Have you ever wished you could erase someone or something from your mind? That you could go back to that time when you hadn’t messed up or been hurt? We long for that before, don’t we? We hold on to the anger or regret because we miss that before so much, that innocent time before something wounded us or before we wounded someone else.
But holding that emotion grounds us in the past and our wounds don’t heal, but fester. It happened. We can’t erase it or take it back. We need to acknowledge that bad stuff happens, sometimes stuff we do ourselves, and move on, forgiving ourselves and others, into the future we have in front of us now rather than longing for the future we had in front of us before.
This, right here, right now, is what your life is. The future in front of you is built on all the things that have happened to you and things you have done up to this point, even the bad things.
Step into that future, let go of the past, and be the best you you can be.
We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. What that looks like in practice is forgiving ourselves for a lot of things–selfishness, neglect, mistakes–that we don’t forgive anyone else for when the same harm is done to us.
But what if we flipped that and gave other people the benefit of the doubt and show them the same understanding we give ourselves? What if their statements that seem hurtful are merely ill thought out? What if what feels like neglect is really just busyness with something else? What if everyone is intending to do their best, but falls short over and over?
Just like we do.
Instead of anger, hurt, and frustration, our relationships would be peppered with compassion and understanding and the ability to grow and blossom.
Do you have any difficult people in your life? Chances are you can’t force them to be less toxic, but there are steps you can take to be less bothered by the encounter. In this article by Christine Carter, she suggests, among other things, that showing mercy to this difficult person will rebound to you:
Anne Lamott defines mercy as radical kindness bolstered by forgiveness, and it allows us to alter a communication dynamic, even when we are interacting with someone mired in anger or fear or jealousy. We do this by offering them a gift from our heart. You probably won’t be able to get rid of your negative thoughts about them, and you won’t be able to change them, but you can make an effort to be a loving person. Can you buy them a cup of coffee? Can you hold space for their suffering? Can you send a loving-kindness meditation their way?
Forgiveness takes this kindness to a whole new level. I used to think I couldn’t really forgive someone who’d hurt me until they’d asked for forgiveness, preferably in the form of a moving and remorseful apology letter.
But I’ve learned that to heal ourselves we must forgive whether or not we’re asked for forgiveness, and whether or not the person is still hurting us. When we do, we feel happier and more peaceful. This means that you might need to forgive the other person at the end of every day—or, on bad days, every hour. Forgiveness is an ongoing practice, not a one-time deal.
When we find ways to show mercy to even the person who has cost us sleep and love and even our well-being, something miraculous happens. “When we manage a flash of mercy for someone we don’t like, especially a truly awful person, including ourselves,” Anne Lamott writes, “we experience a great spiritual moment, a new point of view that can make us gasp.”
Here’s the real miracle: Our mercy boomerangs back to us. When we show radical kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance—and when we tell the truth in even the most difficult relationship—we start to show ourselves those things. We realize that we can love and forgive and accept even the most terrible aspects of our own being, even if it is only for a moment. We start to show ourselvesthe truth, and this makes us feel free.
Perhaps you can show that difficult person mercy today.