When people talk about forgiveness it comes across as a gift you give to someone else. She forgave him. He forgave his wife for lying. We tell our kids to say, I’m sorry for offending and to grant forgiveness to people who hurt us. The more I grow up, the more I realize that forgiveness is an act of self-love. It’s a gift we give ourselves.
Holding on is exhausting
Words are said. Feelings are hurt. Tears are shed, and doors are slammed (Oh, maybe that’s just in my house.). But at some point, we have to move forward. We do what we’ve been taught. One or both parties say, I’m sorry, and we ask for forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of holding on to slights and hurts. You know, you forgive the person but hold on to the slight. This is especially true in my marriage, but it also happens with family and friends.
Do you do that? For me, the slight or hurt feelings grow inside my body, mind, and spirit until it’s unforgettable. I carry it around, and I’m on edge that it will happen again. I tense up when I think the slight may be repeated, and I realized I do this with everyone. It’s exhausting.
Let me give you a silly example from my life and see if you can apply my silly example to a situation in your life where you need to let go of an unforgiven slight or hurt.
My Example: Making up the bed.
When I make up the bed, I square corners, smooth the fitted sheet, tighten the top sheet, make sure the top sheet is even on both sides, and fluff the pillows, etc… My husband is happy as long as the duvet is over the sheets and the pillows are arranged fairly neatly on the bed. When he makes up the bed it always looks messy. It drives me crazy, and he knows it. (He’s shaking his head right now.) Granted, this is a silly example, but it proves a point.
When he’s home and makes the bed, I get an odd ache in the pit of my stomach. I feel myself become anxious for no reason and as I walk into the room, I very hesitantly look at the bed. Before I see the bed, I know it’s not been made “properly.”
Years ago, I would have started a fight over the neatness of the bed, I know. It’s crazy. I’m just being honest here. In order to have peace in my own mind and in my marriage, I had to let go. First and foremost I had to start by being grateful. He made the bed, and I didn’t have to do it. Second, I had to just forgive the fact that he didn’t care as deeply about the neatness of our bedroom as I do. By doing these two things, I found a calm serenity.
Our bed is not always a masterpiece, but he tries. Most importantly, I’ve decided that it’s more important that I have a wonderful husband and happy life than a neat bed. It’s a fair tradeoff.
This works everywhere
Treating forgiveness as an act of self-love is relevant for everything from the benign everyday household offenses to full-blown marital disease (think: affairs, ambivalence, substance abuse problems, etc…).
Now, I’m not saying that you should be content to live with these marital diseases. What I am saying is …well, just like a regular disease, bad things happen to good people. We go to the doctor, we get treatment and hopefully, we go into remission. In marriage, we seek professional help. Once we’re in remission and on the road to recovery, we have to live life as if there were never any disease. We avoid things that are unhealthy, and we live life to the fullest. It’s the same in marriage.
Holding onto the disappointment keeps you from reconnecting and living your married life happily. When we pile unforgiven slights, hurts, and disappointments on top of each other, it becomes so much more difficult to unburden ourselves enough to even attempt to reconnect with our spouse.
We all make mistakes.
They happen with friends and family members. How is a marriage any different? Mistakes, hurts, disappointments will happen. These events are part of every relationship; they’re part of life. As we grow individually and as a couple, how we internalize these events shapes us and informs everything about how we live. Wouldn’t it be nice just to be happy?
I’ve found in all of my relationship, especially my marriage, that yes; it’s nice just to be happy.
Are you carrying around unforgiven stuff? Do you think you’re ready to let it go? Share in the comments one thing you’re ready to forgive and forget.