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For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked. How do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet, at the same time, remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?

Bell Hooks, All About Love

I used to be that hateful person that holds grudges. During my recovery journey, I have learned that holding these grudges does absolutely nothing for me. There comes a time in grudges when you have been holding it for so long you forget why you even hate the person. Being upset with people is totally cool and valid, but there really is no need to hold a grudge.

I have learned a lot about forgiveness in the last couple of years. One of the main reasons I’ve been able to forgive is because I have really come to learn that most people are doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. While I am someone who has been through years of therapy and someone who is extremely self-aware, I realize that not everyone has that same experience under their belt.

Most people are damaged. You really have no idea what anyone has been through. A lot of people go through trauma and most of those people do not talk about it. Trauma does some not so great things to the brain, something I unfortunately know from experience. These traumas seriously effect these people and their lives.

Whenever someone treats me in a way that I think is wrong, I allow myself to be upset because my feelings are valid. A wrongdoing is a wrongdoing. But, instead of dwelling on the action and thinking horrible things about the person who did them to me, I choose to step back and remind myself that I don’t know what’s going on in their life or if something happened to them in the past that has caused them to act this way. I know there are so many things I do that are just a trauma response. These responses never make sense to other people. I remind myself that they are human.

Just because I am able to forgive people who have wronged me doesn’t mean I feel the need to stay connected with them in any way. Being able to forgive and remind myself that I don’t know their story helps me to move past it and continue on with my life. Dwelling and staying in the past is not healthy. There is so much for you in the present and in the future. It’s not worth your energy to bottle up negative emotions and let them take up space in your mind.

When it comes to family and friends, but especially family, I am able to take that step back and actually walk through why people are acting the way that they are and I’m able to remind myself it isn’t personal. In fact, being able to take this step back and realize why someone might be acting in a way that’s not so great is usually a clue that they might be struggling. So, instead of staying pissed off and upset for hours, days, weeks, or years, I know that I should probably ask them if everything is okay and if they need anything, even they just need someone to vent to. This process has helped me immensely when it comes to my family.

Again, I am not saying that shitty behavior is okay, but most of the time, there is a reason. Emotions and trauma make people act out in so many ways and I know I have been one of those people that has done or said things I shouldn’t have when my emotions were high. But, at this point in my life, I do not want to spend my time angry and worked up and holding grudges. I want balance. I will cut off people if needed, but I will no longer allow myself to live in the past. I don’t want to miss out on my present life and my future life because I am too busy dwelling on the past.

Forgiveness is an act of letting go. To forgive is to begin to rid yourself of attachment to that which you cannot change.


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