When someone wrongs us, we get angry. It’s really that simple. The greater the wrong, the greater the anger.
And it’s easy to hold onto anger. If we don’t make an effort to get rid of it, it remains. It festers. It grows.
Anger becomes a desire for retribution, for vengeance. It turns into resentment, which turns into hate. Hate eats us alive from the inside.
But revenge is a normal motivation. For thousands of years, we’ve been taught that real men don’t let wrongs go unavenged. To forgive is the coward’s way; when we let our enemies off without so much as a talking-to, we invite them to injure us again.
It’s true, to a point. There are people out there who will keep pushing our boundaries until we make them stop.
But making them stop doesn’t have to be a matter of punishment or vengeance or retribution. We can make them stop by keeping our boundaries firm, by asking for help if we need it, by limiting or breaking off contact if we must.
More importantly, we can make them stop without letting them poison us. Because that’s exactly what anger is–slow-acting poison. It eats away at us, spreading to the other parts of our lives, infecting our relationships with other people until they choose not to be around us any more.
The poison was so thick in me five years ago–anger at those who had hurt me, at those who were luckier than I was, but mostly at myself–that when I released it I discovered I could see better. Literally. Sunlight was brighter, colors were clearer, shapes were sharper. I would never have believed it myself if I hadn’t experienced it.
It wasn’t possible until I learned how to forgive, to make myself vulnerable in order not to let the poison fill me again.
We have to become vulnerable to forgive. That’s the scary part, and the part that requires courage. But when we balance short-term vulnerability against long-term slow poison, I think it’s a no-brainer.
(If you’re interested in the program that helped me learn how to forgive as I’ve described above, you can check it out and sign up at discovery-training.com.)