This is a hard one . . . Forgiveness. I’m not sure I’m 100% qualified to blog about this, but I do have some thoughts that I’d like to share with you all, if you’ll continue reading.
Who Deserves Forgiveness
I guess all of us do. I sure know I could use forgiveness from time to time. By that logic, I’d say that everyone deserves forgiveness. But how do I forgive those who make it painfully difficult to forgive? My little brother is a minister, and I’m sure he could give much wiser advice than I. I’m sure the Bible speaks about forgiveness, but I’m not talking about religious forgiveness. I’m talking about the kind you give someone who ripped your heart out, and then put it through a shredder. That kind.
Does this type of person deserve your forgiveness, or better yet . . . Are you capable of forgiveness towards that person. That’s what I want to talk about.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned this past decade, it’s that terrible things WILL happen. They happen for no reason, and they happen when things seem to be going really well. COVID-19 is a great example of things going great, then taking a complete shit over night. But what happens when it’s not a virus? What happens when it’s a person, friend, or people who deliberately or non-deliberately do terrible things. That’s the part that is hard to come to grips with. How do I forgive?
One thing I know is that I think I’m a good person. I’m sure there are people out there that would say otherwise (a few I know who read my blog), but I think I’ve led a good, kind life. And I know terrible things have happened to me. I guess sometimes that phrase “good guys finish last” could be applicable to parts of my life. Although, I don’t think it’s really LAST. I’ll unpack that a little more later on.
So if terrible things happen to good people, does that mean that good things happen to terrible people? From a person on the outside, one could say yes. But I think it’s all about perspective. I wrote an entire blog on that, check it out if you’ve got a few more minutes.
Why People Say What They Say
People will say, what they want others to hear. They will say what they want others to feel. And they’ll definitely say things that make them feel whole.
This isn’t some brilliant set of statements. We’re all guilty of this. We say what makes us feel good or whole. I think the difference between a shitty person and a good person is intention and the ability to keep some things to themselves.
Some people spout off exactly what’s on their mind. In some cases that’s a great thing. You always know where you stand. Others keep too much to themselves and you never know what they think. Then there’s others who have evolved to find a balance when communicating with people.
I truly believe that those who do terrible things are probably hurting inside. Probably doesn’t make you feel better when you’re on the receiving end, but it’s the truth. I’m no psychologist, but I know that when people are hurting, they often say hurtful things. Things that may be truthful, but are also hurtful. In some way, it probably makes them feel better for a short time. But that type of life is pretty empty. I’ve been there before, so I know this is true. And therefore it’s easier to consider forgiveness.
Seek to Understand
One of the skills I’ve learned in life, is to “seek to understand”. This is effective in debating, in leading, and in interacting with others. I’m surprised more people don’t hone in on this skill as it makes life just a little more methodical. Here’s what I mean:
When someone says something hurtful to me, the first instinct I have is ANGER. I’m sure some of you can relate. However, my next feeling is EMPATHY. I ask myself, “Why would this person say or do what they’re doing”. You see, if I can understand why someone does something or acts a certain way, it allows me to understand their motive. If I understand their motive, then I can react in a way that will elicit the most positive result.
Fear is a strong emotion. When I sense someone is acting out of fear, I understand that their actions are often irrational. But understanding that fear allows me to be empathetic to that emotion. I understand that by empathizing with that person, I’ve got a much better likelihood of a positive response. Personally, I usually really do care about the fear they’re feeling so it’s easy to empathize with them.
Calming someone who’s afraid or acting out of fear often diffuses their situation. I understand that fear comes in many forms, and manifests itself in many ways during conflict. But fear can usually be combatted with love, comfort and reassurance.
This is another emotion that can be extremely irrational. On top of that, some of the meanest things can be said as a causation of this emotion. But anger doesn’t usually last. A lot of time, if you can out live the anger, you can out live the problem.
There are instances that I’ve experienced where anger doesn’t subside. I haven’t found a fool proof way to deal with this except to say that anger confronted by anger rarely works out in the way you’d like. Anger + Anger usually = Hurt.
When someone’s hurting, that’s when you’ve got to turn up the empathy. Nobody wants others to hurt. I know that in your mind, sometimes you want people to hurt as bad as you are. I’ve been there a LOT. maybe it’s the nice guy inside me, but I don’t want anyone to feel the pain I’ve felt through a breakup, divorce, betrayal and then custody battle. Nobody deserves that . . . Even people I think the least of.
Hurt is the saddest of the conflictive emotions to me, because it means that someone went through something that will likely scar them. Something that bothers them to their core. And I hate that for them.
