This feels like a weird post to write.
I say that because I have only now just realized (at a newly-minted age 44), that the challenge I thought I was having with forgiving others is not the challenge I am actually having.
By that I mean – in a way, actions others take that affect me are literally none of my doing, and thus they require no further action on my part.
I have no choice about whether someone else does something or says something, or doesn’t do or say something.
Scenarios can range from whether or not my partner says “I love you” to whether or not my parrot, Pearl, decides to bite me.
I may have preferences (I prefer hearing “I love you” and not being bitten), and I may even try to influence the choices others make according to my preferences.
But ultimately, what they decide to say/do/don’t say/don’t do is totally not up to me.
Or, as one of my favorite mentors, Byron Katie, likes to say, “What others say and do is really none of my business.”
I find this sooooo interesting!
To further complicate matters, I can find myself embroiled in differences of opinion as far as whether those others made the “right” choices (interpreted here as: “the best choices for me”).
For instance, I might think Pearl’s choice to bite me is a very bad choice indeed – a choice that requires my eventual forgiveness.
Pearl, on the other hand, may think his choice to bite me is the perfect communication tool that produces no need for self-explanation – and certainly not for forgiveness!
Which brings me back to an earlier post about my efforts to relearn self-forgiveness.
Since forgiveness at its core is a self-loving act, and a choice that may or may not impact others but will always positively impact me, this realization essentially sends me to square one.
Here is an example.
Let’s say someone says they think I am very stupid or ugly (or both).
So now their words are out there, I have heard them, and I have choices:
- Option 1: I can let the words in, personalize them, believe them, and then suffer the hurt and anger they cause. Here, it feels like what I am really doing is taking their words and then turning around and saying them to myself!
- Option 2: I can see the words as an outward admission of how that other person sees the world, life, themselves, and (naturally) me, feel compassion towards them that that is the best they can see in me, and let it go….no further contemplation or action required.
- Option 3: I can let the words percolate nearby (but not inside) me, discover I disagree, and either just let them go or even speak out for myself, letting that other person know I am not on board with their perspective.
What complicates matters a bit (for me at least) tends to be my relationship with that other person.
Here is how this tends to unfold:
- Category 1 Person: It is a total stranger who says I am stupid and ugly. I think, “What do they know?” and go on about my day.
- Category 2 Person: It is a colleague or acquaintance who says I am stupid and ugly. I wonder how on earth they formulated that opinion (since we are a few degrees out from even casual friends or work peers) and then I let it go from there.
- Category 3 Person: Someone I love and treasure says I am stupid and ugly (family, close friend, boyfriend). Here it gets very tricky indeed!
I have actually experienced a certain number of situations in the last few years with Category 1 and 2 persons.
Because I feel more distant from these types of individuals, it is easier not to take their words personally (even if I still want to argue with them and change their minds).
But when it is Category 3 Person I am dealing with, the challenge amps up a notch or three.
Here, I think the reason is because I figure they DO know me, they ARE close to me, and thus perhaps their words and actions (or silence and inaction) may have some merit.
I have in the past assumed this means I need to forgive them.
But now I’m realizing this, too, is a matter for self-forgiveness.
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