Recently I witnessed some people saying some hurtful things about me. Instead of getting upset, I found myself thinking about the pain they must be feeling to want to export so much negativity towards someone else. I realized that their anger was about them, not about me.
When I reflected on the incident later, I asked myself, “How was I able to let their negativity slide off me?”
Then I realized I had discovered the power of instant forgiveness.
When we feel wronged, we often like to simmer in our anger. We feel justification in knowing that we’re right and that we’ve been harmed. The certainty of our injury fills our ego with confidence and conviction. Sometimes, it even transitions into vengeful outrage: “I’ll make them pay! I’ll show them! I’ll teach them not to treat me that way!”
Inevitably, this righteous anger consumes our thoughts as we play out numerous scenarios in which we respond differently than we did, exact revenge, or get even in some other way. We allow the moment of pain to create weeks, months, or even years of simmering anger and resentment.
Instant forgiveness cuts off this cycle of wasted mental energy before it can even begin.
When we are wronged or offended, we have the choice to say, “This offense is about them, not me.” We can choose not to see someone else’s actions as a reflection of our self worth. This is a hard task, but it is so worth it in the amount of anger, grief, and resentment it saves.
However, sometimes we need to admit to ourselves that we actually like the drama. We crave the feeling of being wronged to fuel our sense of significance. Sometimes our default response is actively choosing to be hurt or angry because we don’t know how to be happy, and at least when we’re angry we don’t feel meaningless or insignificant.
Instant forgiveness allows us to contain the moment of hurt to the amount of time it happens and not let the hurt consume our lives. It is an act of asserting power over our circumstances and showing ourselves love and respect.
The saying is true: forgiveness is for you, not the person you’re forgiving. It’s about loving yourself enough to let go. And I’m often surprised by how that simple act changes the other person’s life as well. Freed from having to defend themselves, the other person can often admit their wrongs and apologize, completing the circle of forgiveness.
But whether or not the other person atones doesn’t matter, because you’ve already forgiven them to yourself. Their actions no longer hold any power over you. You’re free.