New year, new beginnings, right? I dare say you’ll be seeing lots of posts this week about resolutions and such, and perhaps pledging some of you own. Well, I won’t be doing that, at least not in the traditional sense. I’m not making SMART resolutions that I know I won’t stick to, and I urge you not to either – you should only take those on if you’re 100% committed, because otherwise you’re simply setting yourself up to fail, and that’s no good for anyone’s self-esteem. Instead, I want to focus on being more positive and content, and for me a big part of that will be forgiveness, specifically how to forgive and let go of grudges.
I have been known in my time to be a grudge-holder. In fact, if I’m entirely honest, I never forget.
But there’s a very clear difference between those I forgive easily and those I struggle to. If somebody does me wrong and is sorry, I forgive. Even if it takes a while for hurt/irritation/pride to dissipate, I will in time forgive – completely.
Conversely, if somebody does wrong to me or my loved ones and shows zero remorse (saying sorry and being sorry are very different things), then I find it much, much harder. But I’ve discovered some things over the last few years which have helped me and which have vastly improved my wellbeing, so I thought I’d share…
When Being Two-Faced is The Lesser of Two Evils
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ll be very familiar with the negative connotations of being two-faced. There’s an unwritten rule starting in the school playground that it’s not cool, and we don’t do it. Except very often we do, and even more often it’s actively encouraged.
What the what?!
If you’re lost, then congratulations, you probably don’t and never have had any serious ‘issues’ between members of your kin. However, if you’ve ever attended a family wedding then you must surely be aware of this phenomenon: where there are serious disagreements between relatives, both/all parties are usually urged to ‘please just get on’ for the sake of the family.
I’ll be frank: this has happened a fair bit among my lot, and in one particular situation I found myself at the centre of proceedings. It was extremely awkward and a very steep learning curve. I’d not asked for it, I was devastated by what had occurred and yet I had to negotiate this unfamiliar territory with little experience and less wisdom.
My instinct was to avoid, avoid avoid! But of course that’s not always possible, is it? Especially when, as I mentioned, you have others around you explicitly encouraging you to ‘just get on’. Essentially, there are sometimes circumstances where you have three choices:
- Avoid – and upset everybody because regardless of your reasons, you’re the one creating the drama by not being present (in my situation there’s some irony to this, which I may at some stage elaborate on…);
- Attend – and upset everybody because you’re unable to face your adversary and be two-faced;
- Attend – and be two-faced. For a long time this felt like letting go of my integrity.
I used to be under the misapprehension that forgiveness is the same as absolution; but I’m more comfortable with another – arguably less noble – meaning:
‘To cease to feel resentment against.’
It took a while – several years in fact – but I now appreciate the value in ‘getting along’ with people I may not like or choose to associate with. Being polite to their face rather than telling them what I truly think of them is not ‘two-faced’ in the traditional sense – it’s called being a grown-up.
Not only does my version of forgiveness provide the capacity to please my family, it means I’m actively choosing peace and contentment.
How to Forgive the Unforgiveable
I’ve been a bit of a whinge-bag lately, and if you’ve missed the updates, the overarching issue has been financial, which is very unfair given how carefully and sensibly my husband and I live. There are several reasons, any of which alone I may have been able to brush off; but, added together they’ve become a source of major anxiety. I’m thrilled to be able to tell you that about a week ago we were finally paid out in full by our credit card for our family vehicle which failed after two months. Phew!
However since then we’ve definitively lost a hell of a lot less – though not an insubstantial amount – from a dodgy garage… We paid them a deposit for a new (secondhand) car, but they subsequently breached contract by calling us twenty minutes prior to collection to let us know that the promised work had not been carried out.
Following the very recent trouble we’d had which was at that point still a long way from resolution, we pulled out due to urgency and a loss of trust.
The garage promised us faithfully we’d get our deposit back due to the circumstances; and in fact if we could prove either the breach of contract or that we’d been promised a refund, then it would be an open and shut case and we’d see them in court. Sadly they’ve very clever and refused to respond to emails, so we have nothing explicit or even implicit in writing, and therefore no leg to stand on.
It ate me up for weeks, and I even visited the garage – with my baby because, you know, chivalry – all to no avail. I could not continue to live that way and I had to find a way to make peace with having lost the money, right before Christmas in incredibly unfair circumstances.
So I started to blog about it (before thinking better of publicly rubbishing the neanderthals on my professional platform), which was cathartic even though I abandoned the post.
Then I left a scathing Google review and literally made the conscious decision to stop fighting and LET IT GO!
Choosing Forgiveness and Letting Go of Grudges
I don’t want bitterness and anguish to blight my future, so I now make a conscious effort in all relationships to forgive and move on. Clinging to old resentments achieves nothing; it simply sucks the joy out of life for you and those around you. (My one caveat, before my husband reads this and accuses me of being disingenuous, is that I will still not choose to be around people who’ve repeatedly let me and/or my family down; I’m not a masochist.)
Forgiveness is so difficult because it means putting compassion (and common sense!) above pride – and possibly integrity. But really it’s about perspective, and with a change in mindset anybody can learn how to forgive for the greater good: an easier life for your close ones – and for you too. This year is going to be all about being positive, more of which to come!