In honor of yesterday’s Global Forgiveness Day, I wanted to write about the importance of forgiveness. One of the components of Mental Freedom is the concept of Unconditional Trust. If you know about this concept, you know I started it as the Unconditional Trust Challenge. The idea is to start trusting everyone to do one thing: the best they know in that moment to get what they want most. This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but far too many people tend to trust that the important people in their lives will be the person they want them to be instead of the person they actually are. This trust of an impossible thing results in many relationship problems; then, we turn around and blame the other person for the issues our expectations created.
In our minds, we all hold a vision about what our perfect life looks like. If that vision only contained the things we can control, that would be fine, but unfortunately, our perfect life often involves things we have no control over and people who don’t behave exactly as we’d like. Parents have perfect images of their children that no child can consistently live up to. Couples have perfect images of their partner that cannot be perceived, therefore leading to disappointments. Friends have pictures of their friends that don’t always match with reality. Children have perfect pictures of their parents that parents are unable to live up to.
The problem with these perfect pictures is that no one can read your mind or imitate perfection all the time, so unless you accept the Unconditional Trust Challenge, you are going to encounter disappointment. When this occurs, it would be okay if you accepted that it was your own expectations that led to your disappointment, instead of placing blame on the person you think disappointed you. You will still experience the disappointment, but you will correctly assign the responsibility for that disappointment to yourself, not the one who didn’t measure up to your expectations.
When you mistakenly assign responsibility to other people for disappointing you, it’s only natural to believe they should apologize. You may also withhold your forgiveness as punishment to cause the other person to feel guilty for how much they hurt or disappointed you. This is extremely destructive to relationships.
Enter the Unconditional Trust Challenge. There is one thing you can trust every single person on the planet to do, and that is to do what is best for them and their needs based on the information available to them. (For instance, if you were expecting something without saying so, this is information the person does not have at their disposal.) This is true for everyone, including you. Even when you’ve convinced yourself you are doing something you don’t want to do, the truth is that you do want to do it, or you would be doing something else. You may hate what you are doing, but it’s getting you something you want: someone’s approval, moving closer to being the person you want to be, money to pay the bills, or something that will reap rewards in the future. When you are working toward fitness, you make a decision to work out when what you really want is to eat a brownie sundae. If you decide the most important thing in that moment is the sundae, you’ll eat it. If you decide the most important thing is your fitness, you will exercise. It’s about priorities and what you are attending to in the moment.
Sometimes people will make promises to you. Someone tells you that you share an exclusive relationship, but later, you learn they cheated. In that moment of cheating, the person was looking for excitement, variety, or a meaningful connection. Whatever it was, they engaged in the behavior most likely to get them what they wanted in that moment. They may be filled with regret later, thinking about breaking their promise to you and hurting you emotionally, but in the moment of commission, you weren’t what they were thinking about.
There are many things one person can do to another you might think needs forgiveness. Parents can say horrible things to their children in extreme moments of stress. Some parents abuse their children emotionally, physically or sexually. Partners can lie, abuse and cheat on their life partners. Business partners embezzle money. People develop addictions and steal from loved ones. The list of possible grievances is endless.
When you are the victim of an offense that hurts you in some way, take responsibility for your feelings. You don’t have to feel bad; you can choose something else. You can choose forgiveness. The forgiveness may be for the other person but, more importantly, the forgiveness is for you. One of my favorites quotes is anonymous and it goes like this: “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgive to release your soul from being held hostage, occupied with trying to cause the offender as much pain as you experienced.
Instead, remember this person who hurt you was only doing what they thought was their best choice in that moment to get what they wanted. If you care about them, isn’t that what you want them to do? Whether or not you are hurt can be a choice. You don’t have to take their actions personally, even if it feels horribly personal. Place the responsibility for their actions where it belongs: with them. You now have responsibility for your response to their actions. That’s where 100% of your responsibility belongs. You can choose to be hurt, working to guilt them into doing something different in the future. You can choose to hold your pain inside and say nothing, but evidence shows it can become physical, resulting in a medical condition you created for yourself. Or, you can forgive them and have peace.
If you are struggling should you choose forgiveness, then you will have responsibility for the relationship you have with that person going forward. Will you forgive and maintain your loving relationship? Will you forgive and continue to love the person while maintaining a distance to protect yourself from future occurrences? Or will you forgive but decide to end the relationship because you now have important information about what the other person wants that you’re not okay with? All those options and more are available to you, but you’ll want to travel forgiveness first. Otherwise, you are attempting to make a major life decision based on your through pain that you constructed to try to punish the other person. That is not a good place to make major decisions from.
If you want to move past behavior that has hurt you and you want to stop poisoning yourself, complete this form to get started with a free 20-minute coaching session.