What are you like at forgiving others and getting over hurts with loved ones and colleagues? Some of us find this extremely hard to do. Minor upsets are easy to get over, of course. But, over time, unresolved, painful emotions can come at a major cost.

In workplaces, for example, apart from the cost to our own health and well-being, there is also the cost to other colleagues who are affected by the negative dynamics and to team performance overall.

The good news is that most of the hurts that we have are misunderstandings where we have jumped to the wrong conclusion. Many of these upsets will be relatively easy to get over. We settle down, find a kinder way to explain another’s behaviour, and find it easier to let go of any remaining hurt when the normal pattern of positive interactions resumes.

Some of us do this very quickly. It is a great strength of my wife and sons that they are very good at forgiving others and getting over hurts. Perhaps I have given them a lot of practice 🙂

But there are also major hurts, betrayals of trust, or a long history of hurtful interactions that are much harder to let go of. Certainly, painful emotions alert us that something needs to change.

Sometimes the change required is leaving a miserable relationship or workplace. This is particularly the case when the hurt or betrayal is very significant, the stressful dynamic is affecting our health or that of our children, and we have exhausted all reasonable attempts to influence change.

Of course it helps when the other person has taken responsibility for their part, genuinely apologised, and made amends through their actions. Sadly, this is not as common as it should be.

But if we allow our feelings to determine all of our responses, we will tend to make a bad situation worse, perhaps acting hurtfully ourselves or giving up on a relationship too early.

Whether we choose to work at or distance ourselves from a difficult relationship, there is still the challenge of what we do with those feelings of hurt, pain or betrayal.

There is an old saying that, when we hold onto grudges, it is a bit like drinking poison and expecting the other person to suffer.

So, sometimes we are letting go of hurt because of the benefits that are there for our own health and well-being. Other times, we are doing so for the benefit of others – our children or colleagues who are affected by the negative dynamics. Or we are letting go of hurt to put us in a better position to work at the relationship.

Wanting to let go of hurt is the most important part. And, to do this, we have to find a reason that is meaningful to us.

Yes, there is a time to talk about how we are feeling. We are social beings and many of us need to express how we are feeling with a trusted confidant. But if we become stuck in this place, it can become a rehearsing of the hurt, a ‘twisting of the knife’.

We have to balance expressing how we are feeling with reminders to ourselves, such as, ‘I want to let go of this’. We are better to rehearse thoughts and actions that help us to let go of unwanted feelings. Some people choose to pray or think good thoughts for the other person, wishing them well. Others choose kind gestures of goodwill towards that person, not always because it is reciprocated, but more because this is consistent with the person they want to be.

As we are letting go, we have to appreciate that it will only take a small reminder of the hurt to trigger a strong response. This is normal. We are right to find kinder explanations when we can and access support when this is needed.

But there is also a need for actions – perhaps with the relationship concerned, how we are thinking and behaving, and how we are managing our emotions.

Letting go of unwanted feelings does not always mean forgetting the hurt or betrayal. Nor does letting go always mean remaining in a hurtful dynamic. For those who choose to work at such a relationship, I often say it is like rebuilding trust, but this time with your eyes open.

Here I am talking about letting go of hurt, pain and betrayal to the point where our well-being returns and we can still live our life well.

We need to decide that our own well-being and that of others, is more important than our need to hold onto the hurt.

Quote of the week

“Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.” 

– Roy T. Bennett, Author

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