“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place” – Iain Thomas
There is no one who has lived a life in which everything has gone perfectly. We have all made mistakes, wronged others and been wronged. The question becomes then, how do we handle situations like these?
The topic of forgiveness came into my mind after watching a video of a holocaust survivor, Eva Mozes Kor, who explained why she forgave all Nazis, and in particular, Dr Josef Mengele (also known as the angel of death), who had experimented on her and her sister. Kor explained that she understood not everyone in the Jewish community would stand behind her decision to forgive him, but wanted to impress that her decision was not for the peace of mind of the Nazis, nor did it erase what they had done. She said, “I discovered I had the power to forgive. No one could give me that power, and no one could take it away. It was all mine to use in any way I wished. That became an interesting thing, because as a victim of 50 years, I did not think I had any power over my life.” After writing her letter, she explained, ““I felt free, free from Auschwitz, free from Mengele”, further calling her forgiveness, “an act of self-healing, self-liberation, [and] self-empowerment”. The last words that she imparted were these, “We cannot change what happened. That is the tragic part. But we can change how we relate to it.”
Those last words are applicable to all of us, even if what we need to forgive is something minor. What we have to accept is that we cannot change the actions of the past, but instead, we can choose how we build our lives around it. It is not an easy process, and it involves disrupting negative thoughts that will inevitably arise when you have been hurt. For example, “You are damaged. You have been wronged. You will never be the same.” When we think these things, we are forced to live in the past, remembering our pain, instead of focusing on the present and future. Forgiving returns control to our lives. It removes us from being the victim, and allows us to be in charge of our narrative again. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength, and personal growth. When you forgive someone for something, you are not saying that it never happened. You are not diminishing how much it hurt you, or how traumatic the event was. Instead, you are recognising all of those things, but also choosing not to let it control your life anymore.
I understand that some people may feel that things have been done to them, which they simply cannot forgive. I cannot tell you that you have to forgive. It is up to you to learn to cope with those issues, and move on healthily. At the end of the day, what better revenge is there, than for a person who once held power over you to realise that they are no longer in control?