The Conundrum of Forgiveness When Revenge Sounds Awesome
You may have felt it. That moment when you wish that the universe or karma would just take all the pain you feel and send it like a boomerang back at the fool who hurt you and send them to their knees as they did you. People, especially good people, shouldn’t be treated like that, and people that do terrible things deserve to be punished. And it was bad what they did, wasn’t it? Maybe they broke you. Maybe they made you feel unworthy of love. Maybe, at some point, you realized they were abusing you. Maybe their act of selfishness changed the way you will forever live your life. Maybe they changed the story of how you saw your future. Maybe all of these cruelties combined. And you just can’t. Let. It. Go. What they did was so profound they don’t deserve forgiveness. Right?
I’ve been in this space before. I’ve had such overwhelming feelings of desperate anguish because of another human being who was supposed to care about me. I began to understand the term “seeing red.” It wasn’t until I was faced with the issue of feeling like I needed an apology for closure and the subsequent dawning realization that I wasn’t going to get it that I began to re-evaluate what forgiveness really means. The easier option would be to allow myself to continue to spiral into darkness. Think terrible thoughts about how they needed to hurt as I did. Have regrets. Scream. Yell. Allow the negativity to send me to my knees. I could allow it to consume me, and through this process, I would simply be handing them the reigns of control over my life because when you’re driven by that much hurt, that’s exactly what you’re doing. The harder option — choose forgiveness.
I know what it means socially. People who forgive other people for wrongdoings without making them pay are weak. They aren’t following up on the universally understood law of an-eye-for-an-eye. People who are willing to forgive even some of the worst atrocities are just allowing those responsible off the hook. It’s almost reckless, this practice of forgiveness, because the wrong-doers will probably do it again to someone else.
The general belief that forgiveness is weak is a piece of what makes forgiveness so difficult. Going through this process several times before, it’s actually one of the life lessons that require some of my greatest strength. It saps all my energy and goes against everything I sometimes desire to do. It can take tears and feeling all the emotions along with the dawning realization that you’ll never get what you want — whether that’s your old life back, retribution, or an apology.
So, why do it? Why even consider forgiveness?
Because forgiveness isn’t about them. It’s about you. It’s about not allowing someone else to have so much control in your life. Once you’ve managed to be able to move into the forgiveness zone, you have moved beyond what is sticking you to those moments when hurt reigned supreme. When it was hard to see straight because the negative emotions were so overwhelming. Forgiveness allows you to see the person for who they are, recognize ways they will never be able to give you what you were looking for from them, and move on to heal. Because staying in that negative space where you wish for someone else to hurt as you have only keeps you stuck, and if they’ve hurt you, the one thing they don’t deserve is that much control. Forgiveness removes the tether that they had on you and allows you to move forward without them holding you back.
And the same rings true if the person who continues to hurt you IS you. Sometimes the person you need to forgive most is yourself to avoid allowing your own demons to stunt your growth.
It’s not easy and sometimes it’s a one step forward — two steps back process. Depending on the situation it may feel like it takes forever, but one day you’ll wake up and realize that you only wish for them to move on as well and the thought of retaliation is only a memory. You will wish them well like you would any other human that you didn’t know. You’ll look back and understand why it had to happen, the lessons like a moral to a story, and you’ll be able to look forward with positive (yet, potentially apprehensive) expectation. Forgiveness isn’t a gift that we give someone who never earned it. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves so we can be better, healthier, and more in control in spite of what they’ve done.