What is the difference between protecting yourself and holding a grudge? I know I should forgive the person who offended me, but I also want to protect myself because this person hasn’t changed their behavior or apologized. Any advice?
I think what you are really asking is, how can you forgive this person and not hold a grudge, while still protecting yourself from further abuse?
It would help if you could look at this offense from a different (more accurate) perspective and understand what forgiving really means. In order to see the situation more accurately, you must understand a few principles of human behavior. (I know I have covered these principles before, but they are critical in this situation.)
Principle 1: Most bad behavior is not about you; it is about the person’s fear about themselves
Most people who behave badly are afraid of loss or failure. These fears can create some really bad behavior. Remember that people who are in fear aren’t capable of treating you in an appropriate or respectful way. Their insecurity makes them selfish and mean.
Principle 2: You are a work in progress and so is this other person
You must remember we are all struggling, scared, divine, amazing students in the classroom of life, and we are here to learn and grow. We must give other people permission to be imperfect at times and make some allowances for what they don’t know or didn’t see. When you give this permission to other people, you also give it to yourself.
Principle 3: Every situation is in your life to teach you something
Every person in your life (and the problems that person creates) is here to serve you in your process of learning and growth. The people who offend you will facilitate some of your most important lessons.
Forgiveness is one of those lessons, but let me explain what forgiving really means. It does not mean forgetting what they did to you and opening yourself up to further abuse. It does not mean trusting the person again. It does not mean staying in a relationship with this person.
Forgiving is just about changing how you feel
It is about replacing your feelings of resentment and anger with something more constructive, like love. In every moment, you get to decide how you will feel about this situation. You can experience it from a place of fear (lack, self-pity and protectiveness) or you can experience it from a place of love (wisdom, compassion and abundance). I recommend love.
When you choose love, you understand this incident was in your life to help you grow, so this person actually served you by offending you. Apparently you needed some practice pulling yourself out of victim mode, letting small things go, enforcing boundaries or defending yourself.
Staying angry about this beautiful (though painful) lesson is a waste of time. When you understand this truth, it becomes easier to let it go.
Choosing love also means seeing other people and their behavior accurately. When you understand their behavior was motivated by their fears about their own value, you won't need to take it personally. You must remember you are bulletproof and cannot be diminished, because your value is infinite and absolute.
You can protect yourself, in any moment, by not getting offended. You can choose to let offenses bounce off. You can wish them well on their journey and move on, without another thought. Or you can hold onto the pain, create unnecessary drama and suffer over it for years or even decades. It’s totally up to you.
Confucius said, “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
I recommend that you let it go. Let go of your need to cast this person as the bad guy. Choose to see yourself and this person as the same (as struggling, scared, divine amazing beings in process) and give them (and yourself) a clean slate. This doesn’t mean you have to be friends, trust them or spend time with them though. You can absolutely love them from afar.
There may be quite a few people in your life that you prefer to love from afar, and this is probably better for everyone. In this place, you can stay safe and protect yourself, but you aren’t holding a grudge.
I hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.