I used to be the girl who held on to grudges tightly. Everything was fine as long as you treated me right, but when you offended me, that was it. It would have been better if I at least confronted you about what you had done wrong. But I would do the opposite; I would keep quiet and let my relationship with you die a slow and painful death. It didn’t matter how many times you apologised. It didn’t matter that I knew that you were genuinely sorry. For me, the fact that you had done something wrong was a testament to your lack of character, and therefore it was not safe for me to have you in my life.
And so over the years, I lost many friends because of this behaviour. But sadly, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was protecting myself. If someone had hurt me or broken my trust, why should I have them in my life? If I keep them around, what was the guarantee that they wouldn’t do it again and again? With these questions, I kept on justifying my actions over and over, until the dead bodies of my relationships were stacked all around me.
Then one day I woke up and realised that I had very few people left in my life. I had cut myself off from almost everyone because they had all offended me. I didn’t like the way my life was looking so I got thinking: How come everyone else had so many friends? Was there something wrong with me?
The answer to these questions came from the most unexpected place: My elder sister’s experience. My sister’s friend did something terrible to her, so terrible that even thinking about it made smoke come out of my pores on her behalf. What struck me was that as we both spoke about it, my sister said something like: “We will both get over it and move on. Life happens.” I looked at her like she had lost her mind. Who gets over something like that? If it were to be me, I would have deleted his number from my phone like ten minutes ago! But true to her word, my sister forgave this person, and they resumed their relationship like nothing had happened. As far as I can see, all is well between both of them.
When I looked at what this person had done to my sister, it made a nonsense of what everyone else had done to me in the past. Then for the first time, I looked back at my life, at all the times I had hurt other people and how quickly they had forgiven me. I realised then that I, too, was guilty of what I had been crucifying others for. It’s just that since I knew what my motivations were, I could justify my behaviour, but since I didn’t know what their motivations were, then they were unforgivably evil. I came to the realisation that human beings will always hurt each other. If I was looking for people who would always behave perfectly, then I was never going to have any friends.
So now, I have worn my big girl pants (an euphemism for being mature enough to do something as an adult woman should). Anytime people offend/hurt me, I take time to ask myself some important questions: Did they do it on purpose? What were their motives? If I were in their shoes, would I have done the same thing? Are they genuinely remorseful? Does it seem like they will do it again?
The answers to these questions provide a lot of clarity. This does not mean that I allow people to walk all over me – some people are toxic to your peace of mind and cutting them off is absolutely necessary. However, I have noticed that now, I am more tolerant and understanding. I am able to sympathise with people. I now understand that most people always think of themselves first before thinking of me, and that is okay because I do the same thing too.
To be honest, wearing my big girl pants is not easy . Sometimes I forgive people who then go on to hurt me again, and I still forgive them because I know that if I was in their shoes, I would have done the exact same thing. And so, to convince myself that I was walking on the right path, I came up with an analogy: When I hold on to grudges, I may win some battles, but I will lose the war of life. But when I forgive people, I may lose some battles, but I will eventually win the war of life. Like John Donne wisely said, “No man is an Island.” To win in life, I need people in my corner, and if I throw people away just because they are not ‘perfect’, then life is going to be much harder for me. And the extra bonus is that it gives me more peace of mind and less wrinkles.
So which one do you want to win: a few battles or the war?
Do you cut of everyone who hurts/offends you or are you wearing your Big girl Pants?