Years ago, something happened to me that I thought I would never be able to get over. I had my heart broken by someone I trusted deeply. First came a flood of numbness, then immense sadness, and then incredibly deep anger. I never thought I would let go of grudges and learn how to forgive this person. To me, there was no chance of forgiveness in full.
But here I am, six years later, with not an ounce of anger or sadness when I think about person X. If someone had told me in 2011 where I’d be today, I definitely would have laughed and then probably followed up with some tears (major hot mess alert). Because in the midst of the pain, you feel like you’re drowning. You feel like it’s such an effort to even get up and start the day. If you’re in a place like that with someone, I want to tell you that it will get better. I won’t promise immediate results, but if you can take the time to forgive and learn how to let go of grudges, you’ll be off to a running start.
Why should we live in harmony with one another?
We weren’t meant to come into this world to start fighting with one another. Remember when you were a kid and you could get along with just about anyone? The playground seemed full of options for best friends. And if we ever got into a fight with one another, it was easy to just say “I’m sorry,” hug it out, and continue playing. Can you honestly say the same now as an adult? Now we have our own criteria for who we want to be close with, and then once we are close with people, there’s not always harmony. We fight more as we get older because pride and anger take root in us. They tell us not to forgive and not to apologize. If you missed last week’s post on apologizing, check it out here.
But it’s true: if somebody wrongs you, how often do you want to quickly surrender that “temporary power” that comes from being wronged? If you forgive them, you have to let go of that power. In this day and age, it’s much more common to hold it over their heads or to keep it in the back of our minds. We say that we want harmony, but what our human selves really want is power over the other person. We need to be in harmony because it humbles us. It humbles the forgiver, and it humbles the wrongdoer. According to Webster’s dictionary, harmony means a pleasing arrangement of parts. That’s how our voices should be after conflict. That’s how our hearts should align.
How do you forgive someone? Why should we let go of grudges?
So you might say to me, “Shruthi, that all sounds well and good. But how do I actually forgive someone?” I’ll tell you the three things that help me from building a grudge: prayer, words, and actions.
When I say with prayer, I know that God heals me so that I can forgive person X.
Paul in the book of Romans in the Bible also says, “Bless those who persecute you; Bless and do not curse them.” Can you imagine blessing the ones that have hurt you? This is one of the strongest ways my heart healed after I’d been wronged. First, I acknowledged the pain I was going through by voicing it and not shutting my emotions down. But then I also prayed for the wrongdoer and prayed that God would watch over, bless, and bring person X closer to knowing God. Paul continues in the book of Romans with, “If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” After continually praying for this person’s blessing, mentally I do have peace with them. You may start out by praying for good things for your wrongdoer while you still hold a grudge, but it won’t stay that way. That grudge will eventually leave you, and that, my friends, is one of the most freeing feelings of life. From your heart, you should want things to go well for them, both now and forever.
When I say with words, I let person X know that I forgive person X.
Even if they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong and even if they don’t want my forgiveness, I know that I’ve done my part by letting them know that I forgive them. And I have. With words also means to stop talking about this person from a victim perspective. Now that you’ve forgiven person X, you both are on the same playing field again. This is really hard to do, and I totally get it because when somebody has hurt you so many times, you feel entitled to expressing that. But if you’re really trying to let go of the grudge and your words are an indication of what’s in your heart, then it’s time to stop talking about that person. Something that helps with this is having a friend hold you accountable. That certainly helped me.
When I say with actions, I let the world know that I forgive person X.
When you hold a grudge against someone, you treat them differently. In Romans, Paul continues that we should “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.” When bad things happen to person X and you’re still holding a grudge, it’s hard to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” God is calling us to be a different kind of person. The world will tell you to be happy when something horrible happens to one who has hurt you—and that is dangerous. Like that ancient adage, holding a grudge is like sipping poison and wishing the other person would die. With your actions, move forward with your life, be positive, cut off communications until you can truthfully say you’re “over it,” and let go. Like a balloon going toward the sky, like two palms holding grains of sand, just let it go.
The first heartbreak may keep you away from dating or motivate you to date the wrong people. But when you heal and find really good love, suddenly your first heartbreak makes you appreciate your good love even more. The first friend who betrays you makes you not want to make any more friends. But when you forgive them and then create new, solid friendships built on trust and loyalty, you don’t waste any time holding a grudge. So tell me, is there someone you need to forgive?