Why is it So Easy for Some of Us to Forgive?
This is what my friend asked me during a recent, late-night, Skype conversation. A few weeks post-breakup, she wanted to know why her ex was so unforgiving, and why she was the complete opposite – willing to talk things over, gain closure, and overlook his jackass ways…and the fact that his reason for breaking up was weak – and done via text to boot. Yes…add insult to injury.
Yes…add insult to injury.
I forgive easily. I look at the heart of the person and the substance of our relationship, and if it far outweighs one misunderstanding, I don’t make it an issue.
Note that I’m not talking about major issues like cheating, abuse, or pathological lying. I’m talking about when you and someone ‘fall out’ over something that could be easily resolved. Maybe you were moody. Maybe you miscommunicated. Maybe you were brutally honest, and said something they didn’t want to hear.
Two Saturdays ago, I was awakened by a phone call from someone who I had to practise forgiving. He wanted to get some information. We agreed that I’d call him back later, especially since he knows how cranky I am when I’ve just woken up.
“Look at allyuh,” one of my friends said, when she learnt that we were back on speaking terms, after some months of what he called “a misunderstanding”. “Same people who fighting like cat and dog back to chatting it up normal normal.”
“Same people who fighting like cat and dog back to chatting it up normal normal.”
It’s easy to want to bring back up old stuff, which will end in a quarrel. It’s easy to say, “I’m not being nice to him just because he’s finally ready to let go of the things he got upset about and be cool again.”
But we made a pact to not ever stop being friends, since we’d spent thirteen years of our lives not talking to each other, before we reconnected two years ago. And the fact that he tried to make amends meant that maybe he wasn’t as hard hearted as I’d thought.
It wasn’t a case of him (or me) doing something that was unforgivable. It was a case of “it could all be so simple, but [he’d] rather make it hard”. And yes…I played my role in it too. When it came down to it, we were two, strong personalities who wanted different things.
In our case though, and obviously I’m not writing the full story (because is my business, and yuh too fas’ if you want to know everything…lol), we were also genuinely good friends – romantic issues aside. So, despite our fundamentally different approaches to dealing with emotions, the friendship side was strong enough to make amends seem worth it.
Why was it so easy for me to forgive? Sometimes…it’s just easier to keep the peace than to cause a big stink. Plus, who wants to invest energy into ‘toting’ and ‘locking off’ people?
And, as I told my friend, who’s dealing with her breakup, we take it for granted that everyone else can be as forgiving as we are. But everyone isn’t conditioned the same way.
My family is not the Brady bunch. Still, despite disagreements, I know that they will always have my back. And I’ve never felt that – if I do something that my family isn’t pleased about – I won’t get their forgiveness or understanding (accompanied with a healthy ‘boof’ of course!).
My friend didn’t grow up in that environment. He’s accustomed to counting on himself. I’m not going to try to paint him as someone who grew up in a horror story. He didn’t. But because he had to depend on himself so much, he had to harden himself. That makes it easier for him to be resolute, when he decides to ‘lock off’ someone. It made it easier for him to walk away, and take a longer time to forgive me.
So, when we’re all angstified because people aren’t willing to forgive us, when we’d readily forgive them, it isn’t always our problem. It’s theirs…even if they don’t see it that way.
The hard part is that sometimes they have you – the innocent person in the scenario – working your tail off to get their forgiveness for something really small. Something that isn’t a wrong at all. Then, some people say that they forgive you, but they don’t act like it.
These are the times you ask, “Why is it so easy for me to forgive him/her, but he/she can’t do the same for me?”
Sometimes forgiveness isn’t the real issue here. Sometimes, the person is just being difficult. Sometimes, they’re holding your need for forgiveness and understanding over you. It’s a psychological power move.
Some people also just don’t know how to forgive. When you think about it, deciding to forgive someone takes some courage and honest perspective.
Getting through all the stages of forgiveness takes energy.
That’s why I believe psychologists and neuroscientists, when they say a must-have for successful relationships is empathy. It’s what helps us to ‘get’ the other person, and the other person to ‘get’ us. Empathy is what makes us resilient enough to move on from previous quarrels and make amends.
It’s important to realise that your ability to forgive is actually a strength – not a weakness. It’s more of what you do after forgiving that person. Forgiving means I choose not to throw things in your face. It means I know how you are, and I know how I am, so I know how to act. Forgiving also involves realising that you can’t change how they behave.
When someone doesn’t want to show you some understanding, it will hurt. You will take it personally. It will take a while before you come to terms with it. The question is, the next time this happens, how will you deal with it? Will you grovel and ‘play victim’, or will you walk away?