As we travel through this experience of life, we’re certain to encounter situations that result in our feeling frustration, anger, or hurt. Some people, it seems, thrive through the creation of discord, pain, and anguish—or at the very least, don’t seem to care very much about the feelings of others. In many cases, the people who harm others are simply lashing out because they feel they have been mistreated—and they know of no better way to deal with their own feelings of angst than to take them out on others.
Nearly all religions suggest that we follow “The Golden Rule”—that is, treat others as we would like to be treated. This is an excellent way to live, for it allows us all to form relationships based upon understanding, grace, and mutual respect. There’s another important tool that may help us live in a more enlightened way. It’s called forgiveness—and it may easily be applied whether a perceived wrong was done today, decades ago, or even eons ago.
So let’s think about the value of forgiveness for a moment. If you’re driving to work and someone cuts you off in traffic, you’re likely to feel angry—for they risked your safety and the safety of others through their carelessness. If you don’t deal with this anger and fully resolve it, what happens? It will usually “simmer” for awhile just under the surface. Then, a few minutes later, when someone ahead of you at the light is too slow in pulling out, your impatience and unresolved anger quickly boils over. Suppose you pound on your horn and they, in turn, make a rude gesture. Now they’re angry and you’ve become even more angry—and so on. When you finally do arrive at work, the day hasn’t even really begun yet and you’re already ticked off! Worse yet, you’ve now upset someone else—and this ugly chain of anger is likely to expand and spread throughout our world like ripples in a pond.
If we can detach ourselves from our emotions for just a moment, perhaps we can discover a better way to respond to this “lesson”. First, we don’t really know why the person cut you off in the first place. Perhaps a close friend or loved one was just taken to the hospital and they were in a panic, racing to get there. It may be that they are upset over a recent breakup or falling out with a friend. Or perhaps they really were just being rude and inconsiderate. So what? If you become angry over their perceived mistreatment, the only person you’re hurting by feeling this anger is you. They don’t care—in fact, by now, they’re long gone. If you think of this situation at least a dozen more times throughout the day and you feel a resurgence of anger over it each time, you will have let yourself be victimized by the situation a dozen more times! Not only that, but each time you allow yourself feel this anger you become even more likely to pass it on to someone else.
So now, whenever I’m feeling angry, frustrated, or resentful, I try to find and express forgiveness instead. If I’m faced with a situation similar to our previous example, I consider that the person who cut me off may not have done it intentionally—and even if they did, it will be something that they will eventually have to face (karma-wise, that is). I let that be their burden–not mine. Instead of hurting myself with anger, I wish them safety and wellness, forgive them, and let the situation go. At the same time, to have a truly “clean slate”, I forgive myself for any ill feelings I may have initially felt. They may not suggest the best way to address the situation, but they are perfectly understandable. Finally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help someone else (by forgiving them and offering them well wishes) and appreciate the fact that I’ve taken one more step toward breaking a self-destructive habit. By taking “the high road”, I’ll have overcome a rather difficult challenge and maintained a positive attitude despite circumstances to the contrary.
So the next time you feel frustrated, hurt, or angry, why not try to accept, forgive, and let go instead? Once you’ve pulled that simmering pot of emotions off the stove, it won’t boil over—and no one will get burned!
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