Relationships: The Proving Ground of Forgiveness
By Daniel Tipton, MA
Why are relationships so hard?
One of the reasons is that the person with whom you've chosen to journey represents a mirror; a reflection of yourself. When you get angry at the other person, it is because you are seeing something about yourself in them.
As hard as this may be to believe sometimes, it is always the truth. When you decide to commit to a person, you are committing to facing the most vulnerable parts of yourself. When you share deeply with somebody, your flaws (and also your greatest strengths) inevitably surface. It can be frightening to face vulnerability. And when you are frightened, when your core self seems to be threatened, the primitive brain often activates and goes into fight or flight mode. You may see it as something the other person says or does, but your reactions are always due to a "threat" to something within yourself.
Herein lies the beauty and necessity of relationships.
If you are triggered, it is certainly because there is something inside you that is asking for healing. In your heated moments of yelling, name-calling, etc..., is the little voice inside you saying, "Please, love me. I am so afraid."
This is why forgiveness is the ultimate calling in any relationship. It is the greatest tool, in my opinion, for leading a happy and healthy life. A relationship presents you with innumerable opportunities to practice, make mistakes, and try again.
Forgiveness is the answer to every question. There will always be situations that seem too complex, but with free-flowing love and acceptance, they can be addressed with greater ease. An important thing to remember is that you don't forgive the other person to pardon them from wrongdoing. You forgive to set them free and also release yourself from the burden of holding a grievance.
When you choose to forgive, you are forgiving the part of yourself you judged and attributed to the other person. What a loving thing to do for yourself!
Ideally, all of us could let go of grievances right away. It is difficult and we often could use somebody to offer validation and mediate our reactions. Sometimes, a third party is helpful for allowing strong emotions to be brought forth, respected, organized, and reframed. This is how a good couples counselor can help you out of a stuck place in your relationship.
When in doubt, forgive.