Recently, a friend (let’s call her Sue) did me wrong.
Really, that’s not even a fair statement. It was one of those situations where everyone was angry for different reasons. It was all a matter of perspective: I did something that I thought was fine, Sue got upset about it, and I apologized to Sue just to make things right.
But I wasn’t sorry. I was angry. I was angry that Sue got so mad at me in the first place, and her acceptance of my apology without any acknowledgment of her mistakes made me even angrier.
Even though I had apologized, I didn’t speak to Sue again for another two months. I avoided her at all costs (and there were certainly costs). I blindly held on to my anger. I became annoyed with my other friends for interacting with Sue, and I waited in desperation for the apology that never came.
For two whole months, I made my life harder. I almost cherished my anger, defending it even from myself. I somehow thought it would make things better, even though it was only hurting me. And then I did something that I had previously thought wasn’t even an option.
I swallowed my pride, and I forgave her.
The Dangers of Anger
Anger is one of the most complicated emotions in the book, more so than sadness and happiness put together. Firstly, anger is an exhausting state to be in. You shake, your heartbeat pulses, you get rushes of energy (but certainly not constructive energy) with intermittent waves of despair.
You’re torn between your pride (how can you let someone step all over you like a doormat?) and your sensibilities, the latter of which seem so small in comparison. You all but completely lose your sense of rationality. You want to either receive a big apology, or lash out to show the other person why they’re wrong.
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And in the moment, all of this feels right. Succumbing to the darkest part of you seems more important than anything else—including your relationships with others.
We all feel angry sometimes, but when you hold on to it, that anger transforms into something evil: a grudge. You actively hold on to something that hurts you, that makes you miserable, that distracts you from the beauty in your life—and not because anything good will come of it. Nothing good has ever come from a grudge.
When I sat seething about Sue over something that happened two months ago, I realized something. There was no use for this. All of this was for the sake of….my pride. That was perhaps the most horrifying realization I’d ever come to.
So I contacted her to see how she was. We talked and caught up. We didn’t even mention our argument, because suddenly, it seemed so pointless and in the past.
I realized that I had forgiven her, and that she had forgiven me. And just like that, that grudge that had been consuming me suddenly seemed like the most trivial emotion I had ever had.
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The Power of Forgiveness
The power of forgiveness is something that few realize. In our society, we are taught that we should stand up for ourselves and make sure no one uses us as their own personal doormat. Of course, that is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with. However, it’s a sentiment that, if taken the wrong way, can result in anger and long-held grudges.
Forgiving doesn’t mean becoming best friends. It doesn’t even mean keeping that person in your life. It means choosing to let go of your anger so that you don’t let it consume you. It means ridding yourself of an exhausting emotion and letting yourself find peace.
If someone hurts you, you certainly shouldn’t let them do it again, and certainly not treat you as a doormat. But by using the power of forgiveness, you should choose not to make this issue the biggest part of your life. Forgive, but do not forget.
The power of forgiveness is this: allowing you to stand up for yourself, but with grace and strength. Allowing you to not stoop to the perpetrator’s level, but rather lift them up to where you are. Recognizing the person’s mistake, but not defining the person by their mistake. Giving yourself peace, and promoting peace in your community.
Related: 7 Ways to Have Lasting Relationships
I thought I was protecting myself by holding that grudge against Sue. I thought I was standing up for myself by ignoring her, by being venomous, by succumbing to hate. But really, I was hurting myself.
The power of forgiveness is bigger than any apology. It can help you stand up for yourself, but with grace. It can help teach the perpetrator something huge. And it can promote peace, not only within yourself but within the environment you live in. By allowing yourself to become immersed in your anger, you’re choosing an unhappier path. Realize the power of forgiveness, and you’ll never hold another grudge again.
Photo by Adele M. Reed