There are two sides of forgiveness; sometimes we only remember one, sometimes we don't remember either of them.
What are they? Forgiveness for yourself AND forgiveness for others.
When I first started a draft of this article (...back in September of 2014... told you guys I have drafts on drafts backlogged like crazy), I had titled this "forgiveness for yourself." At that point in my life, I was going through some really trying times, getting back up on my feet (both physically and mentally) after my surgery. Throughout the ordeal, I was unbelievably hard on myself. Never mind forgiving others- I couldn't even forgive my own self for my wrongdoings and having struggles!
Fast-forward to today, and I realize it's a two-part process. We must first learn to forgive ourselves, then to never forget to follow up with extending that forgiveness to others (if there are others involved in the situation).
Some people are good at forgiving others but not themselves, some people are good at forgiving themselves only, and some are good at neither. We all should strive to be good at BOTH.
I'm not very good at either one sometimes. It took me a long time to begrudgingly admit that, but hey, the first step to improving at something is identifying the problem, right? I'm the type that has trouble with forgiving myself because I hold myself to such high expectations. Whenever something goes wrong, my immediate instinct is to start reviewing what I possibly did that resulted in an unfavorable outcome- to a fault, where I start rationalizing someone else's bad behavior as my fault. But also, I do struggle with placing high expectation on others, therefore it can be hard for me to get over the disappointment when things in life inevitably go wrong sometimes. So, let's start there:
"We tend to want the other person to be a finished product while we give ourselves the grace to evolve."
"We tend to judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intentions."
-Albert F. Schlieder
1. Towards Strangers: A little empathy goes a long way. That rude a**hole in front of you at the grocery store who totally cut you off and was obnoxiously brash to the cashier may have had the worst day in his life. Of course, this doesn't excuse his behavior, but everyone has their stories and struggles- including YOU. You have no idea what is going on in someone else's life.
Let's be honest... you've probably leaned on a horn when you were having a bad day, pressed the "close" elevator button when someone is headed our way, or otherwise took out our negative emotions on an undeserving person. But we tend to gloss over those moments and instead fixate on when other people do it, don't we?
We could all use a little understanding and compassion from time to time- wouldn't you appreciate a stranger's kind words during your tough days? I know it's happened to me on days when my behavior was less than deserving of it, yet it was appreciated that much more. Why not try to be that person for another, and forgive.
2. Towards Loved Ones: In Korean culture, most mothers tend to be very self-sacrificing and never show any of their pain or struggles in front of your kids. My mother was this x 10. To the point where I thought she was utterly perfect and the pinnacle role model.
This actually resulted in us fighting quite a bit until I grew up some more and realized her human-ness. I would have the toughest time forgiving her for her wrongdoings because I had expected her to be this perfect robot human that did no wrong, because in my eyes, she had displayed herself to always have everything together- so any misstep seemed like such an offense in my eyes. Until I grew the heck up, and realized that my mother and my loved ones are all humans that make mistakes and have their own battles to face.
As for significant others, I feel like this quote sums it up:
"Even when we're right, we may be wrong. If--in the process of debate-- we've hurt the heart of another being, it matters not whether we issued a perfectly executed unbroken chain of logic. In the end, that's an argument we've lost, because whatever we might have gained in intellectual pride, we surely lost in character."
Who cares about the details of an argument if it's hurting more than it's helping? A little forgiveness and understanding is what true love is about.
3. Towards Ourselves: This is for those people out there that beat themselves up so badly when things go wrong. Instead of slipping down the slope of thoughts of "I am undeserving," "I'm a moron," or "I suck," how about we start to look inward, embrace our humanness, and learn to move forward with lessons learned? Forgiveness for yourself is understanding your own weaknesses, but learning more about yourself and how to move forward with that knowledge. However, it is NOT saying that you're human, so oh well, it is the way it is, and then repeating those same mistakes- that is an excuse, a cop-out. Not forgiveness and learning.
TRUE forgiveness for all includes acknowledging the wrongs, acceptance, and genuinely moving on past it with an open heart. It is NOT skimming over the issue to hastily move on because it's too uncomfortable to deal with.
Too many times do we issue apologies and forgiveness when we have not truly accepted it or moved on, therefore it later rears its ugly head when similar scenarios appear. It's not a perfect science though; this is a learning process after all. As said in that quote earlier, none of us are finished products and we will keep messing up. But learning from it and actually making changes in our behaviors is what helps us move forward and heal. Forgiving yourself, and others.