There are many reasons we may be reluctant to forgive someone or something. Let’s explore a few common ones.
No one wants to be a doormat, subjected to the serial wrong behavior of another person. So we keep our anger alive as a means of protection, a wall around our hearts that will prevent us from trusting someone and then being sorely disappointed again in the future. Unfortunately, that wall keeps everything out, even good things like joy, abundance, and the love of others. Even worse, it keeps out Nature’s vitality and stops the healthy flow of communication between our personal self and our Higher Self, or soul. Doubly unfortunate is the fact that the wall itself is ineffective, because we are actually more vulnerable to similar offenses until our wounds are fully healed. It is counterintuitive for our egos to forgive someone, but if we do it anyway, we will discover that life is better without the wall.
You absolutely have the right to be angry at an unjust person or situation. Anger is a natural response to injustice, and good, healthy anger floods us with adrenaline, courage, and will. It pushes us to step forward and set things right. It is good to speak and act upon healthy anger in a responsible way when we feel righteous indignation. Sometimes we have to draw the line with someone and use some power and heat—whether it’s taking him or her to court for cheating us, fighting for a fair deal in a child custody case, or firmly telling a person to get out, now! But anger is meant to be a temporary state, not a permanent one. It is the doorway to the house of wholeness and power; it is not the house itself. You can’t live in a doorway; you have to walk through it into a new attitude of peaceful resolve and choose what you will and will not allow from people in your life.
Maybe you are in the right. Maybe you are standing on the higher moral ground in this situation, and the other person is clearly wrong. You feel that someone ought to hold the person accountable, and so you are doing your best to bear witness to this injustice—afraid that if you don’t, no one will, and that person will get away with it. Something inside you doesn’t want an injustice to be allowed to stand, unchallenged and unrectified. So you remain attached to being right, but that attachment causes you to suffer. You are the one who is obsessed, and you are the one who is losing sleep over someone else’s actions—therefore, you are the one who will have stress-related health problems. Meanwhile, the villain in this story might be peacefully unconcerned about his wrongdoing and blissfully unaware of your rage—and he is sleeping just fine at night!
There are laws of justice in society, and it’s nice when things unfold fairly, according to your sensibilities of what is fair. But you don’t have control over that. At times, you need to forgive a grossly unfair situation so that you can sleep at night, and turn that person and situation over to a higher judge and law than you can see. You need to take yourself off the job of being the judge of another person and focus instead on your own integrity and your own life’s purpose. Let the other person sort it all out with a Higher Power at some point. You need to move on. As Marianne Williamson has put it, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”
Sometimes we must interact with people who behave in a hurtful or offensive way every day. You may not be in a position right now to leave your spouse, your teenager, or your boss. But if you forgive people like this for the load of things that are piled up inside you from the past, you will be less reactive in the present and can let go of your stressful response to them more swiftly each new time the same thing happens. Eventually, you will attain a degree of detachment and even a sense of humor about someone’s annoying behaviors. This does not mean that we are excused from good communication with our family members or coworkers. We must lobby for what we think is right and healthy, if we are able. Very often, after we have forgiven someone, our voices are empowered and our communication abilities are heightened, because we are able to approach the person with goodwill and no judgments. This enables him or her to better hear what we are saying. Ultimately, if we are involved with someone who is dysfunctional, we must decide for ourselves where the boundary is and make the painful choice to allow the relationship to continue, or not. If we stay, we stay knowing it is our choice to do so. If we leave, we will do ourselves a huge favor if we leave in a state of acceptance and forgiveness.
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