Someone has wronged you. Your boyfriend has cheated on you, your colleague took credit for your project, that guy just took the parking space you’ve been patiently waiting for, for ten minutes. You’re justified in your anger – they are wrong and you are right. And it’s easy and very tempting to dig your heels in and stay mad, especially if the offense was a large one. But it doesn’t really matter if the incident was large or small. There’s good reason to learn how to let it go. Learning to forgive those who have “wronged us” may not always be easy, but it’s definitely worth it. Here’s why.
First, what exactly do we mean when we say “forgive and forget”? You may have been taught to “turn the other cheek”, which can be interpreted as letting those who have harmed you in some way walk all over you. Don’t fight back, just let it happen. But is that really what we’re supposed to do? If your boyfriend cheated on you, are you just supposed to sit there and allow him to do it again? Should you let your colleague get away with taking credit for your work, while you sit in silence? Would it really be so bad to at least shoot that guy who took your parking space a disapproving look?
Forgiveness isn’t about playing the martyr or victim. It’s not about being a doormat. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with the other person at all. Forgiveness is about one thing and one thing only: it’s about how YOU feel.
This is why it doesn’t matter if the offense was large or small – the concept is the same whether we’re talking about a broken heart or a stolen parking space. When you hold on to the anger, when you get stuck in blaming the other person and refuse to move on, you are hurting no one but yourself.
It’s easy to get stuck in this emotion. It feels good. When someone “wrongs” you, it can be very easy to begin blaming yourself. You think “How could this happen to me? How could I be so stupid? Did I do something to deserve this?” And blaming yourself is pretty much the worst feeling in the world. Blaming others, although still not a pretty emotion, feels a heck of a lot better. And so we move into that anger and feeling of revenge with fervor. It wasn’t your fault at all. It was THEIRS. Turning your blame away from yourself and onto others feels like relief. And you’re so justified! After all, they really DID do something wrong. Your boyfriend is a bastard, your colleague is a backstabbing little weasel and that guy who stole your parking space just wasn’t raised right!
But while it’s important to move into anger, because it actually IS better than blaming yourself, you should not get stuck there. Because, while anger and revenge feel better than self-hatred, they still don’t really feel good. They are just stepping stones on the way to feeling good. So once you’ve gotten good and angry, once you’ve stabilized that emotion, you need to move forward. When you let go of anger, you are not absolving the other person of all responsibility. You are not telling them “Oh, that’s ok, no problem, do that anytime, I don’t mind.” You don’t have to say anything to them at all. This isn’t about them. This is about you. What you are saying is “I will no longer allow this situation to dictate how I feel. I refuse to keep giving all of my power to this person, to this incident. I have the power to change how I feel at any time, and I choose to exercise that power. Now.”
Forgiving others is not about laying down and letting them walk all over you. To the contrary – it’s really about honoring yourself. But what do you do about the boyfriend who cheated? Well, once you’ve taken back your power, it will actually be easier to make that decision. You’ll communicate more clearly (have you ever tried to express yourself while very angry?), you’ll have greater insight into what you really want and how to get it. You’ll make the decision that serves you best, not from a place of anger and pain, but from a place of honoring who you are and what kind of relationship you want.
From this place, you’ll also be able to calmly explain to your boss who actually did the work on that project, without seeming overly emotional or like you have any kind of agenda other than to set the record straight. And you might just be able to entirely let the incident with the parking space go (perhaps you’ll be able to see the possibility that there was a reason you didn’t get that parking space. For example, there was a nail on the ground and the car in that space got a flat tire later that day. You weren’t a vibrational match to that, but the guy was. Isn’t it great that he cut in front of you?)
It’s important to note that this also (and especially) applies when it comes to forgiving yourself. Since thoughts of self-blame or self-hatred are the worst feeling thoughts we can have, staying stuck in that vibration will cause more harm than any other emotion. Move into anger, stabilize there, and then move up the emotional scale until you gradually but consistently feel better. You owe it to yourself.