Martin tells me he cannot forgive his dad who was violent and demeaning towards him. “He never showed any affection and every time he would speak to me, it was either to put me down or to criticize what I was doing. I grew up thinking that I was useless and that I was worth nothing. Today, even though I own a successful business, there’s still something broken inside me. I resent him for being such an incompetent father. This is draining and some days, I can barely function.”
Martin knows he should forgive his dad because the anger, the hatred and the need for vengeance are eating him alive, literally. Anger comes at price – a hefty one that is. It takes up a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy to stay angry, and this energy is no longer available to other spheres of your life. This feeling is a hindrance and can have very detrimental impacts in your professional life, notably your efficiency at work, your profitability, your productivity and also in your personal life through your relationships, your physical and psychological health and, in the end, on your happiness. Simply put: one cannot feel anger and happiness at the same time.
Negative feelings such as anger and hatred are like a hole in your fuel tank. It doesn’t matter how much fuel you keep putting in, it will keep leaking. And this leak can be costly.
When your heart is filled with rage, you are maintaining a negative connection to the other person and this takes up a lot of mental energy. You have to be aware of the cost of hatred before you can start to forgive. To forgive is to severe the link to this detrimental relationship. It is to stop putting your psychological energy into this relationship. In short, it is the only possible way towards peace of mind and happiness.
But to get there, we must first accept that human beings are human… sometimes weak, flawed, good and sometimes mean.
You may want to meet with the person you are angry at and speak your mind: “I no longer want to live with these negative feelings between us, we are both missing out on what could be quality time. I have thought about it and it is time to move one. I no longer want hold a grudge.” If the other is open and wants to move on, it could be a great opportunity to grow for both of you. But you also have to keep in mind that the other may not be ready.
We do not need anyone’s permission or approval to forgive. In fact, it is not essential to meet with the person we are angry at. He or she could be in an aggressive state of mind, which would make him or her unavailable to us. Sometimes, the person is dead. Therefore, we can forgive without his or her knowing. If we are waiting for the person to forgive us, we will remain dependent, never fully liberated since we will always be waiting for his or her “decision”.
However, it is possible that the other is not at the same point we are at. In some cases, the person may not be aware of his or her offensive behaviour. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a very personal and very liberating step.
Some will write a letter to liberate themselves without ever sending it to its recipient. The idea is to do it for yourself and have no expectation in return. It is about regaining your freedom to live your life to the fullest without carrying a burden on your shoulders.
“Forgiveness is more than a feeling – it is a force that triggers remarkable effects”
– Marcelle Auclair
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach