So often we hear people preach about the importance of forgiveness of those who have done us wrong. “Hanging on to resentment is letting someone you despise live rent free in your head,” is something I try to remind myself constantly.
Thought leader Randy Pausch teaches that there are no “bad people” in his famous, “Last Lecture” speech. He claims that there is good in everyone, and it will prevail. If you haven’t seen the good in someone, you simply haven’t waited long enough. While I constantly try to adopt this optimistic mentality, there are some people in which I have trouble honestly believing this to be true. Are some people just purely bad? What is the line between someone who has done a bad thing and someone who is actually a bad person?
There are certain people I have come in contact with in life that have done awful things. I just can’t seem to move past it and, “wish them well,” as society seems to encourage as the norm. If you can’t give that person a pat on the back and a declaration of [probably insincere] well-wishes, YOU are the one with the problem. YOU are the bitter one who can’t let go of the past. YOU are the person who isn’t “over it.” But how are someone’s wrong doings now suddenly your issue while they walk away scot-free? Why can we bring it in our hearts to forgive and move on with some people but not others? Maybe it has to do with the level of deepness in which we cared about them.
I am not naive in recognizing that I have hurt people. I have done wrong. Perhaps some people even view me as a “bad person,” [although I sincerely hope not!]. My conclusion is pretty straightforward, yet a difficult concept to accept. People are not bad, they just don’t care about you and your feelings as much as you care about theirs; thus creating a huge margin for error. A margin that can create the potential for disappointment, but perhaps a solid explanation for your feelings of ongoing resentment.
Every single moment of our lives we have choices. Choices are made based on personal priorities. If someone’s priority is not you, their choices may result in betrayal or disappointment. The realization of this is perhaps much more painful than the actual deceitful act. Think about it; that person didn’t cheat on you, abandon you, or treat you unfairly because they are a “bad person,” they treated you that way because they simply didn’t care enough about you to do otherwise. There was some other priority or option that was preferable over the risk of hurting you. Down the road you may see them interact with someone else and think to yourself, “just wait, they will do the same thing to them that they did to me, because that’s the type of awful person they are.”
I’m a believer in karma, and thinking this helps us to move on, forgive, and “make peace” with their wrongdoing. But the truth is, they may not do the same thing to someone new. They might care about that person more than they cared about you, and therefore not risk hurting them. It is a blow to the ego, but it is that simple.
I think humans are fairly emotional and sometimes insecure beings. We never want to admit that we cared more about someone than they did for us. In our minds we should be every person’s top priority, and if they betray us they are simply not a good person.
In reality, you cared for someone more than they cared about you, and you were let down. Don’t beat yourself up over it. If you are never vulnerable than you will never have the chance to find those truly meaningful, and mutually reciprocated relationships. I wouldn’t say you should lose sleep over those who have done you wrong until the end of time, but I also don’t think it’s necessary [or realistic] to wish the best for someone who clearly prioritized other things over you and your feelings. There is always a choice. They didn’t choose to hurt you because they are evil, they chose to hurt you because they didn’t care about you more than whatever else was at stake.
My conclusion is that in relationships [parental, romantic, friendship, work, etc], priorities may be conflicting, resulting in hurtful actions. You might go “all in” and the other person may not reciprocate those feelings. However, this does not make that individual a bad person.
Recognize where you stand with others, and don’t prioritize someone who wouldn’t do the same for you. Understanding this may help you make peace with others who have treated you unjustly. Perhaps it will also reveal why the ability of letting go starts with admitting that you weren’t enough for someone who was clearly enough for you. You got hurt, and that’s okay.