Anger is a terribly strong emotion, and while we can’t avoid it (like that jerk who cut us off this morning!), it is how we respond to it that deeply matters. Anger can eat away at us like an acid; it can hold us back and prevent us from moving forward.
I have two “friends” who met many years ago and had one of those fairy-tale romances like in the television commercials. Fast forward to 10 years later, and they are going through a bitter, bitter divorce. They are doing everything possible to hurt one another, right down reporting each other to the government and attacking each other on social media. They are dragging their kids into all of it, along with their friends and business acquaintances. They are like two people struggling in quick-sand; they are going down because they would rather be “right” than begin to heal. The whole situation would be hilarious if it were not so sad. The anger has consumed both of them and somewhere along the way they have lost their perspective on right and wrong. The saddest part of the impact this will have on their kids.
Then there are two people I know who sit on a nonprofit board who are at war with one another. The problem is, they seem to have forgotten what the initial conflict was all about; now their anger has become generalized such that they have stopped talking to one another making the board dysfunctional. If one agrees, the other doesn’t – and on and on. Whatever the argument was initially about, one member feels the other owes an apology. When they walk in the room, everyone is uncomfortable. Their anger has destroyed their relationship, but worse it is impacting their relationships with others – and they don’t even know they have lost the respect of the other people around them.
Then I know people who have been fired from jobs because they did something wrong; they said the wrong thing; they made some mistakes. They apologized and tried to move on, but they turned the anger inward and could not forgive themselves. They are filled with shame and self-doubt.
Anger is self-serving and adds nothing of value. It is extra baggage; it is like a lead weight around your soul.
Your choice my friends.
We can all choose to be bitter – every single one of us. We can continue to be stuck in the past or we can gather ourselves up and try to do better. We may not be able to completely forget our past mistakes or the mistakes others have made, but we can make better choices for ourselves in the future.
If, when Designing My Ideal Life, I acknowledge that I have pain – and maybe it was of my own doing, I can either shut down and sit on the couch all day (which is stupid) or I can acknowledge that was then, and this is now. I can choose to keep moving forward.
If we have this awareness of what we did wrong and what we could do better in the future, it leads us to better choices and the awareness to choose a better life. Our mission is to go forward in life, to overcome our past and to grant ourselves personal forgiveness.
This all leads to personal accountability.
The couple I mentioned at the outset of this blog will never move forward until they can move past the hurt and pain. If they are able to do so, they will discover a powerful tool. I don’t know “who did what to whom” in that relationship, and it is really none of my business, but unless they are willing to help each other out of the quicksand, they will both drown.
As to the people on that board, either they must resolve their differences or resign. They are helping no one. It takes great courage to apologize, that I know, but it is so great to do. The person apologizing is the stronger person. Even if the other person rejects the apology, it is irrelevant really. The apology frees the person who apologizes to move forward. It carries great weight.
Now, in terms of us and our ability to let go of shame and personal bitterness, really, what do we want of ourselves? We (maybe) made a mistake and we made our apologies. Beyond that, we are simply people on this planet who want to do better.
Take a single step of forgiveness. Maybe it won’t be easy. Each day we get to choose to keep moving forward – we get to choose to move away from our painful past into a better future. The next step is yours.