In his book Resilience, Eric Greitens talks about how soldiers standing at attention must learn what it means to ignore discomforts like a bead of sweat running down their face.
To ignore something is to be aware of it. To ignore, you must both be cognizant of its presence, and yet unwilling to let it be consume your focus.
When we choose to ignore pain, we are not repressing it. We are simply allowing it to be what it is, and yet not permitting it to govern us.
The more we allow pain to be part of us, or rather, an expression of us, the more we claim the experience – the more we accept the pain as our own. It is only then that we can work with it. Then, we can change. What happened may not have been our fault, but the lingering pain is ours to deal with.
Often, when we are dealt an unfair hand, we become convinced that we need to express just how unfair and unhappy and uncomfortable we are until that unfairness and unhappiness and discomfort dissolves itself. It is almost as though we scream to the Universe: “You brought this to me… so now you have to take it away.”
But anyone who has stood in the sun on a searing August day knows that ignoring the sweat running down your forehead is not easy. There is forgiveness, and then there is not. There are two options in the aftermath, and your decision will mostly impact you.
People who choose the ‘other’ option – to hold onto anger for their dignity – end up letting it swallow them alive. It’s the Taoist saying, that begrudgement is to drink poison and hope your enemy will die.
Forgiveness is not to condone what happened, it is only to not continue to torture yourself for the sake of justice.
A lot of us fall under the illusion that we have to punish those who have hurt us.
In the same way that worrying does not change the outcome of things, anger does not bring justice to them, either.
Those who have hurts us will punish themselves in ways far more impactful than anything we can probably imagine. Their beliefs, ideas, choices and behaviors are wreaking havoc on their lives and what happened to us was collateral damage.
They will have to repent. We all do.
And forgiveness is very much a reckoning. When we are hurt, we become traumatized. To be traumatized is to become scared of something and then never get over that fear. The longer we allow it to persist, the greater its control becomes.
The ultimate release of fear is to no longer be afraid to be happy again. It is to not be afraid of letting go and knowing that we will all meet ourselves eventually. We will all reap what we have sown. It is humbly remembering that we do not have to play god in the meantime.
Eric also says in that book that forgiveness and gratitude are very similar. They are “attitudes directed outwards,” but ultimately, they are both very much for ourselves.