Walking into a County Superior Court is an unusual thing. Almost everyone looks tired and weary.
In the United States, we have a reputation for being a country that loves a good lawsuit, but anyone who has ever been a part of one knows they tend to suck the life right out of you. In front of me a woman was balling her eyes out because her husband had recently filed for divorce, moved in with another woman, and served her eviction papers.
Now, I don’t know this woman at all, but I would venture to guess that she was having one of the worst days of her life. What I couldn’t wrap my head around though, was how someone who at one point in time loved her, could then treat her this horribly. I’m sure that if her husband read this he’d have his own version of the story to tell, but I’m not interested in the intimate details of who is more wrong in this situation.
“Hating anyone, especially someone you used to love, is one of the greatest disservices you can do to yourself.” – Russell Simmons, Twitter
That I happened to stumble upon Russell Simmons’ tweet was serendipitous because it made me think back to my own heartbreaks in life and I could immediately sympathize with this woman. In love we let ourselves be vulnerable and in heartbreak we put up walls to shield ourselves from any more pain.
Anger is part of the 5 stages of grief for a reason. We need to get angry so we can get moving. But when we’re hurt so badly that it drains us to the point where waking up feels like moving a 1000lb boulder, it’s hard to remember that acceptance is also part of the grieving process. And when it comes to love, acceptance means forgiveness.
In my own experience, I spent the better part of 3 years of my life shifting between anger and depression because as much as I told myself to move on and let go, I didn’t know how. Then one day I realized that I was trying to forgive the wrong person. I was trying to forgive all the selfish lies he’d told me and all the ways he’d wronged me. But the person I needed to forgive was me.
In trying to forgive him, my thoughts were consumed with the things that needed to be forgiven, which led to righteous indignation and right back to anger. What took me years to realized was that I need to forgive myself. Forgiving myself for the things I failed to do, or the person I failed to be, freed me to consider for the first time: what and who I wanted to be.
And after just a few months of learning about how to make myself happy, a miraculous thing happened. I forgave him.
They say the greatest revenge is happiness, but I’d like to reconsider the term revenge because true happiness requires the ability to be happy for others. Truly letting go and loving yourself means looking at someone you once hated and being able to wish them happiness too.
When that happens, you’ll feel the weight of anger and depression lift. Your steps will be lighter, a smile will spill across your face and you’ll get on with the busy work of living–happily.
Looking at this stranger, who by now was shouting angrily at the poor woman behind the counter, I knew she was only at the beginning and as much as I wanted to put her on the fast track to forgiving, I knew it wasn’t something I could do for her. For this stranger I had stumbled upon, things were likely to get to a lot worse before they got better.
But when I came across her in the Cafeteria later that day, I decided that I could offer her a cup of coffee and an ear to listen. I could offer her the kindness of a stranger. Here eyes were bloodshot and her demeanor exhausted, but she mustered up a smile for me anyway and said, “Maybe a cup of tea instead? I don’t think anyone in here needs for me to have caffeine.”