SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some reasons why forgiveness is hard and gives tips to make it easier.
I am struggling with my brother who did something really inconsiderate, and I can’t seem to let it go. I know that it’s probably causing me more pain than it’s causing him, but I just can’t forgive him yet. My whole family is bugging me to forgive him, but it’s not that easy. Any suggestions to make this easier?
There is a reason most of us struggle with forgiveness: There are very real benefits to staying mad or hurt. Here are some possible reasons you might not want to forgive someone:
- Does casting the other person as the bad guy make you feel safer and better than them? Are you fighting fear of failure, which makes you afraid you aren’t good enough? Sometimes the human ego compensates for a perceived weakness by casting others as worse.
- Does it earn you any sympathy or validation from others when you talk about how you were hurt? Do you find yourself trying to get others to agree with you about how bad the other person is? Does that make your ego feel safer?
- Does being hurt excuse some of your own bad behavior toward that person? Does it justify you treating them badly, and are you enjoying that on any level?
- Does it give you an excuse to be depressed or disengage from life or relationships? Is there something you are avoiding that might happen if you let this slight against you go?
- Do you feel casting the other person as “the bad one” protects you? Are you afraid that if you stop casting him as the bad one, people may forget his guilt and think you were bad?
- Do you feel like letting this go would be saying what the other person did was OK or that you are pardoning them from guilt?
After going through the above questions, can you see why you might be holding onto the offense in your situation?
Choose a mindset
Forgiveness may feel near impossible right now, but changing your perspective and looking at the issue a different way might make you feel completely different. In this situation, you have two perspective options and you must choose one of them. If you don’t consciously choose a mindset, your subconscious mind will choose for you — and it is usually going to let your ego drive.
Option 1: A judgment and condemnation mindset.
With a judgment and condemnation mindset, you believe life is a test and we (human beings) must earn a sense of value. Here, any mistakes you make count against your value, which means some people inevitably end up seeming better than other people. With this mindset, you see human value as changeable and based on our behavior, appearance, property, etc. In this place, there is judgment, criticism, attack, gossip, guilt and a constant fear that you aren’t good enough. This fear-driven mindset makes you focus on the bad in others and cast them as worse than you so you can feel like the better person. This mindset creates anxiety, insecurity, and fear of failure. If you choose this mindset, you will always struggle to forgive others because you must condemn them to feel safe and good about yourself.
Option 2: A trust and forgiveness mindset
With a trust and forgiveness mindset, you believe life is a classroom where humans are meant to learn and grow. In this classroom you can erase any mistakes and try again, and no mistake affects your value. With this mindset, everyone has the exact same intrinsic worth, and that worth cannot change no matter what bad choices we make. Bad choices just sign us up for some interesting lessons and create educational consequences you then get to work through — but, you always have the same value as everyone else.
With a trust and forgiveness mindset, insults and mistreatment happen to make us stronger, wiser and more loving, and you can believe there is purpose and blessings that come from them. Here, you can see the positives that each negative experience creates, and you are grateful for the strength and wisdom you gain from them. With this mindset, you don’t need to condemn others to feel safe because you believe you are safe all the time. With this mindset, you understand your value is infinite and absolute, and so is everyone else’s.
Forgiveness is easier here because you trust that you can’t be diminished, or have your journey ruined, because it is always the perfect classroom for you. When you trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing, it is easier to let offenses go and forgive.
The question you must ask yourself is: How do you want to live?
Choosing a trust and forgiveness mindset means you don’t hold onto offenses or mistakes. You let yourself and everyone else be a work in progress or a student in the classroom of life with much more to learn. You give forgiveness to others because you want to feel good enough yourself.
More tips to help you forgive
Here are a couple of other tips to make forgiveness easier:
- Remember that none of us is perfect. This person did something wrong — and it sounds like this was an especially painful wrong — but you aren’t perfect either. You may not have made this mistake, but you have made others. If you want to feel forgiven for your past wrongs, you must give others the same forgiveness.
- Now that the offense is over, you alone are responsible for the pain you are experiencing. No situation can cause you pain without your participation. If you struggle to understand this principle, read my article about choosing to be upset. You are in control of your thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to wait until you feel ready to forgive. You can choose to be ready now.
- The other person is guilty of bad behavior, but you both have the same infinite and absolute value. This belief comes when you choose to see life as a classroom, not a test. It means your mistakes can’t and don’t change your intrinsic value, but the same is also true for other people.
- Forgiveness is the key to happiness in life, and it creates peace, confidence and security. The key to forgiveness lies in one very simple choice that you must make over and over every day: Which mindset do you want to live in?
Choose to forgive yourself and others for every misconceived, stupid, selfish, fear-based mistake either of you has ever made. Choose to see these mistakes for what they really are: lessons born from confusion, self-doubt, lack of knowledge, low self-esteem and fear. Choose to see every person as innocent and forgivable, and let them (and yourself) start over with a clean slate every day.
If you choose this mindset, you will feel safe, loved, whole and good about yourself, and life will be more peaceful and happy.
You can do this.
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