It is an easy thing to preach, but it seems like the practical application is rather tricky for people.
I will be the first to admit that until I understood what it felt to to have people hold a grudge against me I didn't really get why letting go of bitter feelings are forgiving is so important.
The best choice I have ever made... the most LIBERATING and POSITIVE choice I have ever made was to choose to let go of anger and hurt and forgive. Learning to give people the benefit of the doubt and to not take offense (whether it is intended or not) has truly changed me in more ways than I can describe. Where a pouty, moody, easily hurt girl once lived, there is a happy, grateful, anxious to love others type of gal who I personally like to be around a lot more.
Forgiveness doesn't have as much to do with the person who has wronged us as it does with the person who has been wronged. It is all too easy to hold onto hurt feelings and anger when we believe (and friends and family tell us) we have a right to feel that way. It kind of feels good for a little bit to be all full of what we believe is righteous anger. The problem is that after awhile all we are doing is rubbing dirt on a cut. At best, that will slow down the healing process and leave an ugly and unnecessary scar. More likely, all that dirt will actually cause our injury to worsen, become infected and possibly never heal. Why would we do that? Isn't such a course of action essentially punishing ourselves for the misdeeds of others? THAT is why we must forgive when another person hurts us. We aren't doing the offender as much a favor as we are saving ourselves from a much deeper and longer lasting pain.
I see forgiveness as holding a cup full of muddy water when you are really thirsty and choosing to wash your cup and pour clean water into it. It is going to take more work than just drinking that gross sludge but when you gulp down that cool, pure water, you will know the concious choice to change the contents of the cup you have been passed is entirely worth it.
The other problem we all have is holding a grudge when someone is blessed with recognition or wealth or something we don't fully think they deserve. Maybe we think they rode someone else's coattails to the fortunate position they are in. Sometimes we look at another person's history (the very limited glimpse we have of it) and feel like they should not have such good fortune when they can't possibly deserve it. Of course there are also the people who we can't really put a finger on what we dislike about them because they seem so perfect, but we sure don't think it is fair that they have all the blessings when we are struggling along down our road.
I want to address those three reasons for disliking someone for having good fortune:
1. The person we perceive as riding someone else's coattails (maybe even our own!).
First off, have you ever gotten a boost from a friend? Think that one over before you get all bent out of shape.
Second, what if the only way that person can better themselves with with the help of another person? I guess that is annoying, but for those who believe in God and Jesus, isn't that what we're all on this earth doing? Sometimes we just can't make up the difference to better our lives and we have to cling to another person and hope they carry us further down the road. Maybe this constitutes more sympathy than irritation because it would be hard to be the person who needs that much help. (Incidentally, I struggle with this alot. I get all sorts of mad when people climb up on the shoulders of another person in order to further themselves. I'm actively working on being more zen about this and having more charity in my thoughts instead of frustration.)
2. Because of a person's prior lifestyle or choices, they don't deserve good fortune or friends or happiness.
Haven't we all made poor choices that we pray won't hold us back from happiness? I know I have a mountain of them. This makes me (and everyone else who makes mistakes) HUMAN. Until I'm perfect I don't think I have a right to judge who deserves happiness and who deserves agony. Frankly, I hope I am never in the position to decide such a thing as I would surely muck that up royally.
I have to wonder, why do we hold a grudge in this situation when most of the time the person we are loathing didn't even do anything to us directly. Frankly, that makes it none of our business anyhow and on top of that, we look pretty darn petty and mean spirited to others when we choose to pick on someone who didn't do anything to us to deserve it. It is easy to be that person, but then we go back to drinking muddy water and that stuff tastes awful.
Wouldn't our time be far better spent learning from another's choices, rooting for them to overcome any hurdles they need to leap over and cheering for them when they succeed? We could be part of the team that is holding a safety rope and pulling a friend off a rocky ledge instead of being the fraying rope that causes that person to fall again. I don't want to pull another person down because I know I'll sink with them. I want to lift them up, love them and be happy for their success in life.
3. There are also those people who appear to have it all and be so amazing and we know we should like them. But, we can't help but be bothered that we work and work and work for the praise we get while these Supermoms and Dads or Superhusbands or wives... these people who find time to work (at home and outside the home), raise their family, have a strong relationship with their spouse, handle any extracurricular jobs they take on and manage to look great doing it. On top of that, a lot of times these people seem to have these fun, original spins on how to live their lives and they are happy marching to the beat of their own drum. Meanwhile, we're just trying to listen to the beat of any drum that passes by but we can't seem to find the rythmn.
Why do we do that? Why do we waste our energy being jealous of someone who has found their personal groove and who is happy about it? It is like being bummed that the sun is shining in May when there could always be 3 feet of snow on the ground (I live in Idaho. It happens). I hate to be blunt, but I can't find a pretty way to say this. Stop being jealous of awesome people and start finding your own awesome. You have it in you. My money says when you stop focusing on other people and start worrying about yourself you will discover that you are a pretty fantastic person.
Besides, do you really think that perfect person you are so envious of really has it all? I'll let you in on a little secret: They don't. Everyone has problems. Every last one of us. They are all different and they all affect us differently. It is my faith based opinion that we are given these struggles, these weaknesses so we can remember to stay humble and learn to rely on others to help us occasionally. Maybe that perfect person you know has a substance abuse problem in their family or even in themselves. Maybe they struggle with infertility or another health problem. Maybe they are struggling financially and don't know how to fix it. You just don't know what is going on with people and it is important to remember that things are never entirely as they appear on the surface.
I am sure you are wondering why I'm spending all this time writing this post. Well, I have a few reasons.
The first is that I recently heard a wonderful talk that I think everyone should read no matter what their personal faith or nonfaith is. There is plenty to cherry pick and apply to our individual circumstances and in my humble opinion, wisdom is wisdom, no matter the source.
The talk is by Jeffrey Holland and you can click here for the link.
My favorite quote from this talk is that cross stitch piece I did. "Be kind, and be grateful God is kind. It is a happy way to live." I've been learning to base my entire life on that theme for a few years now and finally the words I couldn't come up with to describe my personal mantra are here. Woo!
Another is that I occasionally sit back in my little corner of the world and just watch things for awhile. Lately I keep seeing people who I know are wonderful getting in their own way by holding grudges or being jealous or refusing to forgive. It worries me. I realize it is really none of my business, but it still worries me.
Finally, because even on the worst day around here (and we do have some doozies), my life is happy and wonderful and I know a lot of that has to do with the deliberate change in attitude I have worked to make over the years. It is hard to be miserable when you train yourself to find the happy.
To paraphrase an amusing quote from a show I love to watch late at night, "When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead."
This can apply for when we get mad or jealous or offended or angry or anything like that. Just stop being those negative things and be awesome instead. It really is that simple.
I hope you don't mind my need to get these thoughts out. I realize this post is mostly so I can verbalize what I've felt for some times, but I sure hope it leaves a positive affect on any one who reads it.