I do not profess to be a relationship guru. I’ve done many a dumb thing when it comes to love and I’m sure I will again. Hey, it’s a learning experience right? One thing I’ve heard more than I can remember is that you should leave someone who hurts you and never look back. While there is something to be said about this approach, I’m going to take a different one. Bear with me.
Almost everyone you meet will talk to you about the “foundation” of a relationship. The foundation varies from person to person. Some say the foundation of a healthy, long-lasting relationship is trust; others say communication. Once you lay the foundation there are various other building blocks to that ever sought after “perfect” romance. These include attraction, loyalty, honesty, transparency, effort, and so on and so forth. With all of these variables at play, it’s no wonder the love experts of the world cannot settle on an errorless equation; I’d like to suggest that there isn’t one. There are far too many extenuating circumstances. At their core relationships are very similar; however in practice they could not be more different. Every person brings their own unique set of experiences and tendencies. People have different worldviews, personalities, struggles… it’s foolish to think that love can be figured out like a math problem. It will never be that easy (not that math is easy, because I took biostatistics and I’m pretty sure it trimmed a few years off my life). But I think there is one thing that a lot of us miss when it comes to the factors that make up a successful relationship – forgiveness.
For a majority of my 24 years I made the mistake of thinking that forgiveness is for the person who wronged you. They say they’re sorry, and you forgive them so that they can move on with their life.
I’ve come to realize that forgiveness is not for anyone else but yourself.
Forgiveness is freeing. Through the act of forgiving someone you are telling yourself that it is okay to let go of bitterness and anger. You can clear your mind of the thoughts that loop on repeat in your head. You can move forward wiser and stronger than you were before. Forgiveness is absolutely crucial to living a happy life.
This brings me to my next point.
While I’m stressing the notion that forgiveness is a personal experience, there is undoubtedly beauty in forgiving others. There is not a single one of us who has not wished for someone’s forgiveness at some point – and I venture to say that you probably didn’t deserve it. And there it is. There’s the beauty. The beauty of someone forgiving you. To err is human. Imagine a world where after one mistake we were blacklisted… Imagine a relationship like that. Terrible, right? A relationship of any kind stands zero chance of succeeding if someone is unable or unwilling to forgive.
There was a period in my life when I was hurting. While I should’ve taken time to work on myself and come to terms with everything going on in my life, I did the opposite. I distracted myself with people and activities that left me feeling empty. I did not care for the feelings of others or the repercussions of my actions. I was hurt and I hurt others in the process. When I finally came to my senses, I wanted nothing more than to be forgiven for all the pain I had caused and all of the mess I had left in my rear-view. I thought that I would have to live with that guilt forever. I thought that I would never be able to fully let go. I was wrong. There is also beauty in forgiving yourself. I made amends where I could. I began to distance myself from toxicity in any form. I made a conscious effort every day to do better for myself and for the people I love. I forgave myself little by little for my low points and the mistakes I made. I can sit here today and tell you it’s not easy. It is not easy to forgive yourself or to forgive someone who hurt you. But in the same breath I can tell you that it is so incredibly worth it.
I think we have become too consumed with trying to be “strong, independent people who don’t need anybody”. These are not quintessential negative qualities, however there are other admirable characteristics: compassion, empathy, understanding, and you guessed it – forgiving. We’ve come to equate these traits with weakness and that’s just dead wrong. To forgive takes more strength than to hold a grudge. To understand takes more strength than to disregard. To become invested in others and truly care for them takes more strength than to walk this world alone.
Do not misunderstand me. There are irrefutably unforgivable acts. I am by no means encouraging the woman or man stuck in a verbally or physically abusive relationship to forgive and stay. However I am saying that we as a generation are too quick to leave. We do not want to be labeled a “pushover” or given that disheartened look by our friends when we give someone a third chance. Remember though, forgiveness is for you – not for your parents, or your best friend, or your coworker. You know yourself better than anyone and only you can decide when enough is truly enough.
So… maybe it is time for you to leave. Maybe this person has shown that they are incapable of loving you the way you deserve. Leave with grace. Wish them well. And don’t ever look back. But before you give up look beyond your current emotions. You are dealing with a human being. You are trying to merge two lives into one. There is no foolproof process. We all make mistakes, and we all have moments when we act out of character. If this person has ever forgiven you for something, maybe they deserve the same treatment.
Sometimes, the person who hurt you is the same one who heals you.
They hold you so tightly that all of your broken pieces form back together. Give them the chance to.
Do not sell yourself short. Do not dumb yourself down. But remember, there is beauty in forgiveness.
Take care of yourselves.