Ah, Mike, I love that last sentence….so true.
Sharon, re. your comment about being unable to forgive someone who isn’t seeking forgiveness….that’s not my experience, but I suspect our different understandings possibly arise from different perceptions around the meaning of forgiveness. My perception is that we don’t forgive others as a way of healing them or being nice to them; and that we don’t need an apology from them in order to forgive. Some people, I know, assume that forgiveness is tantamount to a gift that we generously give to others, or an indication that we no longer feel wounded by their actions, or even a sign that we’re willing to enter into a bosom-buddy relationship with them. To me, forgiveness is none of these things, and the attitude or perception of the other person isn’t relevant to my willingness to forgive. Why? Because forgiveness is about my attitude to the events and to the other person, not theirs, and is about me making peace with myself, not about them making peace with me.
Holding onto anger or resentment when it has outlived its purpose is, as Mike said, like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die…. I found that as long as that poison was at work within my system, it made me uncomfortable. I lived with it for years, until one day I decided that I wanted to be at peace even if ‘the other’ did not repent of the actions which hurt me, which he could not do because he could see no wrong in them. And so, instead of focusing on my hurt and maintaining my rage, and after I had addressed the issue with the other person to the best of my ability (futile though my efforts seemed to be), I chose to focus on what I’d learned and gained from the relevant experiences, and saw that without those experiences I would not have learned those things. At that point, although I could not condone the person’s actions, I could at least release the hurt and anger with which I had responded to them, and I could develop an appreciation of the role that he played in my personal development. I was then able to forgive him – even though he never knew or cared that I did so, because I had no further interactions with him – and find inner peace and get on with my life, strengthened, more loving, and more powerful than I had ever been before.
Re-reading what you wrote above, it sounds like our processes have been similar, with or without the ‘f’ word!