CUTTING TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS AND FORGIVENESS. The things you need to know about caring for yourself and curating the people who are allowed access to you, as well as understanding the importance and need for forgiving those who have hurt us.
The last thing on earth that I want to do when someone hurts me is to forgive. It's a counter-logical response - and it doesn't make sense! Why would you want to say, "it's okay, I'm letting this go" when someone has made it clear that you are seemingly beneath them? Which is why forgiveness has to be divine, counter-intuitive decision. Forgiving someone is hard work because it doesn't make any sense at all. When someone hurts us, it's the most natural to have a tainted taste towards their character and our memories associated with them. It also It takes little to no effort to sit in your bitterness as it becomes habitual. What's truly the strangest thing about bitterness is that it's very comfortable. It's the place where you feel entitled to, to point a finger and mark the other person as the villain, and you, the victim. It's this weird place that can consume your mind and taint all of your past memories of you and this person. You might not even know what it's doing to you, but bitterness in essences is destructive and will have major consequences for you. It is the poison you drink when you're not able to just let it go.
Truly forgiving someone else will definitely help you heal - but if you are not putting the effort into actually letting this person's actions go, its as synonymous as putting on a temporary mask of happiness and health when really you're still drinking the poison. Working to forgive someone might actually look like repeatedly telling yourself that you forgive that person, over and over again, every-time you feel choked by the memory. The consequences of not forgiving is that your bitterness seeps into all the avenues of your life without your consent. You've trained your heart to be cold and the frost will spill over.
I have this really malicious (natural) issue where when I'm really upset with someone, I dwell on the situation well over time. I'll literally repeat in my head as a coping mechanism, "I hate this person, [cuss them out]. They don't deserve my time. I hate them so much." It's to the point where I don't even realize that me choosing the recite that phrase in my mind is literally the exact moment I'm feeding into my own bitterness! I'm actually being so destructive. In those moments, I am aware how my brain is constantly trying to keep me in survival mode - only flooding my thoughts with happy memories. With every memory that resurfaces, I'll add my bitterness into the mix. My saltiness allows me to feel justified in corrupting my own memories by painting the past with undertones of hatred. But here's the cold hard truth of the matter: my malicious thoughts are not going to have revenge on this person. They are severely harming myself. In fact, this person might not even feel any guilt or remorse at all.
When it comes to boundaries and lines, there is a fine line corresponding between upholding your standards and forgiving someone. I learn more and more each year that there are many times and places where cutting toxic people out of my life takes bravery and effort as well - and is entirely necessary. This route, on one hand, should be innately human. Someone harms you, and then you pull away. But for some reason, it's just as complex as forgiveness. The more invested you are in a relationship, the more difficult it is to recognize and distance yourself from those constant red flags. I had to come to a huge lesson this past year after dealing with a lot of fear of unexplored spirituality, indulging in substances, and just generally not being perfect: People can be more destructive to you than any drug, alcoholic binge, taboo spiritual exploration, (insert non-human fear here), etc. It's actually more critical to actively be safeguarding your immediate source of influence by having standards for the people around you. And you have all the right to invite or dis-invite people into your life who are not having the mutual reciprocity that is so vital to having healthy relationships in your life. Harder said than done, but a really really valuable lesson. Nur (Nurberxo) says it best, [paraphrased]. If your life is a party and you're the host, you are the one inviting the guests in. If someone you invite takes a shit in the middle of your party, it doesn't only affect you but also all the people at the party. If you continually invite this person back and they repeat their behaviour, it's actually on YOU.
And this is where forgiveness and having standards intertwine. How do you forgive and let go, as well as keep your distance from people who have not met your standards? It sounds so difficult and these two concepts, though sisters it seems, are rarely spoken of together. But it's actually really simply broken down.
Going forward, you have three options:
1) Forgive and Rebuild You need to understand that forgiving someone does not mean they are should be granted all the same privileges that they priorly received. Forgiving a best friend who has hurt you doesn't mean that they are still your closest person to confide in after the case. You can work to rebuild the friendship but don't overvalue it - allow it to take its time to heal organically. Constantly repeat to yourself when a salty memory pops up that it's okay, you're letting it go. Understand your boundaries, and don't harbour resentment for the future. You might repeat that forgiveness phrase for years, (doing the work) - but it's hella' a lot better than smashing a broken record over and over again.
2) Forgive and Move On. Just because you are working to forgive someone doesn't mean that you have to put in the efforts to keep this person in your life. In some cases, no effors on your end should be made. They may have shown you their true colours, and it can be your decision to let them go. Even though sometimes you will want things to go back to how they were - you can't erase a circumstance. Call a spade a spade, and move on. The more doors you close on unhealthy relationships, the more room you make for healthy ones. A lifetime of being separated from someone you care about can seem really daunting, so be open to reconciliation in the future when you both are in healthy spaces as a possibility, but don't make that your silver lining of hope. Protect yourself. Prioritize yourself, no one else will do that for you. There are 7 Billion people in the world and you have the privilege to surround yourself with mutually beneficial relationships.
3) Stay in Bitterness, Never Forgive, and Hate. Life is linear, time doesn't stop. It's a real option that actually the majority of people take to stay in bitterness and resentment. But if you choose this, I'd like to let you know: bitterness and resentment have their own agenda. You will bring your toxicity into your other relationships as you try and cope with this hurt. And though you may live life and carry on you will always feel powerless and like a victim while growing the weed of bitterness. The consequence to not forgiving (though seemingly easier) is far more damaging than actually doing the mental work. Bitterness will be your legacy because it will be the undertone to how you approach relationships and the cycle be inevitable.
Awareness is your first weapon. When I am thinking about the person who has caused me heartbreak and pain, I am already reciting my bitterness in my head. If I'm really hurt, I'm thinking of this situation on loop for weeks. So I do this technique (a mix of techniques from meditation, my relationship with God, and psychological studies) to help me break this cycle.
First, I will become aware that I am having a destructive thought. I will then imagine myself watching myself in the situation (ie. I'm watching myself sitting in my car in traffic ruminating about this past event). I'll simply tell myself "Oh, I'm having a thought." I'll then either choose to change my inner conversation or jump into prayer and ask God to help me change my thoughts. Instead of saying "I hate this person," I'll recite something like "I forgive them, they're human just like me." Over and over, and then I will try and think of something else that is more deserving of my attention.
In the end, bitterness is a choice. If you live in it it will consume you, and I promise you there is such wealth behind forgiveness even if its the harder route.
Photos by Yuot Tut
Styling by myself