not is definitely NOT THE ISSUE. Releasing the negative feelings from your psyche is definitely THE RESULT! You wonder how some people always seen to be joyful…and you may even refer to them as Pollyannas? Well, I assure you they have learned the lesson that carrying anger, hate, judgment, etc. of others only causes residual pain and negativity in their own lives. Release that poison…
Isn’t it time??