SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares the perceived rewards that come from not forgiving another person and explains how to make forgiveness easier.
My husband sent me your article about a victim mentality to read. I do have a hard time with that. My husband had an emotional affair with a co-worker a few years ago, and I am having a hard time letting it go, even though it’s been over for a while. How do you not feel like a victim when your husband hurt you, and now he also wants to blame you for what he did and the effects it has had on your family? We have gone to counselors but it hasn’t helped. Yet, he says my behavior is having a negative effect on everyone and everything. Can you help me change how I feel about his affair and let it go?
The way out of a victim mentality when you have been offended lies in two things: 1.) Changing your perspective and trusting in the universe that this experience is here to teach you something, and 2.) Learning how to truly forgive others for disappointing you.
I explained how to change your perspective in last week’s article, now I want to explain why you might be struggling to forgive. The fact is, you may see "rewards" in not forgiving and as long as holding onto anger is serving you, then you may not want to change it. Forgiveness can only happen when you are ready to let go of these perceived rewards and grasp onto different rewards that are even better.
Here are some common perceived rewards for not forgiving along with the costs associated with them:
- Are you casting the other person as the villain so you can feel like the good one? Is staying mad giving you a self-righteous upper hand and allowing you to feel better than them?
COST: You might feel superior to the other person, but you may never have a healthy relationship with them that truly makes you happy.
- Are you getting sympathy or validation from other people when you talk about how you were hurt? Some people hold onto a victim story for this very reason but not consciously realize it. Do you wonder who you would be without this story?
COST: People may feel sorry for you, but they may never respect you or see you as strong or wise. Is that something you're OK with?
- Do you feel being a victim excuses some of your bad behavior because you were hurt and, as a result, you can’t help acting the way you do?
COST: You might earn sympathy this way but it can also make people lose respect for you. It doesn’t really excuse bad behavior either so you may still look bad to others if you behave immaturely.
- Are you afraid if you stop casting the other person as the villain then people may forget how guilty the other person is and they may even think you were to blame? Do you feel like letting it go would be saying "it's OK" and pardon them from their guilt? Staying angry can sometimes feel like a safe place from which you can maintain your position as the good person.
COST: People may lose respect for you because this isn’t mature behavior and you won’t be free from the negative energy staying mad creates.
Be honest with yourself, are any of these the reason why you might be holding onto an offense? Can you see the benefits you may be getting from staying angry and the costs you may pay for it? It is your ego that wants to hold onto the offense and stay angry? Sometimes your ego thinks it has to protect you from getting further hurt.
Instead of being the person your ego wants you to be, choose a different mindset around this situation so you can show up strong and loving. You have two options:
1. Stay mad
Play the victim. Don’t forgive. Let your fears create bad behavior that may push people away and make them lose respect for you.
This victim, fear-driven mindset may also keep you in a place of judgment toward others and yourself, which could mean you may want to put others down to feel better. In the end, you may not feel good about who you are. This judgmental mindset might be why you're being blamed for the effects his emotional cheating has had on your family. You might be creating negative effects with your reactive behavior. Sometimes, our reaction to the offense can cause more damage than the offense itself and we alone are responsible for that behavior.
2. Let it go
Choose to feel whole and safe. Forgive him for being a struggling student in the classroom of life and let this mindset create behavior others will respect.
Choose to see all humans as having the same value no matter what they do. You might not have made that mistake, but chances are you've made others. If you honestly feel that you can’t trust a person anymore, then you might need to make a decision about whether you stay in a relationship with them, but you should still do that from a place of forgiveness. In your case, it sounds like your husband deserves another chance to earn your trust back.
You can do this.
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