Let’s assume you’re on the other end of a sincere apology. What happens next? Will a handshake or a hug be enough?
Forgiveness is not easy. It’s a conscious choice, day by day, and sometimes even moment by moment. It’s a commitment, that’s for sure, with some pretty clear benefits:
If you believe, as I do, that people can actually change if they choose to do so, and if you’re receiving specific messages that change is happening, you’re on the path to forgiveness. Once you’re on that path, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel happier. A burden will have been lifted off your shoulders and you will be free to move forward. And in moving forward, you’re exercising your emotional intelligence muscles with empathy. If the situation was reversed, wouldn’t YOU want to be forgiven?
On the other hand, sometimes forgiveness is impossible. You may have to decide to get off the roller coaster and determine, finally, that enough is enough. If you’ve ever been on that ride, it’s not exactly fun. In fact, it’s completely exhausting to allow your emotions to run amok, and it’s natural to blame the other person. It’s a lot easier than taking responsibility for your own choices and the ensuing consequences. You can choose to stay on the roller coaster and live through the emotional ups and downs, or you can choose to get off the ride. I’ve had to make that choice a time or two in my own life, and once I took the necessary steps, it was more liberating than I ever could have imagined.
The image of being on a roller coaster of emotions makes me think of the end of the classic movie, “Parenthood,” when Mary Steenburgen’s character says, “. . . but I LIKE being on the roller coaster.” If you’re thinking that right now, please remember that the ride is fun only when we, ourselves, are choosing to get on it. If someone else is emotionally forcing you to get on the ride, it’s not fun anymore, is it?
If you’re undecided about when enough is enough, consider these points:
- You’re dealing with a person who’s displaying a pattern of negative behavior, as opposed to an isolated incident. What constitutes a pattern? I’m going to say more than one incident.
- The person refuses to get help, whether for an addiction, or for anger management.
- They insist that change is possible, but you know in your heart that it isn’t.
- People in your support system are gently telling you to face the facts.
Whether you’ve decided to forgive or you’ve decided that enough is enough, please be accountable to yourself first. Tell yourself the truth in the kindest way possible. Then reward yourself for moving on. A new pair of shoes or a good bottle of wine might make for a nice reward. Jewelry is also good.
Are you working through the decision to forgive? Please let me know if I can be of help.