The Importance of Forgiveness [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]
Everyone has been hurt by someone. Everyone has been betrayed or back-stabbed. Everyone has been talked about negatively, treated badly, or been cheated on. Every one of us can relate to the feeling of being turned on or done wrong by someone who we trusted and cared about. The feeling of being completely blindsided by someone we trusted can be brutal. It’s like a deep punch to the stomach. We’re left breathless and dizzy. The disorientation that can come from a back-stab or a betrayal can be overwhelming. We’re left with the dust settling and a mind full of unanswered questions.
How could they do this to us? Why didn’t we see any of this coming? Is this my fault? Who else knew this was going to happen? Where do I go from here? How could they do this to me?
After a betrayal, it’s so easy to be angry. It’s so easy to feel enraged and hurt and vengeful. We yell and scream and cry and yell and scream a little more. We throw things, punch things, and curse the name of the person who did us wrong. The anger seeps into our pores and makes us even uglier than the betrayer. If you allow these negative feelings to overtake your positive feelings, you may find yourself completely consumed by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. This anger and rage isn’t useful. It’s not productive. Yes, at first, it’s inevitable to feel mad, and it’s necessary in order to vent and decompress, but in the long run, the grudge will get you. You cannot let someone else’s negativity be your downfall.
My mom always says that holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head. She is totally and completely right (Mom’s always are!). Staying angry and never forgiving someone for a past betrayal will not help you grow. It won’t help you get over the past. It won’t help you move on with your life—with or without that person you’re upset with. Grudges are toxic. All they say is, “I am not over this. I am not past this wrongdoing. I haven’t let myself free.” I have learned that in life, people are going do you wrong—intentionally and unintentionally. People are going to slight you, forget you, and hurt you, but you need to learn to forgive them. I’m not saying it has to happen right away or that you can’t dwell and vent and cry for however long it takes you to feel normal again, but I am saying that you can’t stay mad forever. You just can’t.
Forgiveness is a key part of the secret of living a happy life and being at peace with your past, present, and future. Once you forgive someone for their hurtful actions, a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. You’ll be free of that anxiety and stress you had been carrying inside you for so long–that weight that had been slowing down your progression as a person. Forgiving someone does not mean that you’re weak or a doormat. It means you have character and grace and a good heart. You can understand more than one side to a story, and you can step away from the idea that you’re a victim and accept that you’re stronger and better than the pain inflicted upon you. Another cheesy quote from a teen soap opera I used to watch (coughOneTreeHillcough) always keeps me grounded when I feel like strangling a lover or a friend or a family member that has hurt me: “No one ever lost any sleep over being too kind or too forgiving.” But that grudge will keep you up all night.
As a twenty-something, our emotions and feelings are more complicated and confusing than a prepubescent girl listening to Emo music in her bedroom. This is the primetime for people’s selfishness to kick in (ourselves included in that) because we’re all in the rat race to find a job, a spouse, and a life worth living. This selfishness can sometimes lead people to do shitty things that leave us with that stomach-punch feeling I mentioned earlier. Instead of going to the bar with a friend and dragging said person’s name through the mud, why not take a deep breath and think rationally for a second? Like I said, all of this won’t be an overnight thing, but in the long run, a little forgiveness will go a long way.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen or that your hurt feelings are not valid. Forgiveness means transferring the anger into something lighter–something easier to carry with you when you move on. Forgiveness means you’re a strong, confident, understanding and beautiful person who has allowed themselves the mental freedom of knowing that you are so much more than the people or things that have hurt you. Forgiveness is happiness.
Katie has recently finished her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!