Recently, the topics of compassion and forgiveness have been on my mind.
Some of this reflection stems from the types of clients I am seeing in counseling, but I also had been studying these topics for my own personal benefit. Throughout this same time period, I was asked to give a presentation on "How to grow closer to your family" at a local church meeting. As I prepared for that presentation, I realized that selfishness and pride are the ultimate destroyers of a family, whereas as compassion and love are the ultimate binders that keep a family strong.
Just before I gave my presentation, I learned a good lesson about compassion in my own life. For the last two years, I had struggled to fully forgive some women that had hurt me deeply. Their actions (and my poor reactions) started a chain of events that severed friendships in our social circle.
A couple days before my presentation, I learned some information about these women that helped me finish my journey of forgiveness. Finally, I was able to have compassion on them. Finally allowing myself to fully forgive them and let the pain go was a fantastic feeling.
About two years ago, the actions of a few women hurt my feelings. Over time, the pain became so deep (on both sides) that these women couldn't even acknowledge my second pregnancy. They acted like I didn't exist, even though they were close friends of the family. When I tried to reach out to them, I was rejected. When I let my anger get the best of me, and I said something snappy, I felt even more rejected and isolated because it seemed like they were swaying other people against me too. Luckily, I have a compassionate husband who did his best to comfort me, and in time I made new friends that helped ease the pain.
For months I wracked my brain to determine how I had wronged them so deeply. I guessed at some personality traits where I could soften, but I knew there had to be more to the story. I wasn't perfect, and I could work to overcome my flaws. Yet, somehow all my effort was never enough to restore the relationships with these women. The air was still tense if we were ever in the same room together.
Then, a month ago I figured it out.
I learned that one of the women had long struggled against depression, with this information I was able to put together the pieces of our friendship struggle. Her medication would have changed about the same time we had our first big fight. All the events that happened two years ago made sense! I could see her chain of logic that slowly unraveled our friendship.
I finally was able to see this woman through compassionate eyes.
I could have mercy on her for simply being human.
Compassion allowed me to understand why she acted the way she acted.
Continuing to use our "compassion glasses," my husband and I discussed the actions of the other women that hurt me so deeply, and we were able to recognize their pain as well. As we analyzed their situations and grievances through merciful eyes, the last bits of anger that had resided in my heart were free to leave. The burden I had carried around for two years was lifted of my heart. I could stop blaming them because I could understand why they thought their actions were okay.
For two years I had tried to heal from heartache, and I finally was free.
Compassion is a powerful thing.
Oftentimes people hold onto hurt in order to hold onto the power they think comes with being "the victim." When friendships or family relationships are at stake, the thought that "he/she was definitely in the wrong, and I'm completely innocent" is a deceptive thought. Pain must continually be rationalized, otherwise the "victim" would have to let it go and forgive. Blaming the other person doesn't heal the relationship; compassion heals the relationship.
Continuing to cast blame on a friend or family member only boosts your own selfish pride. If you are seeking to raise yourself higher than the other person, you are building your pride. If you find yourself continuing to talk badly about them after the event is over, you are choosing not to heal. If you find yourself rationalizing how he/she wrong and you are right, then you are not healing. Relationships are between two people; it is unfair to lay all responsibility at the other person's feet.
If you want to heal, if you want to fully forgive, then you must allow compassion to first enter your own heart. Compassion and love will then allow you to fully forgive the other person for their wrongs.
Choosing to hold onto the pain is choosing to fester.
Do you really want to fester?
Choose to forgive. Choose compassion.
Labels: Emotional Health, Marriage