“I’ll never forgive them for as long as they live!”
An understandable response to a totally crappy situation…
But how does being so angry about it make you feel?
What if I could show you a completely different way of viewing everything, like looking through a pair of magic, pink binoculars?
What if that new way of seeing things made you feel “nice and fuzzy” on the inside?
What if I stopped asking patronising questions?
Forgiving means letting go of anger or hatred directed at a person. It’s usually the last thing anyone feels like doing, even after their own death. But there is good news.
It is possible to forgive a complete A-hole.
That’s because forgiveness doesn’t excuse behaviour that was wrong or unfair. It doesn’t make it okay to commit genocide or steal cupcakes.
It just gives you the distance, presence, power and mojo to move on.
Letting go and forgiving is all about freeing yourself.
Why I wrote this blog
Learning how to forgive has taken me on a journey to hell and back, even passing through South Croydon! This is a photo of me taken just a few years ago:
I wasn’t quite myself and if I’m honest it even had some effect on my physical appearance. But look at me now!
Still not 100% but doing so much better than before!
The truth is that I’m not a guru or expert on this subject, far from it.
I actually decided to write about forgiveness because I really sucked at letting go and I wanted to figure out what I could do about that.
My own problems began when I started getting into quite extreme disagreements with people. It’s fair to say that politics isn’t my strong point. In fact if I were in a generous mood I might describe my social skills as “appalling”.
A mix of unrealistic expectations, bad luck, anxiety about dealing with other people and my own lack of diplomacy all combined to give quite a few people the impression that I might be one of the devil’s closer relatives.
So how did I get into so much trouble with the humans? Surely, as a plausible candidate for membership of their species, I could have figured out some way to get along?
For months and months, I searched the unfathomable depths of my wicked soul trying to find an answer to that question. And then one day it hit me like a thunderbolt from heaven! All of sudden the real problem became clear.
I’m a moron.
It was that simple. All I had to do was learn how to develop the emotional intelligence to deal with people and their strange ways. And so it was that I took up the idea of writing this blog and embarked upon an incredible and rewarding journey of horrifying self-discovery.
After months and months of profound soul-searching, analysing, writing, rewriting and editing, I was shocked to discover that my blog had 3 pages.
It turns out that learning how to forgive people involved a serious amount of work! Maybe in the end it was my laziness that saved me from anger. I really can’t be bothered to hate anyone anymore. Not if it means I have to write another crumby page for this website.
But I’ve definitely made progress. I’ve gone from being “absolutely terrible” to “not particularly special” and I consider that to be an enormous achievement. And I already know I will reach mediocre before too long. Way to go me, the sky’s the limit!
Even my social skills have significantly improved and could now accurately be described as merely “questionable” rather than “hopeless beyond all human comprehension and conceivability”.
So if you’re looking for the world champion of personal development you’ve come to wrong place. Mediocrity is the next level I’m aiming for. If I took part in a “mediocrity competition” right now I’d probably come about half-way in the rankings.
It may seem odd but it can be strangely useful to learn from a hypocrite who still gets it wrong sometimes. And that’s why I am quietly confident that I’m not wasting your time here.
Anger can drive you totally crazy, I should know! But as disturbing as it may seem after all my experiences, I often feel as if I might be going completely sane.
How to Forgive
One thing I’ve learnt is that forgiveness becomes easier when you’re willing to learn how to do it, when you’re willing to enrol in the School of Cool.
I’ve written a series of long, tedious articles that I believe will lead you to that place.
My approach is a bit like learning a sport. When someone says “Stop being angry” or “Just let it go” it’s a bit like saying “Stop being bad at soccer”. Not great advice.
A more useful approach is to break everything down into key areas that you can work on improving, such as passing, tackling, goal scoring and fouling.
And of course it takes practice. If you can spend as much time thinking forgiving thoughts as you do thinking angry thoughts then forgiveness will usually start winning over anger.
We all have gaps in our emotional education: 95% of what I write will be painfully obvious to a toddler. But when you learn to “see the obvious” more often and more clearly then you’re closer to the goal.
So get ready for a painstaking journey through your lovely brain!
Latest related thoughts
Forgiveness is something that means many different things to many different people. It can mean letting go, healing pain, changing focus, finding freedom, understanding humanity or embracing harmony or hope in times of great trouble. However you look at this concept, it's something powerful that can be studied, developed, practiced and deepened for the sake of a more peaceful life and a better world.
Human beings can sometimes behave in a way that is slightly sociopathic. But many of us need to go through at least one brutal experience of inhumanity before we can realise the true value that humanity offers the world.
To be on the receiving end of behaviour that is lacking in empathy can help you to sincerely consider, understand and regret those times in your own life when you also acted as if other human beings did not exist, were not as important as you or did not have real feelings.
The most humane and empathic human beings are those who are able to empathise with other people’s inability to empathise with them by seeing that lack of empathy as something that reminds them of their own ignorance in the past. Understanding and allowing people to behave without empathy for you is a test of true empathy and non-judgment of yourself.
Everything that I have experienced has led me to one very clear, very simple conclusion about life: all that really matters in this world is kindness. This is all I have ultimately learned from the kindness of others, from the unkindness of others and from my own mistakes. It's never too late and can never be wrong to be kind.
Kindness may never be in fashion but it is the true essence of humanity. It can dissolve anger, repair divisions, rise above judgment and make sense of everything that might otherwise seem a little pointless.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong"
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much"