Thursday, October 15, 2015

Heart of the matter

I had some white noise on the other day and this segment caught my attention.  I didn't see the woman's story and what grudge she was holding on to (only that it involved her father) but I saw what a life coach had to say about forgiveness.  I've had a lot of instances in my life where holding a grudge was what I was all about.  People had wronged me and when they didn't acknowledge what they'd done or that they were wrong, I had no interest in being involved with them.  This wasn't a matter of opinion either, like what I perceived they did was wrong, it was they were flat out wrong.

One such grudge was a family member of the Mr's that he was close to.  It was one of those blind admiration things because of relation without stepping back to see if the way this person was influencing them was actually someone who influenced him for the better.  I know the feeling because I had a similar person in my life who actually isn't in it anymore. This person heard something second hand from a jealous friend when the Mr and I started dating, spread lies across the family about me and threatened to never speak to him again if he didn't break up with me.  Luckily for the Mr, I was stubborn and called him out when he broke up with me and I told him I knew who put him up to it.  It took many years before I could even be in the same room with this person without wanting to puke from anxiety.  He did so much damage with his rumors and assumptions about me (I was 17 at the time by the way) that the family dynamic has suffered to this day.  I was denied the chance at having a second family truly love and care about me as their own because of his jealousy about my relationship with the Mr.  I wrote him two letters asking that we put the incident behind us and move on for the sake of the Mr and both times I got no response.  I did my part.  I will not beg and years later I forgave him because the older I got the more I realized he had no impact on my life and how I lived it.  I knew he sure as hell wasn't sitting around thinking about it, there was no reason I should either.  I'm sad that the relationship between he and the Mr isn't the same but unfortunately we wake up to some people's less than honorable intentions and realize they're not who we built them up to be.  That's just how life is.  We don't really have a relationship with this person anymore but that's more due to distance than anything.  But I'm at a place where I can see him, talk to him like a normal human being even if he seems to still get a little weirded out by me and we can be done and I'm not physically ill for weeks before and after.

My dad is also someone I held a grudge against for a long time.  When he was around 26, he left when I was 8, for another woman and he wasn't exactly very hands on after that.  I was always under the assumption he wanted a boy and was disappointed he got me.  But when he got a shot with his new wife's son, he didn't fare much better with him.  He was a very power trippy kind of person (so I get it honestly unfortunately...something I've tried very hard to change) and he got it honestly from his dad.  I always resented not feeling like my life was my own when he had something I needed hanging over me.  (ie- help with my first car, his part of our wedding, etc)  When I got married, I wanted a different relationship with him, an adult one.  I asked him to go to a concert of one of our favorite 70's bands not once but twice and he turned me down both times with excuses.  I was finally tired of being hurt by him after an email he sent me and wrote a 9 page letter to him, recorded it on cassette (shut up!) and sent it to him.  I wanted him to hear my inflections, I wanted him to listen and not have the ability to hang up like on a phone call.  He did say he got it and cried and he wanted a relationship with me.  I held up my end and he didn't.  I didn't know what to do so all I could do was put myself in his shoes.  He was 18 when I was born.  He had the chance to be a parent to two children and didn't do well with either.  See the problem is, he was (willingly I might add) thrust into parenthood without knowing if he even had it in him to be one.  I suffered the consequences when he found out, but didn't want to admit, he didn't want to be a parent.  I knew at 17 because of his mistakes that I loved my cousins but I didn't want to be a parent.  I lived for decades with people telling me I would change my mind and all of that crap but in the end, I didn't and I'm over the moon I married a man who didn't want them either.  I guess I learned from his mistake which was me so I guess I actually learned from myself in a weird way.  I have told my family I forgive my dad for the way he was and treated me as a kid because he didn't know he wasn't cut out to be a father.  My family thinks I'm letting him off easy but that's their cross to bear now.  Just because I forgive him doesn't mean I condone his behavior.  I wouldn't turn down a relationship with him but it would be on mutual terms which I told him.  I've yet to hear anything but I'm not going to force a relationship with someone who doesn't want one and all these years later, I'm okay with that.

As I was reading another article, the topic of forgiveness was a bullet point and they said something about confronting the person so they know how you feel and they can either apologize or not.  Even though I contacted the two people that I held the biggest grudge against, I don't know that needs to be the case for everyone.  (Well, three actually but the other one is an even longer story than these two and I figured these were enough examples.)

The problem with confronting someone who you want to get an apology from is they have to have the same perspective on the situation.  I have seen people tell someone they forgive them for something that happened 1, 2, 10, 20 years ago and the person either has no idea what they're talking about or they ignite a firestorm that they and people around them can't recover from.  Things are rarely the same afterward so you have to really weigh if you're willing to lose the person completely or the hardship it may put on family members or friends who now feel they have to choose sides.  If confronting someone is going to end up causing more harm than good, you may want to consider writing down all of the feelings you have about the situation to get it out.  Or if there is someone close to you that you trust, is a good listener and ideally not part of the situation, just having them listen to your feelings could go a long way in making you feel better.  If you feel like a counselor could help you, then that is certainly a good route to take as well.

