Forgiveness is a hard thing to define. Is it based on compassion? On letting go of revenge? On wanting to be right? On moving forward? Is it a combination of all these things, or something else entirely?
One of the hardest things humans must do sometimes is forgive. Maybe someone did you wrong, or lied to you, or criticized you. Maybe someone said something behind your back, or made a promise and broke it, or made you look bad in front of others. Whatever it is, it’s human nature to react to a perceived wrong done (and I’m not going to get into the heavy duty wrongs that are done, because that’s not what this post is about). It’s also human nature to want to right that perceived wrong, or hold onto angry feelings that drive vengeance so you can feel better.
One of the themes I write about in my stories is the power of forgiveness to perceived wrongs. Power being one operative word, and perceived being the other. See, we all come from our own personal space. And very often we forget that everyone else comes from their own personal space, too. We all have our pasts, and the people and events that influenced who we are today and will continue to influence us down the road. We have our own way of viewing life and the world and often forget our worldview isn’t the only one that exists. And it’s also not the only one that’s right.
As a writer, I’ve discovered that misunderstandings can be one of the greatest conflicts that can happen between characters. Character A says something because they see the world one way, and Character B misinterprets those words because they see the world altogether differently. And what happens? An argument ensues, sharp words are said, and both characters walk away hurt because of the misunderstanding.
It’s a common occurrence in real life, too.
So why is it so difficult to forgive? And how can we make it easier?
It seems that when we’re hurt by someone else, we often judge the other person’s behavior from our own perspective. We blame the other person with every fault imaginable without taking into account that we have faults of our own. We may focus on the other person’s imperfections without recognizing we have them, too. We explain away our own behavior with excuses while giving the other person all the responsibility for what went wrong.
None of that is healthy. Or accurate.
So how do we better handle forgiveness? Believe it or not, for me, I’ve learned a few lessons from how my characters handle it. After a cooling off period, where they use the time to let emotions settle and mindfulness kick in, they put themselves in the other person’s shoes and try to understand where the person who ‘did them wrong’ is coming from. Then they talk it out. They don’t ignore feelings, or try to dismiss them, but instead accept that both sides have emotions, and sometimes volatile ones. Ego may play a part, too, and that can cloud what’s really going on. But, in the end, the characters recognize that forgiving doesn’t erase consequences. It doesn’t change what happened, but it can definitely change how things progress going forward.
When all is said and done, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all human and we all make mistakes, and that it’s unfair to expect perfection from everyone else when the other person we’re unhappy with is viewing us with the same kind of eyes.
So, the next time you’re feeling angry with or betrayed by someone? Take a deep breath. Take a step back. Take the time to accept the emotions for what they are – your reaction to an external event prompted by someone else who is also reacting and feeling emotion toward you. Then come together and talk it out.
And remember that forgiving is for you, not the other person. Because, in the end, it’s you who will benefit the most from doing it. It’s you who will find peace of mind and a way to let go and move on.
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