Hard To Forgive, But Harder Not To

by SuzyQ
(Virginia)

Some things are inherited, like blue eyes or fair skin. Other things, like quirky personality traits or a passion for pastrami sandwiches, may also be handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes we end up inheriting the best and worst of our parents' qualities. However, when we exhibit the same negative characteristics that plague our parents, it's a signal to do some soul-searching and figure out why it happens, and how we can change.

I inherited a lot from my dad. His clear skin. His passion for photography. His generosity toward others. I also inherited my dad?s tendency to hold grudges: his inability to forgive.

My dad was a very sensitive man, who grew up during the great depression. The oldest of two sons, he was the responsible one, while his younger brother (my uncle), was coddled and spoiled. Although I'm no psychiatrist, I think this was one of the reasons my dad ended up trying to protect himself from getting hurt by others. If someone wronged him, he refused to forgive and held a grudge for what seemed forever.



Unfortunately, I have also inherited this trait. Sometimes I find it very hard to forgive others for their transgressions. However, I've also found that although it is hard to let things go, it's harder NOT to. Because carrying that type of stress around is deleterious to both your physical AND emotional health.

Here, in no particular order, are a few things which I find hard or nearly impossible, to forgive. But I'm working on them!

1. People who tell you they're going to call you to get together, but never do. If someone doesn't want to call you, they shouldn't make that commitment!
2. People who borrow books or kitchen gadgets and don?t return them. I know I can just say "no," but like my dad, I'm generous toward my neighbors.
3. People who take credit for the work that you do, without acknowledging your contributions. This is just plain wrong. However, in a work situation, you can't always assert yourself in front of the boss, because you'll likely lose your job.
4. People who are two-faced and perpetually stab you in the back. An old Chinese proverb says, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!" If you know that someone is pretending to be your friend but ends up sabotaging you, it's time to end that relationship.

And on a personal level, there are a few things in my own life that I am having a hard time forgiving. And it's myself!

1. I have a hard time forgiving myself for not being more assertive when I was growing up. I allowed my parents to control me long after it was necessary. My desire to please them resulted in my life taking turns and paths that were not in my best interests. (But, I survived!)
2. I have a hard time forgiving myself for the part that I played in the breakup of my first marriage. Looking back, I was afraid to be honest, truthful and communicative with my spouse. This inability to connect led to the failure of the marriage. (Again, I survived, but it was a difficult path to travel.)

Holding a grudge and not being able to forgive (or forget) is natural for many people. But it is also unhealthy, if not managed appropriately. We all have choices, and for now, my choice is to try and move past any situations that cause me anguish. Sure, I still find it hard to forgive a friend who says they'll be inviting me for dinner and then they don't. I also get seriously fired up when a boss claims total credit for a report that I toiled over. But letting these feelings fester just make things worse, and there's more to life than harboring grudges.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Great article, SuzyQ! You make a lot of good points, and you are very honest about yourself. Keep up the good work, and keep taking responsibility for your part of any situation, and you'll find it easier and easier to move toward love and forgiveness.

My best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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