Forgiving Others

Last month, I wrote about how hard it is to forgive yourself. The next step is forgiving others, but it is hard. Oh my God, it is HARD!

I wish I could tell you it was easy. I wish I could tell you that if you follow these simple steps, your life will be sunshine and roses. I still can’t forgive everyone, although I am determined to try. Until they piss me off again, anyway.

Here are my concentric circles of forgiveness:

  1. People who say stupid things, but mean well, and play a small role in my life. These people are fairly easy to forgive, partly because I have once been in their shoes. I know what it is like to open my mouth and say something completely stupid, and immediately feel horrible about it. I can completely empathize with them. For example, the resident who said “Wow, you’ll be busy at home with 5 kids.” I saw her face as she said those words, immediately realized that I didn’t have 5 kids at home, and felt like she’d been kicked in the face. Or maybe it was the nurse kicking her under the table. Either way, I can forgive her pretty easily because I once innocently asked someone “Is this your first?” In fact, I think if I was given a dollar for every time I said something stupid, I could retire at 40. Besides, I probably won’t ever see them again.
  2.  People who know me well enough to know better, but still have a momentary lapse. Again, I can forgive them because I have been there. It is a little harder, because I expect them to know me and to have a clearer idea of what will be helpful, but no one is perfect. Usually, they have good intentions. They truly believe that by not talking about your child, they are helping you feel better. They think “Amanda’s so happy right now, talking about how I miss Nate and Sam too will feel shallow.” Or “She has two beautiful kids, I don’t want them to feel bad by bringing up their brothers, who they did not know anyway.” And even if that hurts because I love hearing about how others are missing my boys too because it reminds me that their lives mattered, they have my best interests at heart.
  3.  People I know and are doing intentionally hurtful things. I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to forgive these people. Let’s just say I am working on it. To be clear, these are not people in category two, who think they are doing you a favour by not mentioning your children or your grief, but people who are too selfish or uncaring. These are the people who walked out of your life because they could not handle your grief, or the people who actually tell you to stop talking about your kids because it upsets them. It is a lot harder to feel sympathy for them. It is hard to forgive the damage they have caused, especially if they are not looking for your forgiveness. The friends who walked out on your life and still haven’t come back. The people who justify what they did as “protecting themselves”, when truthfully it was just their own selfishness.

But here’s the interesting thing about the circles… in order to get the most benefit, you have to forgive the people it is hardest to forgive. The casual remark made by someone you hardly know, you can stay mad at them forever and it won’t matter, because it doesn’t have an impact on either of you. You both walk away and not see one another again. But the intentionally hurtful actions taken by someone you love, if you hold on to that grudge it will eat away at you every time you see them. And because they are close to you, you see them a lot. Which is why I am working on forgiving those who have hurt me the most. I am not there yet, but maybe with a little more practice….

This post first appeared on Still Standing Magazine.

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