Should I Forgive Someone Who has Hurt Me?
Why Forgiveness is a Good Choice
Having come from a home with a narcissistic parent I have had plenty of opportunities to learn the art of forgiveness. Interacting with a person who never sees an issue with their negative actions and behaviors can be emotionally draining. On a daily basis we may run across people who are rude, belligerent, uncompromising, and just downright mean. People like that have a way of ruining our happy moods but often we are able to shake it off and move on with our days. But what about those people who have done more than just be rude or mean? How do you forgive people who have really, honestly hurt you to your core? Just as important, why should you forgive?
I'm sure you have heard it before, forgiveness isn't about them, it's about you and that is very true. There are some people who aren't all that interested in being the "bigger person" but for others having a good character is very important as it should be. What exactly does it mean to be the "bigger" or "better" person? The bigger person is the one who is able to dig deep into the well of kindness and not hold a grudge even when the enemy deserves it. Being the bigger person means you get to walk around knowing you have done your best to maintain your integrity. It means you have not allowed the other person to win by dragging you into their chaos or nastiness.
Forgiveness is better for your mental health. There was a time when I would ruminate on what the offender had done to me. These thoughts took up a lot of brain space for me. If I would see the person I would have a hard time sleeping that night as I would think about all the things I should have said or done to them to pay them back for what they had put me through. I lost a lot of sleep and I was cranky. I wanted to get back at them. They deserved it! Just thinking about them would put me in a sour mood and I would take that mood out on the people around me.
Holding that kind of anger and unforgiveness also took a toll on me physically. Unforgiveness often presents itself physically in the form of headaches, tension in the neck and general aches and pains. Essentially it eats away at you as you hold that nasty feeling on the inside and refuse to let it go. Staying up late, tossing and turning deprives you of much needed sleep and makes you susceptible to more sickness. Ultimately the person you want to hurt or get back at winds up hurting you.
A really good reason to let go of unforgiveness is because it generally serves no positive purpose in your life. Your unforgiveness won't cause someone to apologize. It won't turn them into a better person. It can do absolutely nothing in terms of rectifying the situation. Unforgiveness has zero impact on the offender. Often they have gone along with their lives oblivious to the fact they have hurt you so much. One thing I can promise you is that most offenders are often so self absorbed they have little idea you have been affected so much. Your unforgiveness at the end of the day only hurts you. Now why would you want to hurt yourself?
We all know tomorrow is not promised and that is probably the best reason to forgive. Imagine for a moment that tomorrow you receive a call saying the person who hurt you was in a horrible car accident and has passed away. How does that make you feel? Joyful? Relieved? Sad? Imagine going to the funeral parlor and seeing that person in a casket. What do you feel? Justice? Indifference? Mourning? We often are so caught up in today that we forget tomorrow may never come and that death is a fate which awaits us all. Can you honestly say you will be comfortable and happy if you don't forgive the person lying in the casket?
You may have a perfectly justified reason to hold on to anger. Some of us have been betrayed in unimaginable ways. Some of us have been molested, cheated on, and violated in other ways that affect us to our core. For those issues counseling would be helpful but if we are honest with ourselves sometimes we will find that we have been holding anger toward someone over issues which in the grand scheme of things are quite silly. There are people who refuse to talk to family members because they weren't invited to their weddings. Personally I think holding anger over something like that is immature. Get over it!
Unforgiveness often stems from not being able to put yourself in the other person's shoes. We too often are very gracious with ourselves but hold others to a very high standard. Have you considered that maybe the person you aren't forgiving may have made a mistake? We shouldn't assume people have wronged us purposely without giving that person a chance to explain or rectify their behavior. Is it possible that person was having a stressful day when they said the mean things they said? Or that they were very busy and couldn't make it to your graduation? Do you understand the motives behind their behavior? Have you made any attempts figure out why they did what they did?
It is unfair to hold unforgiveness toward someone who may not even realize they did something wrong. Obviously I'm not talking about things like being raped which are obvious offenses, but rather small slights that can possibly be ironed out with a little communication. Often, if you approach someone who you feel has done you wrong you will be surprised that the person has been sorry about their behavior for some time but either didn't know how to approach you or maybe was just a little too proud to ask forgiveness. Even if the person isn't willing to accept responsibility for what they have done you can still feel better by knowing you tried to rectify the situation.
I have demonstrated the many ways unforgiveness affects you. Mentally, physically, and sometimes spiritually, being weighed down by unforgiveness affects you greatly. I hope you have been encouraged to let go of something that is not beneficial to you in any way. Regardless of what has happened in the past it is never too late to start over again or make better choices. Choosing to forgive is a choice that can greatly improve the quality of you life.