I've often heard holding grudges is a lot like drinking poison and expecting the other person to suffer.  It's true.  It's not necessarily easy to get over the hurt or to take on a new way of thinking because often times we've spent so much effort in cultivating our justification for why we still feel the pain they caused.  It can feel like by forgiving someone we're saying what they did to you was okay.  It's not.  It's a way for you to mentally say "you were a douchebag, I hope you're not always a douchebag, I've learned from your douchey ways and I'm going to take it forward to help me live a better life."  I could've put it more eloquently but I'm not a counselor so I don't have to.

I look back on old journal entries of when I was holding on to so much anger and it consumed my writing.  I'm certainly no Pollyanna, I'll always be a little pessimistic but the sooner you learn that kind of anger won't serve you, the better.  I wish I would've learned that lesson about 5-10 years sooner and taken it to heart.  It's easy to say "I'm not going to let them get to me" but when your body is physically reacting to impending interactions, you know that you haven't truly released it from your heart.  It's obviously different for everyone and some people think they don't have it in them to let it go.  I assure you, you do and more importantly you deserve some peace.  I've made peace with the people I mentioned and others I haven't mentioned.  I still have issues with certain people but since I've learned to forgive, when I find myself going into grudge mode, I stop and try to see the motives behind the other person's actions.  It may not stop me from being angry about it in the moment but if I can see the probable intentions and they're not malicious, then it keeps me from dwelling on it.  That can only be good for my blood pressure and overall health.

Do you forgive those who have wronged you or hold a grudge?  If you have any grudges you want to air, feel free.  You might feel better!

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  1. I definitely have anger towards someone, white blazing hot anger, but not a grudge. Anger is ok, it can even be healthy in the short term. It's only when it goes past it's expiration date that it becomes a grudge and starts to poison the holder. Kind of like milk, or that casserole you put in the fridge last month.

    I'm working on forgiveness, but not expecting an apology. Forgiveness is more for the grudge holder than for the offender anyway - the offender isn't losing any sleep over it. Letting go and moving on is healthy, but as you said it doesn't mean the wrong never happened. It's not letting someone off the hook either, it's about healing a wound within yourself - usually there's not even a need to tell the person that they're forgiven because it's far more important to you than it will ever be to them.

    Ummm - yeah I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

    I think you have a good, healthy attitude towards your Mr's family member and towards your dad. There's no mending those relationships, maybe one day you'll build new relationships but they'll never be what they could have been. You're not dwelling though, you know you've done what you can and it's time to let them take the next step.

  2. I held grudges for years and years and it did nothing but hurt me and I could never move forward. Then I started to live by the concept of: "Forgiveness means letting go of the hope that the past could have been different." It wasn't about letting that person off the hook, so to speak, but about being free from the hamster wheel of thinking and wishing things had been different. It helped me to stay in the reality of what truly happened and not go off on some fantasy tangent and make the situation even worse. And I fully agree about what can of worms you open regarding bringing up old stuff. I believe in making amends only when to do so would not harm them or others. Too often I see people who need to cleanse their souls so they are relieved of guilt, but the impact on other parties is just devastating. So I keep that in mind when I know I need to apologize for something. Forgiveness is very humbling, but not humiliating like people often think. As you said, forgiving someone doesn't mean condoning anything. You're just setting yourself free from bitterness and resentment by not carrying it around anymore. And boy, doesn't that feel darn healthy!

  3. Forgiveness is hard. But anger might be harder. I think you have to ask yourself if you will be happier if you do forgive and (try to) forget. You are so right in realizing everyone has their own perspective, and they might be polar opposite from how you perceived things. It sounds like you have come to terms with these people in your life, and are at peace with both them and yourself and that has to be a good thing!

  4. The best revenge is to live well. That has carried me through a lot of pain dished out by the hands of people who should love me and protect me but haven't. The only way I can cope with that is to live a life of sweetness and peace and light instead of steaming or cowering in the darkness. I had to face the fact that they hurt me because of who THEY are, not who I am. That released me to let their influence over me loosen its death grip. Bravo for you, girlfriend, for continually growing and expanding and changing as all living things must. If it isn't doing those three things, it's dead.

  5. I think I tend to over-forgive, actually. I don't know that everyone I have forgiven has always deserved it, and they usually just end up shitting on me again anyways because the forgiveness wasn't actually "earned". I don't know...I just know I tend to give a lot of second, third and fourth chances, even to my own detriment. I can't say that's any better than holding a grudge though! LOL

  6. I don't hold grudges but I think there is a difference between forgiving someone and thinking that the person has a role in your life. My in laws are terrible, awful, narcissistic people. They have inflicted serious emotional damage on my husband and his brother. My husband loves them, always will and forgives them constantly. I forgive them but I don't want them around my children to spew their hateful attitude into them. Period. It's OK to not have those people in your life. Is it a grudge to not let them in? I don't think so. I think it's reality. Just my 2 cents.


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