So, you’re hanging out with a close friend, and they begin to tell you about how they have some upcoming hospital bills they can’t pay for. You start to feel sorry for them, and want to help, but you don’t want your generosity to be taken advantage of. But you decide to take the gamble because you care about this person, and you are willing to sacrifice a few things to help them. You decide to offer them $500, as a loan. They thank you and take it, saying they’ll pay you back when they have the money. You trust them, so you take them at their word. Some time goes on, and they begin to have a newfound flow of cash, and are now buying up a storm of goods, and you are waiting. Waiting for them to pay you back, but they don’t bring it up, so eventually you do. You ask them nicely, if they can pay you (knowing they have the means to now) but they instead say to you, “Sorry man, I just don’t have it yet.” You realize at this point that your friend never intended to pay you back, and you were taken advantage of, and you will never see your $500 again. You wonder if they even had medical bills in the first place. You get angry, and leave, and the bitterness creeps in. You feel justified in your anger and begin to spread the news to others out of anger and frustration. You get even angrier and commit yourself to your cause and anger. You are the victim afterall, and you deserve to be respected. So, you start distancing yourself from your friend, all this time, ignoring their calls, and not saying a word to them. Even if you did speak to them, what would change right? You realize you wasted your time being this person’s friend, and now you feel sorrow for the effort and care you put in the friendship. In your generosity, you have now become an angry, furious, bitter, and sad victim. You are now at a crossroad. What now? Was it worth it? Do you decide to harden your heart, and just not be generous anymore? Do you decide to drop the person from your life? Do you decide to forgive them, and just forget about what happened? Do you hold a grudge, keep them in your life, and start treating them with hostility? Or do you forgive them from your heart, and create healthy boundaries, and truly move forward in a path of healing?
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness by definition is the act of “canceling a debt,” and to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” Forgiveness is letting go of the past, while learning from it, and giving someone the chance to grow, learn and change. It’s creating boundaries, while giving continuously and not walling yourself up.
Forgiving someone takes courage. You are required to trust in the idea that if you let the offender off the hook in your heart, you will be better off for it than if you hold a grudge. You have to let go of the fear of being re-offended, and just set clear and healthy boundaries with those you forgive. All while still maintaining your giving heart willing to let them have a chance to show their growth and progress while producing consistent change of their character. That doesn’t happen overnight, that takes time.
Why choose to forgive and move forward?
Let’s just be honest here. No one deserves it. The likelihood of someone deserving forgiveness is extremely low once they have shown they can and are willing to hurt you or allow you to be hurt. But, that being said, we have all had someone in our lives forgive us when we didn’t deserve it. So, it’s important to acknowledge that as people we make mistakes, and that people need the chance to learn, change and grow in order to make better decisions for the future.
Forgiveness is given, and the choice to forgive those who have hurt you, is made not because they deserve it, but because when you forgive someone, you find peace, and can move forward. You refuse to allow what happened rule your life and you let the anger and pain go so that you can find true healing. By giving forgiveness, both the forgiver and forgiven are given the opportunity for learning, change and growth. The reality is that there isn’t a determined qualifier, other than the person’s value of the relationship, that we base our choice to forgive on. We do notice however, that when we don’t do it, we suffer ourselves. For some that may be a battle they want to fight, but in the end, it’s never worth the negative affects it has on the person who refuses to forgive. Forgiveness is good for your own soul and it allows you to maintain a positive outlook on humanity, which is necessary to have a positive and fulfilling life. When you realize how you yourself need forgiveness at times when you don’t deserve it, you see why you should forgive those who have hurt you. You don’t let anger stay, you kick it out. There is no room for holding a grudge, because holding one negatively affects you. It takes determined intention to keep a hard heart toward someone, and it ultimately corrupts peace within the soul. Holding onto a grudge does no good for anyone, and it destroys relationships that otherwise could be transformed into something great.
If you are holding a grudge, you should consider how it may be hurting you more by prolonging your ability to heal. Once you realize this and decide that it would be better to let it go, you can move forward and begin to heal. But letting it go, and “forgetting” doesn’t mean not acknowledging it happened. It doesn’t mean not learning from your experience. And it doesn’t mean allowing the person to continually hurt you. It means, move forward. You can do this by creating healthy boundaries.
How do we create healthy boundaries?
What are those healthy boundaries? Well, first of all, it is helpful in the healing process to face the person who hurt you and confront them verbally, giving them the opportunity to participate in the healing process by expressing your boundaries clearly. In our story, this perhaps would be letting your friend know that you expect them to pay you back swiftly, confronting them on their spending habits, and never letting your friend borrow money again, even once you have forgiven them, until they paid you back. That’s a healthy boundary. An unhealthy boundary would be to say you won’t let them borrow money, but then continue to allow them to do so, not having a boundary at all. Or if you were to just cut the relationship off when they are seeking to amend the past with you and show you through their actions and change of character that they want to find healing with you. Now, if you just don’t want them in your life, that’s ok too, but that choice really has nothing to do with what they did to you, and being honest with someone about that, and forgiving them truly, will help them move on too. If the person who hurt you, is unwilling to acknowledging what they did was wrong, or it is not possible to face them, then you likely would create a stronger boundary with some sort of distance. If someone isn’t willing to respect your boundaries, they do not deserve to be in your life in a close or intimate way. Be friendly, and open to them changing and growing, but do not let them close until they show a true consistent change over time. What boundaries you set, will be determined by the willingness of both parties, and how much they want to heal the relationship. But what the offender does, or does not do, should never be the defining factor of whether or not you choose to forgive.
Aim to create a solution for the problem when seeking to amend a relationship with someone who hurt you. Present an option to the person who hurt you, that they can strive for to create some healing for the relationship, and an option that helps them grow their character.
Forgiveness takes time
Be patient with yourselves and understand that forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s ok to take some time to mourn, and process your emotions, but there comes a time when you need to move forward and move past the hurt, the pain, and the offense, or it will begin to corrupt your soul, your peace, and your joy. And it’s not worth it.
So take care of yourselves, and keep your light shining within.
“Changing lives, one person at a time.”