Back On Topic
I veered off topic for a minute, because I wanted to unpack how difficult forgiveness is. There are so many factors that can can contribute to hurtful situations . . . and I didn’t even scratch the surface with the above examples. It’s not a matter of turning off your feelings and forgetting about the wrongs they’ve done you. I look at it more of an opportunity to understand a different perspective, and realize that nobody’s perfect . . . And then moving on.
In business we use terms like “trust but verify”. In life we have sayings like “fool me once, it’s on you, fool me twice it’s on me”. But I’d be ok with being fooled over and over again, if it meant that all parties would be in a better place.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m writing. I’m not advocating for being taken advantage of over and over again. I’m not saying you should let someone walk all over you. And I’m certainly not saying everyone is deserving of forgiveness. But whether or not someone DESERVES it, doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to GRANT it. And I think that’s how powerful forgiveness is.
What I’d like to point out is that forgiveness is a one way street. It’s YOUR choice if you decide to grant it. No matter what the other party says or does, it’s your gift to give. And I’m not advocating you give it out to everyone. In some ways I believe people deserve it and some people don’t. But it’s yours to give.
It’s also your prerogative to walk away. There’s a reason there’s a saying “forgive and forget”. Sometimes the forget means to walk away, not just forget about the indiscretions.
Do I think everyone deserves forgiveness?
Most people do. But there are a select few who don’t and that’s up to you to decide on your own.
Who You Surround Yourself With
I think as time goes on, if you feel like you continually have to forgive your friends, you may have the wrong friends. As you get older, you should surround yourself with people who enrich your life, not leach off it. In my earlier years, I was surrounded by leaches. Both at work and by “friends”. Ironically, it was my ex-best friend and my ex-wife who identified this to me. They always encouraged me to focus on my “real friends”. They were 100% right.
In Ben 2.0’s life, I’ve rid myself of the drama, and the people who caused it (for the most part). And that allows me a much happier life.
I guess the key is surrounding yourself with GOOD people, means you have to do a lot less forgiving.
I said I’d discuss this, so I wanted to unpack my thoughts on “finishing last”. Nice guys. They always finish last, right?
I think the idea of last place is perspective. I lost my wife, my best friend, my company, and a lot of other people in my life in May of 2013. I was DEFINITELY feeling in last place. Do you know what last place feels like?
But with a little time and perspective, I’ve come to realize that it’s a “marathon not a sprint”. It’s a long race and it’s not how you start out, or where you’re at 1/2 way through. It’s how you finish. I may have felt like I was in last place, but tonight as I lie next to Kailyn typing this blog out on my phone, I’m FAR from last place. In fact, I’d say I’m leading the pack.
Just because someone puts you in last place, doesn’t mean that’s where you have to stay. Sure, you can if that’s what you want, but it’s a long race. And there’s perspective.
Looking back on all those people and all those experiences makes me realize that I’m so far ahead of where they are. Intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. It’s not even close. And that may in turn piss them off and cause them to act out of FEAR, ANGER, or HURT, but I’m prepared (as proof from my comments above).
So back to the topic of this blog . . . Forgiveness. For me, most people in my life are worthy of it. We all make mistakes and all have a protective instinct which makes us act in unusual ways.
I’m capable of almost unlimited forgiveness, but that’s just me. I’ve always tended to have a “1/2 glass full” perspective on life and people. This outlook opens me up to a world of pain, but to me it’s worth it. I’ll take a beating knowing I haven’t given up on humanity. In some ways, I won’t let others take from me, some of my best attributes.
I’m kind. I’m empathetic. I care about people. I trust people. And nobody gets to take those things away from me.
The last point I’ll leave you with is a quote from Gandhi. I’ve often felt that I was WEAK because I forgive people, but that’s not true. Don’t ever look down on yourself for forgiving someone, or look down on others for doing the same. It takes strong person to forgive. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or that they’re right.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”Mahatma Gandhi
Ok, it’s time for bed. Distance learning in the morning for Kailyn and Me. But I will say that this outlook I have on life has flaws. It does open me up to getting hurt (sometimes a 2nd time), but it also makes me a happy person. Inside and out. Ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you I don’t have a bad thing to say about anyone and that I’m a happy person. Those are two things that I identify with deeply.
I hope that you feel the happiness I do as I fall asleep tonight. Those people out to hurt you or me, are inconsequential. They’re nobody’s. They are just trying to make themselves happy in a primitive, emotive way. And they’re forgiven.
Stay safe everyone,