Know what’s really hard? Forgiving people when they do us wrong.
There have been some pretty substantial wrongs perpetrated against me by others. None of them, however, are as substantial as the wrongs I’ve done to myself.
Funny how it’s so much easier to forgive ourselves than others. We human beings want someone or something else to blame. There’s something inside us that says we’ll get sympathy or comforting from playing the victim. Or we get power to control others by using that victim card.
The problem is that not forgiving and holding onto the wrongs is not good for us. In fact, it’s terrible for us. It can lead to all kinds of stress, anxiety, emotional issues and bitterness. Without knowing exactly what caused it, other people can tell when we carry around emotional baggage like bitterness, resentment, or victimhood. It is not attractive. Plus not forgiving lets us hold on to a scapegoat to blame, rather than letting people judge us on what we’ve done to shape our own lives. That only hurts us because it inhibits our own personal growth.
It took me a while, but I eventually forgave several different guys I thought were friends who “did me wrong.” One forged my signature and stole $20,000 from my account; one cheated me out of $18,000 in pay, one lied about me in open court, another falsely accused me of trying to steal his girlfriend, and several stole from me in my home. These things were hard to forgive because I thought they were friends. As William Blake said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
But you know who benefited most? I did. By forgiving them and letting the wrongs go, it freed me and gave me a sense of peace that eventually allowed me to develop a perspective that has brought me immense happiness.
It helped me to let go once I figured out that if they have to steal, cheat, or lie, that each of them must be miserable, and far worse off than me. In the grand scheme of things from an existential perspective, I am better equipped to handle the wrongs that each of them committed so I consider myself more fortunate.
I don’t forget what each of them did; I learned from each situation and will not let them back into a position of trust, but I no longer carry any animosity toward them. And it’s as simple as choosing to let it go.
That has turned out to be an amazingly liberating decision.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
—Lewis B. Smedes
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”