“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” - Malachy McCourt
I once saw a documentary about several men who were wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. They had each been imprisoned for years, until the court system found they were innocent and released them. Some of the men were consumed by the injustice committed by the legal system and spent their lives protesting and exposing it. Others were morose and jaded and cynical. Eaten alive by the resentment they refused to go on with their lives and sat, stewing, unwilling to trust, to be happy, to rejoin life, to be happy again.
But the last one caught my attention. He had met a woman while in prison and fallen in love. Upon his release, they were married. He found a job, bought a house and went on with his life. Not without scars. Not without trauma, hurt, betrayal and pain. He embraced all of those. He talked openly about how negatively the experience had affected him and what it had cost him. But he made a conscious decision not to let it steal another day of his life. He had forgiven the criminal justice system for the wrong they had done to him - and moved on.
I think this can also be said of people leaving unhealthy relationships and survivors of childhood traumas. At some point you make a choice about the wrong that was done to you. Do you hang on to it or let it go? Do you forgive?
"If I forgive them, I have to forget what they did and I never want to forget what they did to me."
Many people think that forgiving is about forgetting. It's not. If you were hurt by an abuser, or a partner who was violent, or a relationship with someone who was toxic, you want to forgive, but not forget. You remember what was done to you to keep yourself safe. You need to remember what they did so you don't open yourself up to let them hurt you that way again. You learn from it to prevent it from happening again. Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it's about letting it go. I have seen people who were wronged hold onto to the anger, hurt and betrayal long after the deed is done. The person who hurt them has moved on with their life. But the victim is consumed with rage, fear, hurt, betrayal. They walk around seething and fuming. Their lives are consumed with it.
I am not advocating that you not feel the pain. Of course you feel the pain. Embrace it, immerse yourself in it, feel it completely and totally and experience all the emotions is brings. But then, let it go. To hang on to it is to allow the person who wronged you to continue to have control over you, your feelings, your life. You give them power over your life, over your emotions, over you.
"If I forgive them, they get away with it."
Forgiveness is not about letting them get away with it It's about letting you get on with your life. For a moment, or even for years, they were able to affect your emotions, your thoughts, your life. But forgiving is about letting go and taking back your emotions, your thoughts, your life. It's about being free from toxic influence or abuse. It's about deciding how you want to feel, what you want to think and how you want to live instead of allowing your emotions, your thoughts and your life to be hijacked by another person's abuse or drama.
For those who would; revel in your failure, try to hurt you, seek to oppress you, cause you to suffer, think you are less, care nothing about you, seek to destroy you...
Happiness is the best revenge.
Success, the best redress.