Another part of eventually mending our relationships is forgiveness. Once we decide we want to continue the relationship, we need to move ahead to forgiveness. If we hold onto rancor, our relationships will never be healed. More than that, we’re harmed. As the saying goes, resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.
Don’t expect or require people to admit they were wrong. Yes, it would be nice, but it’s common for people who’ve changed their mind to not realize they’ve changed it. In fact, they’ll swear they haven’t. The people who study memory have proven that we misremember the past all the time. One study asked people to reread a diary from their younger self, and participants expressed surprise that they’d been depressed or that they’d thought so differently when they were younger. Further, we add stuff to our memories and remember events that actually didn’t happen. There are people who’ve even had false memories. I could swear I know where I was on 9/11, but the research shows that I’m probably wrong.
Why do we misremember? Two reasons: As we remember things, we change the details. We weren’t actually in a car driving home. We might have actually been in the car but not driving home. Often times, we infer things that weren’t stated, and then those become remembered even though they didn’t actually happen. But, most importantly for this topic, is when we misremember what we were thinking. That’s because we humans want to see ourselves in a better light.
Keep this in mind when we hope that people change their mind or that what we’re saying and doing makes a difference. The important thing is that they do change their mind, not that they realize it and apologize.
After all, what does the apology itself matter? Does it just make us feel better about ourselves? Let’s leave our ego out of this and focus on the results. Ego means we must make other people wrong in order to feel right. Instead, just be grateful they did change their minds.
So how do we forgive them? That’s a huge topic in itself. When we hold a resentment, we’re the ones being judgmental. Not only are we hurting ourselves, but we’re also putting ourselves above another person, trying to control another person and forgetting our essential humanity. We are being arrogant.
Instead, recognize that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Our main job as humans on this earth is to improve our own selves, not others. And that’s a good thing because the only thing we can change is ourselves.
If we cut the strings of resentment and bitterness, we can realize that we’re all just doing our best, even when it doesn’t seem good enough. That’s the essence of the human condition.
Former linebacker Orlando Bowen talks about the South African concept of ubuntu when he describes why he forgave the cops who beat him unmercifully and ended his career as a professional football player. He uses ubuntu because it is about how all of our actions affect everyone else. He says that when we withhold forgiveness, we are disconnected from them. Forgiveness helps us to find our way back.
Allow other people the grace of being human, just like you need. We all need grace. And we all need connection.