Do you have anyone in your life that you’re still not speaking to? That one you haven’t forgiven, or let go of the hurt they inflicted? The one that said the mean, hateful words behind your back, or who fired you without cause, or who offended you by their selfish actions? Broken relationships sit in our stomach like a sick pit and can leave us handcuffed to some pretty ugly emotions. Listen, the pain you’re feeling — it’s valid. The hurt that comes from a friend is probably one of the worst. And the feelings that accompany that hurt are no fun to deal with — loss of appetite, listlessness, depressed, sad…you probably have your own set of feelings you can add to the list.
And while we can’t fix all relationships that end…we can choose to forgive the hurt and let it go.
Is it time to let that someone in your life off the hook?
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ” — Carrie Fisher
For some, the word forgive has religious overtones, and reminds us of a nicety we learned in Sunday School. “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” But the word simply means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake. Simple, right? Just stop feeling angry and resentful. Easier said than done, I know. I mean, they hurt you. It was uncalled for. Out of the blue. Done in a very poor manner, in a way that may have embarrassed you, or in what felt like a personal attack on your personality or character. The natural reaction is anger or resentment and that is completely normal. Our next step (and often a healthy next step) is to close off that friendship, at least for a time being, to reduce any chance of further hurt. This is a normal way to protect ourselves and a stage of the grieving process when a friendship is lost.
But how long you get to hang on to the hurt and resentment? Of course there is no formula, no time table, that works for everyone. The time it takes to heal and forgive is going to vary with each of us. But know this — the longer we hang onto the hurt and resentment, the more comfortable we get with those feelings, and the harder it is to let them go. It can easily become our new ‘safe place’, like a cozy blanket we curl up with on the couch. It is warm and comforting and keeps us insulated from the pain. But it also can keep us on the couch and prevent us from moving forward. You’ll know if you’re settling in with it. You’ll play back the situation where the hurt happened over, and over, and over again. You’ll hear yourself talking about in to others — often. You’ll have pretend conversations with the person in your head, finally saying all the things you wish you could’ve said to them in the moment. And then — you’ll do the same the next day. And the next. And the next. And I get it. Again — it hurt, and hurt, well, hurts! But the longer we wait to let something go, the more comfortable it’s going to become, and the harder it can be to release those ugly feelings. The thought of forgiving can be frightening. I mean, what would we do if we reconciled? Would we have to get our lives together and move on? Possibly stop using it as an excuse and take some steps down a new path? And what would we talk about to our friends at the holiday party?!
The process of forgiving would be so much easier if the person came to you first and said I’m sorry. Got down on their knees even and begged you to forgive them. Sent you flowers. Wrote you a long letter telling you how they so much wish they could take it back. Gave you money. Bought you a vacation. Announced to the world how wrong they were and committed to being forever in your service. Sometimes that happens. But sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, do you carry the anger and resentment until they do? Or…is there a different choice?
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” — Robert Brault
Change is hard. Forgiving someone is hard. Life is hard. But we can do hard things.
Emotional intelligence allows us the ability to read how we’re feeling in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. Most likely you’re very aware you’re mad at this person. Pat yourself on the back — that is a good start and your emotional self-awareness is keen. But how is that behavior part going for you? How is holding on that anger and resentment working for you?
“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.” — Shannon L. Alder
The holiday season is a time to connect with loved ones, new and old. It’s a time of celebration, and laughter, and joy. Carrying the pain of a past hurt only dampens the holiday cheer. What a better time than this season to make the choice to let something go? Of course, there will be those who have made choices that deem them unhealthy to let back into your life. You’ll need to determine the level of connection you maintain with the person depending on the safety and health of that person. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you now become best friends. But you can be free of the pain they caused. The choice to yours–to forgive, and be free.
It’s a tough thing to do, but the freedom you’ll feel on the other side will be worth it. Is it time to give it a try?
I hope you do. And if not now — maybe soon. Either way — at some point give yourself this precious gift of freedom. It’ll be the best gift you’ve ever received!