We’ve all had others upset us from time to time. Whether those others are family members, co-workers, friends, or complete strangers, we’ve all been there with feelings of anger, resentment, despair, embarrassment, etc.
In recent years, there has been increasing talk from "the experts” about “letting go of baggage,” “getting on with our lives,” and “leaving the past behind.” I think we’ll all agree that this makes a lot of sense. The past is past but the future is as wide open as we allow it to be. However, as we all know, pains can fester and simmer and still boil over, causing us to not let go, not forget the past, and to stall out in our lives.
The thing I wonder about is, if “letting go of baggage” is the answer, where should it start? Of course, for things that happened in the distant past, there is no better time than the present for freeing yourself for future successes by letting go of the pains of the past. However, for new events and times when others upset you, I believe the real answer is in starting the “letting go” process immediately when the event occurs.
Is this easy to do? No. Do I claim anywhere close to have all the answers or even be “good” at this. Absolutely not. However, I do know that not letting go of the past and not forgiving others creates a “productivity paralysis” which prevents the harmed individual from going forward even though, in most cases, the person who caused the harm goes on happily with their life, often completely unaware of the pain they caused. What sense does that make for us? Why let a mistake on someone else’s part create a life of unhappiness and paralysis for ourselves? Again – what sense does that make?
When someone causes us pain, no matter the reason, I believe there are several things to think about. First of all, we all come from different paradigms. That is, we all have different backgrounds, different things we’ve been taught, and different values. Fact is, out of those differences, we will hurt one another from time to time; there is simply no avoiding that. In all of our relationships, we must realize upfront that occasional pain, both ways, is inevitable.
Next, we must realize that, at any given moment, we all have different perspectives, both emotionally and intellectually. Emotionally, I may be having a “down” day and you may be having an “up” day. This can greatly affect how we approach situations and interact with one another that day. You might say something on one day which will not phase me at all but, if you say it on one of my “down” days, it may leave me hurt or confused. Intellectually, what we know about a situation will also affect our perspective. You may have some advanced insight that I don’t have, making you view things differently than I do.
Finally, we all make mistakes. When we realize this, it can make the forgiveness process much easier and something which can start immediately. I have no doubt that there have been countless times in my life when I have hurt others and had no idea that I’d ever hurt them. I feel bad about that and would ask for their forgiveness if I knew of the situations. However, I don’t and I surely hope that stupid moves on my part in the past are not holding them back from their own future successes.
The next time you catch yourself holding a grudge or remembering a past hurt, take the psychologists’ advice and let go of the baggage, get on with your life. However, in the future, as soon as those pains of hurt set in, start the “letting go” immediately. When you do this, you, not others, are responsible for your future success and happiness. Otherwise, you’re just allowing yourself, your happiness, your success, to be held hostage by someone else. Again, I ask -- what sense does that make?