In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share the real reasons you might be holding on to anger and resentment and how to change that and let offenses go.
How do I learn to forgive? I don't understand why it's so difficult for me to let go and forgive others. I find myself wanting to cut the people, who have hurt me, out of my life. It's like I'm trying to sweep it under a rug and forget the hurt, but I can't, which I know isn't healthy. How can I get past my anger and really move forward?
We believe the problem is not in your ability to let go, but in your need to hold on to the grudge. There is a reason you (and most of us) struggle with forgiveness. The fact is there are very real benefits to staying mad or hurt. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest about why you might want to stay offended.
Which of these anger excuses are in play for you?
Does casting the other person as the bad guy bring me a sense of righteousness myself?
Does it earn me sympathy, attention or validation from others when I talk about how I was hurt?
Does being a sad, poor victim excuse some of my behavior, because I'm so wounded and broken I can't help it?
Does it give me an excuse to be depressed and disengage from life and moving forward (which scares me)? What am I afraid of if I moved on?
Do I feel like letting it go would be saying it was OK, and forgiving would pardon the person from their guilt?
Be honest with yourself about why you might be holding on to the offense, because you are never going to forgive as long as you are subconsciously holding on to the pain.
Forgiving also becomes easier when you adjust your perspective and make sure you see yourself, the other person, and the situation accurately. We see them inaccurately when we see them through a story we have created around them, which can distort the truth.
To see yourself, the other person and the situation accurately you have to first realize your value is infinite and absolute and does not change as a result of this mistreatment. Your value comes from the fact that you are an amazing, divine, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable soul. Your value cannot change and you cannot be diminished. No matter what someone else does or says about you, you are the same you and what they did to you doesn't change your value.
The tricky part is, the other person, the one who offended you, also has infinite value and their worth doesn't change because of this incident either and you must embrace this truth if you are ever going to feel better. If you want this principle of infinite value to be true for you, it has to also be true for them.
In order to become bulletproof and move forward from this offense, you must know who you are, claim your value, and refuse to let anything diminish you, and you have to also let go of judgment, and stop casting them as not good enough. Also remember that holding onto anger, hurt and angst doesn't do you any good. It doesn't punish the other person, it doesn't protect you, and it doesn't make you feel any better.
Choosing to forgive and let things go makes you feel better. When you claim the power to release the resentment, you will feel strong, mature and wise. It takes a pretty amazing person (with a lot of strength) to love people who don't deserve it.
That doesn't mean you trust this person again though — it just means you choose to love them, in and with their flaws and mistakes, even if you need to do this from afar. Not having them in your life is still a healthy option within your forgiveness.
After you are more accurate about your own value, you must work to see the offender and their behavior accurately. Ask yourself why did they hurt or mistreat you? What was really going on in their world that motivated the bad behavior?
We believe that like all of us, the person who hurt you is probably terrified they aren't good enough and they are afraid of being taken from or mistreated too. These fears can create immature, selfish and unkind behavior. They can keep you focused on your own needs and prevent you from showing up for other people.
When you look underneath the mistreatment and see the fear that's driving it — we believe you will see this person as desperately scared, which will create more compassion for them. Perhaps this person made you the bad guy in their story, so they could feel superior, and relieve their terrible fear of not being enough. Can you see that dynamic in this situation?
Most people are doing the best they can with what they know at the time. The problem is they don't know much about how their fears affect them, so their behavior is lacking.
Most people do not plan to hurt us though, and they don't have bad intentions or malice. They are usually intending to be kind people, they just get afraid and may behave badly or say the wrong thing at times. Can you see this intention in the person who hurt you?
However, some people do intend to hurt us, but it is more uncommon. If you encounter this type of person, you must also see them accurately and understand they just aren't capable of better behavior, and it isn't about you.
Once you have realigned your perspective, you can then see your life accurately, understand life is a classroom and this person, who offended you, therefore showed up to teach you something.
The people who hurt us are important teachers, because they give us a beautiful opportunity to step into more mature, loving and wise behavior. This situation might be giving you a chance to step back and gain a more mature mindset, learn how to forgive or overcome your fears. Ask yourself these important questions, "What could this situation be here to teach me? How could it make me stronger, wiser or more loving?"
This situation may also be here to show you things about yourself. It might be showing you how strong your fear of failure (not being good enough or approved of) is, so you can work on it. This other person might be serving as a mirror for you, to show you things about yourself you need to see. We believe you can absolutely trust this experience is here to serve you. Your life is a divine process created for your benefit and growth. Your life, and every situation in it, is about you becoming a better person.
When you can see yourself, the other person and this situation accurately, it will change how you feel and experience this offense, and it will become easier to forgive.
If you still can't forgive, you may be stuck in your fear and in one of the anger excuses mentioned above. You may want to reach out to a counselor or coach who can help you overcome your own self-esteem and resentment issues. We believe your fear of not being good enough might be keeping you in this defensive, protective, angry mindset. If you improve your own self-esteem first, forgiving will get easier.
You can do this.