Sometimes in your life you have a cycle of revenge.  You may think of it as getting back at one another, one-upping, however you may phrase it.  Revenge might sound like a strong word for some of the interactions in your life—these might be small acts and low-stakes, but revenge all the same.

Perhaps you make a small, critical comment to your husband to pay him back for something he’s done.  Maybe it’s refusing to do certain things at work because a co-worker failed to help you out at certain times.  Perhaps it’s something larger like not going to a family member’s birthday party, refusing much-needed help, or giving out harmful gossip.

As you probably realize, the terrible thing about revenge is that it can create a cycle.  Not only can the revenge keep going back and forth, but it can be even worse than that.  In some cases, the person may not even know about the revenge, as in the example of your backing off of certain tasks at work.  Also, you may be holding grudged against someone and withholding emotion and affection from them, and they may not know why.

Ultimately, you’re the one who is hurting here.  Holding grudges can be bad for your mental and physical health—we know that both of these are connected.  Having the bitterness inside you that comes from holding a grudge can lead to high blood pressure, depression, and a buildup of a hormone called cortisol, which can lead to obesity and other serious, nagging health deficits.

What forgiveness is and isn’t

Sometimes people are afraid to forgive because they think that they are sacrificing or doing something that is unfair or problematic by doing so.  We can all too often associate forgiveness with:

  • condoning the behavior in question, often negative behavior
  • being weak
  • allowing someone to take advantage of us
  • allowing an imbalance in which the other person is dominant over us, with our consent.

One place we can turn to for some clarity on forgiveness is the American Psychological Association.  It defines forgiveness as being a change in the mental state of the forgiver.  Now, that’s a refreshing way of looking at it, right?

I strongly believe in this.  To forgive someone isn’t easy—rather than being weak or passive, it’s actually active and strong.  It is all about you and your mindset, and not the act itself.  It is saying that you are letting go of any hard feelings about the act, not that you condone it.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but with careful thought and the strength to realize you’re ready, you’ll be able to initiate the forgiveness.  From there, you’ll have to maintain it, not backsliding.  Forgiveness is something that has to be maintained, although as some people say “it’s not important that you forgive, but that you forget.”

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