It is inevitable that the people I love the most will disappointment or hurt me. This statement is not rooted in pessimism—it’s a statistical fact. Those with unlimited access to my heart are the ones with the greatest probability to cause harm.
In all facets of love, we are the most vulnerable.
We trust that the lucky few, or great many, that are granted admittance to this precious muscle nestled beneath our ribs will treat it kindly. In fact, I pray they do so. Because despite the fortress of muscle, tissue, and bone, it’s not nearly enough armor to defend against the most reckless.
But even humans with the most loving hearts are capable of damaging others. I know that I, as a child, sibling, lover, and friend, am as guilty as anyone else.
Whether it’s a failed commitment, an unintentional poke at an insecurity, or a complete betrayal of trust, hurt will happen. We are human, we are flawed, and we make mistakes.
“Maybe that’s because my natural inclination is giving people the benefit of doubt. I want to believe that, deep down, everyone’s core is good.”
—Just Keep Swimming, 11.13.13
In the wake of any significant conflict, if I find myself unable to cope with the aftermath, I write a letter to my antagonist in an effort to sort my thoughts. No sentence is off limits. They are blunt, honest and pointed. I saturate my letters with raw feeling until I am physically exhausted. Then breathless, I whisper “you are forgiven,” and I burn them.
With the exception of one, no person has ever received their letter. Probably best.
Forgiveness is not excusing an injustice. It’s not denying another the responsibility for causing hurt. It does not minimize the wrong-doing. It’s not a guarantee for reestablishing trust. In fact, it’s not a guarantee for reconciliation.
Forgiveness means un-balling your fist and letting go of the throat.
It’s a conscious decision to shed resentment and anger, and an opportunity for growth, empathy, and compassion. It’s powerful, and it’s our greatest chance for peace.
Forgiving a former lover for years of emotional terrorism is no easy feat. It didn’t happen all at once, and it took an overwhelming amount of strength.
“After all the shittiness and disrespect, I’m proud that I could wish that he find deep-rooted happiness, and mean it.”
—Just Keep Swimming, 1.16.14
It took strength to forgive a former friend for a blatant act of disrespect. It took strength to forgive a loved one for hurting my heart. It’s not easy to extend forgiveness to the reckless, and it’s even harder to do so without an apology. But at the end of the day, we have two options—let go or don’t.
My heart is not marred with scar tissue. No, quite the opposite. Like lifting, the body heals the tears and better adapts the muscle to handle the stimulus that caused the damage. Inevitably, I’m building a stronger heart.
Energy spent forgiving is so much more beneficial than energy spent resenting.
If I chose to harbor the resentment provoked by every individual who’s ever caused me pain, I’d drown. The weight of that negativity would sink me in an ocean of bitterness so deep, I’d be too weak to pull myself to the surface. And that bitterness would seep into everything I have, immediately tainting it, and ripping away any hope for good.
I will never allow hatred to consume me.
Instead, to my forgiven, I say “thank you for the experience.”