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SALT LAKE CITY — Coach Kim and coach Tim Eversole explain why some people have a hard time forgiving and show us how a little mindset shift could make it much easier.
My brothers have deeply hurt me and my family, and I've been upset towards them for years. I hear people say all the time "it just takes time to heal." My question is whose time, how much time and how does healing happen? Because time is passing but I'm not feeling any better. Do some offenses take more time? Is there a chance I may never be able to forgive them? I am honestly trying to let it all go, but every time I think about what they did I get upset all over again. Do you have some advice for me?
The truth is time doesn't change anything. You have to do the work to change how you feel yourself … and you can do this at any time. There are situations where some distance from the offense does lessen the pain a little and may make forgiving easier, but you are still going to have to change how you see this situation if you want to feel better.
Some people never do change their mindset and continue to suffer from past offenses forever. One reader told me his father hasn’t spoken to him since Thanksgiving and hadn’t spoken to his brother since 2002. Most of these people are stuck because they either don't know how to change their perspective (this is the most common reason) or they aren't willing to change it because they are getting some benefit from staying hurt.
A couple weeks ago I wrote an article about the quirky benefits of negative thinking, and if you suspect you may be staying mad for a subconscious reason, you may want to read that one.
You must understand changing, healing and forgiving are a choice. Some people make that choice quickly right after an offense and suffer for only a short time. Others hang onto misery and choose to suffer for a long time (again usually because they don't know how to choose something else.)
It is interesting that most people heal faster if the offense involves a stranger than they do if it involves a close relative. It appears the closer the relationship the deeper the wound. Your inner state also determines how much pain an offense causes. If you have really low self-esteem and someone criticizes you, it will cause a deeper wound than if you had good self-esteem. But in the end, you have the power to consciously choose whether an offense is a deep muscle tear or a scratch.
Buddha taught that when an offense happens you should decide right then, if this is going to be a cut through water, which heals immediately, a cut through sand, which will be gone by tomorrow, or a cut through stone, which could be there for decades. You are in charge of how much and for how long you suffer.
When you get offended you immediately create a story around the offense (either consciously or subconsciously) and that story determines the amount and length of your misery. You may want to take some time and write down the story you have created about this offense. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I choosing to carry this for any reason? Does holding onto it benefit me in any way? Does it satisfy my ego to keep casting them as the bad guys?
- Is holding onto this offense helping the people I am mad at to grow? Does holding this serve anyone in any way?
- Who is suffering most from my holding onto this offense?
- Is there any other way I could look at this situation, so I could learn from it and let go of the pain and suffering it causes?
- Did this offense help me to learn and grow in any way? If I see it as a perfect lesson, what was the lesson for me?
We believe the fastest way to change how you feel about an offense is to look at it from a different perspective. When you can see the positive it has created in your life, and you can see it as a perfect lesson in your classroom journey, you may find you don’t even need to forgive your brothers anymore. Clarity can do that.
Besides, holding onto hatred is like reaching into a fire to grab a hot coal to throw at your enemy, but then realizing you are the one being burned. It would make a lot more sense to pour water on the whole thing and let it wash away.
You should hold onto the lessons this experience taught you (the positive gift) but then chalk the whole thing up to learning on every side. We are all struggling students in the classroom of life, with much more to learn. Also remember that when you are carrying a big pile of stinky old garbage from your past around with you, your arms are too full to receive the fresh, wonderful new things life is bringing you today.
It is time to set down that garbage and focus on the good in your world and choose love. Choose to see people accurately as struggling students and let them all be a work in progress, just like you. Choose to see their value as unaffected by their mistakes. When you do this, you will subconsciously see your own mistakes as not affecting your value and your self-esteem will grow.
We call this the Law of Forgiveness. You get what you give. When you criticize and judge others, you are giving power to the idea that people can be “not good enough” and this will, in the end, affect your self-esteem. You will never feel you're good enough either.
Coach Tim Eversole says there are two types of people.
People who aggrandize the good, who see more good in the world, tend to feel more joy. These people minimize the bad and therefore they feel less bad. By minimizing the bad they also create just a scratch when they are offended, and their scratches heal quickly.
Then, there are people who aggrandize the bad, who see more bad in the world and feel more sorrow and pain. They minimize the good and therefore see less good. By making the bad bigger they get big deep wounds and scars when offended that take a long time to heal.
Who do you want to be?
How do you want to live?
If you are holding onto anger thinking it is protecting you from future offenses, it isn’t. Being confident and bulletproof because you know your value cannot be diminished and doesn’t change — that is your best protection.
You may also want to read my article Forgiving a grudge without getting hurt again from 2013. Keep working on this and you can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker. Tim Eversole is a certified claritypoint coach and speaker.