The hardest person to forgive

A while back, I had some interactions with a couple of people that weren’t very pleasant.  They wanted to start a business, yet as I sought out the opinions of those I trusted, I realized that I was not being considered with much fairness. 

I thus decided to bring the relationship to a close.  Yet, it took me a while to mentally move on.  I had brought the physical relationships to a close, but mentally I was still quite involved.  I felt pain at having not been treated with fairness. 

My pain would come up randomly.  In my early morning meditation.  At the gym.  At the supermarket.  While watching a show on TV. 

I kept on replaying different scenarios in my head, wishing I had done things differently in particular situations.  “Maybe if I had been smarter, or maybe if I had been less naïve, would things be different”.  I talked about it with those around me, at one point exhausting my poor husband with my analysis.

To be honest, I myself couldn’t understand what it was I wanted by mentally holding on.  Did I want to vent my pain, as a supportive person listened?  Well I did that, but that didn’t seem to be the solution.  Was I seeking to rectify the situation in my mind, going over key decision points endlessly, and coming up with better actions I could have taken?  That seemed closer to what I wanted, but not quite. 

Many people define the act of forgiveness as occurring when we choose to no longer want to change the past.  Going over situations in my head and changing the decisions I had made over and over was a sign that major forgiveness needed to happen.  Once I forgave, I could accept that the past happened and I could give up trying to change it.  I could accept that the behavior of others occurred without wanting to go back in the past to change it (though that does not mean I must accept these people in my life now). 

So certainly forgiveness was needed.  Yet, I spent quite a while choosing to forgive the other party, but it wasn’t doing the trick.  And then, one day in meditation I realized what was going on.  I had forgiven those I had dealt with, but I hadn’t forgiven myself. 

I kept on replaying scenes wishing I had done some things differently.  I kept on beating myself up for being so “naïve” and “gullible”.  I kept on going back to the past with what I knew today, wanting to choose differently.  And then I realized that often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. 

We often have to forgive ourselves for:

  • Intellectually not having the information needed to make better decisions and…
  • Emotionally not having the capacity to make better decisions despite knowing and having all of the information we need. 

Forgiving ourselves for emotionally not being at a certain capacity is the hardest. 

I have often been hard on myself for not having the information necessary to make better decisions (the intellectual piece).  Once I have the information, I keep on replaying the past in my head, imagining much better outcomes.  Yet, up until recently, what I often did not realize is that we are also constrained by what we can do emotionally, and our emotional capacity grows with time and experience.  Rarely can we jump ahead here. 

I often heard of Maya Angelou advice “When you know better, you do better” and it wasn’t until this real life situation that I really stepped into it.  So maybe I was naïve.  Maybe I was a bit gullible.  That was my emotional capacity then and it’s different now.  I couldn’t make the better decision then with the capacity that I have now, because that was then and now is now.  Oprah has a great video where she speaks of this great lesson by Maya Angelou.  Scroll to 1 minute and 52 seconds (1:52) and you will see her speak of this wonderful piece of advice. 

So what can help you forgive the hardest person to forgive? 

Understanding that “when you know better, you do better”.  That in that previous situation in the past, you simply didn’t know better and that there was no way for you to know better.  The laws of nature, society, whatever, had kept your intellectual, and most importantly, emotional capacity at the level it had been.  Asking that person you were in the past to do differently is equivalent to asking a 1 month old to play Mozart. 

I felt myself forgiving, everybody and especially myself, almost immediately.

I hope this article is of service to you. 

Do you know someone who would benefit from forgiving themselves? Share this article with them, or share it with your friends and family so they can also start creating the life they want to live.  As always, leave a comment or question below, I would love to hear from you.