We have all been in a situation where we have felt slighted or dismissed and some of us nurse and hold onto the pain of those incidents for years. Our ego doesn’t want us to let go of it because it wants to be vindicated and right and get even at some point. We want to WIN! So little thought is given to the price of holding onto anger and resentment. The energy of negative thoughts is tangible. It permeates your body. Your shoulders tense, your stomach hurts, you are physically contracting and feeling anxious and angry. Perhaps over time anxiety starts to present itself in different aspects of your life, or as aches and pains. Connective tissue issues arise. Relationships are ruined over a lack of compassion and forgiveness. People want justice and that means getting even.
I’ve been in some very challenging situations with people over the years. I felt judged. I felt angry. I felt like punching some of them in the face or worse. None of these emotions resonate with who I am as a person, but I had this thing called the EGO wanting so badly to get even and make the person who hurt me suffer the way they were causing me to suffer. There was dysfunction and anger and there was definitely no open and clear communication. Something would happen and I would react in a very predictable and unkind way. That could mean a nasty text back to trigger the other person. It could be some passive aggressive behavior. It could be angry silence accompanied by the most intense hate vibes with no question that I want to actually kill you or at the very least hurt you. My behavior would trigger more ugly behavior on the recipient’s part and we would be locked in this circle of passive aggressive anger that was so hurtful to all involved.
Then, I started to change. I started to stop looking out there, meaning at them (the people causing me pain) and I started to look inside myself. Why am I being triggered? Is what they are saying or believing about me true? What is causing them to behave this way around money, or religion, or jealousy or whatever the issue is? What am I seeing in them that I don’t want to acknowledge in me? Usually it was fear of some sort. It was someone saying I wasn’t good enough and my fear that it might be true. That was my first aha moment. I’m a good person so I knew the judgment was not true. Then I thought what is that person going through that is causing them to behave this way? What is going on in their life to create jealousy, or nasty behavior? About 100% of the time it was about them not feeling worthy. It was about them not feeling seen for who they are. It was about them being fearful that they weren’t what society or family or the church expected them to be. Maybe it was fear of being found out – maybe it was fear that they were living a lie and they might get caught.
I spend every year working on some aspect of myself, one year it was compassion. I spent a full year examining the people around me through the lens of compassion. I started to understand difficult relationships I had by looking through that lens. Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, my heart started to melt and compassion found its way into even the most challenging relationships. Finding compassion allowed me to start treating people differently. I started treating everyone with love. The next year I began working on forgiveness. It was a different lens I looked through but such a powerful shift for me. I used to always want to have the last word. The deeper I went inside myself, the more I began to practice compassion and love towards myself, the closer I moved to forgiving myself and in turn forgiving others.
We are our own worst critics. We are so hard on ourselves. We don’t see the inherent beauty in our souls. We would never treat a friend the way we treat ourselves. I started to see that I could respond to people in a different way and it didn’t matter if they reacted in a kind way or a predictable mean way. What mattered was that I stood in my integrity and I knew I was doing the right thing. I was practicing love and not conditional love for recognition or attention, but pure unconditional love. The response didn’t matter. I was aligned in my truth and my heart. It took a long time to get to this emotional space. I had to own the pain I had caused others over the course of my life. I had to acknowledge mistakes I had made on my path. I had to decide from this day forward I will only be kind and loving regardless of what anyone says or thinks or does to me. Maybe my truth doesn’t resonate with your truth, that doesn’t mean anyone is right or wrong. It means we have a difference of opinion and that is OK. We can walk beside each other and be in our own lane. We can connect because once you strip away the exterior package we are all the same. Color doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter, our opinions don’t matter. What matters is we are all human. Our behavior affects the collective. It affects your children, your partner, your friends and coworkers.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” Mark Twain
Please be mindful of the depth of suffering someone who is being unkind is experiencing. Their pain causes them to respond to life this way. Your pain causes you to respond to life this way. You have a choice. You can decide that today is the day to choose forgiveness. It all begins with you.