I consider myself a slow-to-anger type of person. I generally don’t get my feathers ruffled very easily. One day, Mark said to me (very sweetly and not upset at all), “I’m going to tell you something that’s going to make you mad.” I was immediately surprised and curious. What in the world could he possibly tell me that would change how I feel at that moment? I felt confident that I could choose something other than getting mad, especially given the heads up.
He proceeded to tell me about something that had happened. To my surprise, he was totally right. I started to feel angry and completely justified in it. What just happened? I was all happy, and now given new piece of information, I’m all upset.
Nothing in the world had actually changed. The circumstance triggering my anger had already occurred without me even knowing about it until now. The only change was in my thoughts, which created my feelings of anger and resentment.
I really don’t like how that feels.
Anger and resentment can feel purposeful in the moment. It certainly feels more powerful than feeling hurt. But does it ultimately serve me? I believe that anger is a secondary emotion that usually starts with something else like pain or disappointment, which then turns into anger.
So now what?
I didn’t want to feel anger or resentment toward this person who I was having those feelings about. But there it was: anger and resentment. Maybe I kind of did want to feel that way. I hashed the whole story out with with Mark (who was ahead of me in the process of letting it go) and I felt even more justified. Resentment was building. I came to wish that he hadn’t told me about it, because then I wouldn’t be dealing with those thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to manage my emotions. It was all someone else’s fault.
Eventually, I decided that something inside me had to change or else it was going to influence how I showed up around this person. I wanted to have kinder thoughts because that frankly feels better. I didn’t want anger and resentment to eat me up inside. If I can change my feelings (which means changing my thoughts), I know I can feel much better.
Forgiving means to stop feeling angry or resentful. That’s it. It doesn’t require a discussion or an apology or anyone making things “right.” It’s simply to stop feeling angry or resentful toward them. That can happen if I can find a new thought about it that serves me. Forgiving ultimately releases me from those negative feelings. I’m the one who benefits from forgiving! I have the power to do that.
It’s important to know that I can forgive someone (no longer feel anger and resentment) and also choose to limit how much I let them in my life. It’s an option. Many of us may say we have forgiven someone because we act nicely toward them, but inside we might actually harbor resentment or anger. That’s how you know if you actually have forgiven. It’s how you feel about them.
No one has the power to “make” me feel anything. Every emotion I feel is linked to the thoughts I’m having. Every single one. And the good news is, I have the authority to change my thoughts. I can find empowering and purposeful thoughts regarding my circumstances. I can also allow myself to feel and process negative emotions because that’s part of my journey and life experience too.
Anytime I want to be done feeling anger and resentment, I have the power to do that. It’s called forgiveness.
“When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”