Why You Should Learn To Forgive Even Without An Apology
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha
Forgiveness and anger are topics that have been arising in my life often in the past year. I have always gone against the majority way of thinking, believing forgiveness can and should be given no matter what the offense on the other’s behalf may have been. We often think there are actions that are unforgivable. I think no action is unforgivable. When someone hurts us our immediate reaction is to turn to vengeance. We want the person who hurt us to feel just as bad as we did. But how does this benefit us?
Think about when you’re driving and someone cuts you off. You have to slam on your brakes, you get frustrated and honk or flip the person off in hopes the person will feel guilty for what they’ve done. In reality, what happens is that person drives off and you’re left stirring in your car, mumbling to yourself about what an asshole that person was. Most likely the rest of your drive you’ll be on edge – frustrated, irritated, and still wanting to get some revenge. Who gets hurt here? By holding on to your anger, you become unable to live in peace. You might be thinking, “Ok great, but someone cutting you off is a minor offense, what about cheating, lying, murder, etc.” There is NO difference. No matter what the reason for your anger, the result will always be YOU getting hurt. YOU become restless within yourself, unable to find happiness and peace.
We often hold on to anger and resentment without even knowing it, until we explore why we may be acting or reacting to a person in a certain way. I realized I was holding on to anger towards my mother when she came to visit me last year. I noticed myself becoming cold and snapping at her constantly for no reason. I thought to myself, “This isn’t me. I’m a caring, warm person, why can I not be caring towards my own mother?” After some soul-exploring, I realized I had still held onto this anger towards her for keeping me in, what I felt, was a volatile, abusive environment as a child, without any support from her. I could have continued to be angry at her, continued putting up a wall, not allowing our relationship to grow and allowing myself to become cold and distant…or I could forgive. I decided to forgive and to make 2016 the year of forgiveness. I wanted to forgive those I thought had wronged me and ask for forgiveness to those I felt I had wronged. I wrote my mother a letter explaining how I felt, explaining my truth, without using hurtful language. And I asked for forgiveness from her for the way I had been treating her (which she admitted had made her feel I didn’t love her). That same night we had a long discussion filled with tears, “I’m sorry’s” and “I love you’s.” Since then, I’ve been able to completely let go of any anger and we have been able to begin to restore our relationship.
The forgiveness towards my mother was easy, but my father was a different story. My dad is not only unable to recognize how his actions affected me, but he is in denial of his actions all together. Forgiveness becomes even harder when you know the person isn’t remorseful for their actions, refuses to apologize or continues to act in the same way. What happens when the person doesn’t recognize how their actions have hurt you? These are the times forgiveness is most necessary. Why? Because these are the times resentments build up most within you and cause you the most harm. I also don’t believe people are inherently evil. People’s actions are a result of learning a behavior, a mental imbalance, or deep-seated issue they’re protecting themselves from. Most likely if someone is refusing to apologize for hurting you, it’s because they cannot face the actions they’ve done. Building a wall of “I’m right. I’ve done nothing wrong” is a defense mechanism to protect themselves. If they realized what they have done and the hurt they have caused, the pain would be so immense it would cause them to break. If they face the reality of their actions, they will no longer be able to face themselves. Please realize, forgiveness does NOT mean you need to be a part of the person’s life. This only means you speak with truth and kindness, let go of the anger, and forgive. You no longer allow the person’s actions to affect you.