Forgiveness is one of the most important components of positive, ongoing relationships. Relationships are where we learn most of life’s lessons and where we have the opportunity to grow as individuals. Past hurts can negatively affect our current relationships and our future relationships if not dealt with appropriately.
“If we really want to love we must learn to forgive.” Mother Theresa
Getting hurt in relationships is something we all have to deal with in our lives. It is inevitable that someone will do something to us that hurts or upsets us. We are all different individuals who think and act differently. Sometimes we hurt each other unintentionally just because of these differences. We can get hurt by big issues or small things that add up to feel big over time. Some things are easier to forgive than others, and it is easier sometimes to forgive a stranger or acquaintance than the ones closest to us. It takes a strong person to forgive.
Forgiveness means you stop feeling anger toward the other person or a specific act. It is a shift in thinking about someone. It does not mean you forget what happened, condone or excuse the action, or that you necessarily reconcile with that person. A lot depends on the action and your relationship with that person.
Forgiveness is complex. We forgive not necessarily for the other person but for ourselves. Holding on to the past hurts us. It hurts our presents and our future. Staying angry and hurt allows the situation that caused the pain to re-live itself over and over. We end up carrying the pain around, and it affects our future thoughts, beliefs and feelings. I talk to clients regularly who are carrying around pain from their past and cannot move forward because of it. This pain can come from childhood or from a past relationship with a partner. The past event or events colors all their future relationships, even the relationship with themselves.
No one is perfect, not us, our children, our spouse, our partner, our friends, or our co-workers. If you interact with anyone on a regular basis, the need for forgiveness will come up. It is important to become aware of your emotional pain as the first step in healing. Remember, the decision is yours to carry the pain around or release it and move forward. I am not suggesting this is always easy to do, but it does get easier with practice. I suggest you start with small offenses first and get into the habit of understanding we are all human and make mistakes. Focus on the long-term goal of the relationship and be open to moving beyond pain to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It releases you from past situations that caused you pain. Forgiveness is also a gift you give the other person. My daughter reminded me of this recently. She apologized for something she did, and I forgave her. A week later she thanked me for this act. She reminded me how much it means when we can find a way to forgive each other and move forward in our relationships. This means we need to be equally open to apologizing when we need to and forgiving when it is appropriate.
For more information on relationships, order my book: Unmasking Secrets to Unstoppable Relationships: How to Find, Keep or Renew Love and Passion in Your Life.
Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS
Certified Relationship Specialist