Last week, I posted about how I was working on ways to reduce stress in my life. This week, a recap of how the first step went and what to do next.
If you want to catch up on what I’ve been learning, be sure to see the other posts here.
Previously, I wrote about the first key to reducing stress – forgiving yourself. And while I can’t claim perfection in that endeavor, I can say I have made great strides. But my stress level hasn’t reduced in any significant manner. In fact, this last week it went up. Time to move on to suggestion two.
From a great article on 100 ways to reduce stress, I’m just going down the list. Next up after forgiving myself is forgiving others for their offenses against me.
Uh oh. This could be tricky.
While I say that with an element of humor, this truly could be a difficult area for me. especially when the offense has hurt me deeply. My base, inner instincts want to jump up and lash out, have them feel the pain that I felt. Luckily, those base instincts generally lose, and I don’t indulge them. But the hurt and the pain and the anger have to go somewhere. So internalize them.
And of course, the result is a hair trigger on things that really shouldn’t matter, or at least shouldn’t be that big of a deal. My daughter not doing the dishes, the dog rooting through the trash in the bathroom, the bus having no space for my bike – none of these should induce rage. Yet, when my daughter decided to show me the “make-up” she made for her Halloween costume using crayons and half a stick of butter, I blew like Vesuvius. I was shaking from anger.
Considering I already have two stents in place around my heart, that level of stress monstering is just not healthy. Nor is it fair.
So how do I begin to forgive those who have caused me some offense?
I guess the first step is to realize that most often, it isn’t about me. That the majority of the time, the perceived offense comes from someone who has their own demons to battle, who has not faced their own issues, so they leave a wake of “destruction” behind them. They often don’t even realize they are doing it. They are so wrapped up in their own issues, their own drama, that consideration of how they are affecting others is way down the awareness list.
Granted, some folks do it intentionally. But they too deserve more pity than anger. They are acting out of some pain, some damage that has been done to them. Maybe you caused it. Most often it’s pent up and you just happen to be the lucky one that gets the brunt of it. And sometimes, you’re the only one they feel can handle it.
So I think it helps to realize that they are hurting. You just got to b the one they released that onto.
But another step is to realize, very often, the things that hurt you are things you are just as guilty of doing. For example, someone hurts you because they’re just frustrated and you’re the first target. How many of us can say they’ve never taken out frustration or anger on the wrong person, just because they were there? We don;t feel great about it afterward. We know the hurt is causes. And yet, we’ll fall into that trap.
More and more, I realize that we have to come from a place of forgiveness. That we need to start from a place of trying to understand what pain they have had that would cause them to want to lash out, to hurt, whether consciously or not. They may not even know what the pain is, or believe they have gotten past it.
It may be that someone left them suddenly without warning, breaking their heart in the process. This leaves them scared to open their heart fully, and they may act in ways to avoid that pain again, sabotaging a relationship in the process. Or perhaps they were cheated on, and have a very hard time trusting. Their desire to avoid that happening again results in them looking for signs of cheating of dishonesty. And instead of growing in the relationship, looking for the next great thing in their lives, they are looking for why they should be exiting the relationship. So they act in ways that hurt their partner.
Can we be angry at these behaviors? I don’t think so. These are people who have been hurt, whose pain is still fresh, even if the cause of the pain is long past. They are still haunted by that pain. Until they can deal with that, they will act in ways that hurt others and, by extension, hurt themselves.
My lesson is simple – forgive. It’s not about me. If I’ve forgiven myself for my mistakes (I am my own worst critic), then I should be able to easily forgive others for theirs.