February is a time when many of us think of love, of loving friendships, and family, as well as romance. Sometimes when we think of these relationships we have pleasant and wonderful memories, and for some others of us, there may also be relationships that are painful.
Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words. George Eliot
What about the pain of memories when we were hurt by those we love the most? What do we do with that?
There are things we may never understand. Let’s just face it. Misunderstandings can happen in a multitude of ways. We can’t always know what factors impact decisions that others make or have made in the past. We don’t always know the history there. We can’t always know the experiences, or in some cases, childhood trauma, that comprise the world view that becomes another person’s reality.
What’s important and the ONLY thing we have control of is our own response. We can’t make someone else understand how we feel. Maybe they don’t have all the information and maybe they don’t have the capacity to understand. Yes, we are not all on the same level of understanding. Experience and education impact understanding, as well as imagination and empathy.
Forgiveness is not a requirement for healing this kind of pain. If it helps to remain angry or hurt and acknowledge the pain, it’s perfectly alright. That may be where you are. For some, keeping a distance from these relationships might be in your best interest. Drama and chaos may only lend more salt to an already open wound. For those of you who need distance, by all means care for yourself and keep yourself safe from more harm.
We must be careful, however, not to fall into the role of victim and become stuck there. It is not healthy to identify with this role and fall back on a past event (or the slow burn) to define us. When we go out in the world with the feeling of being a victim we unconsciously remain vulnerable, we may continue to draw into events that play into this pain again and again. Have you ever felt like you’ve felt this way before and find yourself in yet another similar painful experience? We can’t expect to encounter change without first making a change within ourself. When we learn from something painful, as opposed to getting stuck there, we may then be able to move forward with new knowledge. We may change our point of view now that we have new resources. We can get some support, get therapy, resolve our issues in various helpful and positive ways. It can be empowering when we gain new perspectives.
As far as forgiveness goes, I used to believe that to forgive was the thing to do because I was taught this as part of my faith, my religious training. I thought forgiving someone was good for the other person, and a good act for me, also. I still believe in the act of forgiveness, but my thoughts on this have shifted over time. What I’ve realized is that forgiveness really does nothing for the other person. They will go on and be better or be the same, or maybe even worse. It’s not within our control. Again, what we have control over is our response to others or situations. When we are forgiving of someone, or of an act, it actually creates an alteration within us. We are changed. We have moved to a place of understanding, of softening our view, of letting go of those hard feelings. When we let go of something we can feel lighter, we can create space, and it can cause a change in our energy, and in our bodies. Yes, we carry pain, we carry sadness, we carry frustration, and we feel the clenching. Eventually, an impact of carrying such pain can be that we will also carry an illness. To learn to forgive may mean learning to let go and chalk it up to a lesson learned, to find grace and compassion for others in the belief that we are all just human. Moving on may be the best thing for us, for our bodies, for our soul. We may have a lighter step as we bless the other person on their journey and wish the best for them.
In doing so, we are actually taking care of ourselves in the process and practicing loving kindness. We are positioning ourselves in a place from which we can be loving towards others because we know how to be kind, to find grace for others regarding mistakes or poor judgment. Kindness to ourselves builds a sense of compassion we can have towards others because we know firsthand how to behave in ways that create space and grace. This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to be your own friend as well as a friend to others. Create some time to be generous in spirit to yourself. See if you feel a wee bit lighter in the process.
Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it we cannot be friends with anyone else in the world. Eleanor Roosevelt
All shall be well. In time.