I am constantly trying to work on my own personal growth. I take a good close look at my own flaws so that I can learn from them and hopefully change them or gain a new perspective. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that not all “flaws” are bad. We’ve all become who we are for a reason. Sometimes we obtain coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily the best tools to use, and each person’s personality is going to evolve at its own pace.
Where am I going with all this?
I titled this blog “forgiveness” because it is intimately connected with my own flaws. I’m not very good at forgiving other people, and I feel this is probably connected to not being very good at forgiving myself. I can hold the smallest mistake over my own head for years. It will often be something tiny that was completely unintentional, and I will go back and apologize for things that other people don’t even remember.
Let me pause here for a moment:
I have a very good long-term memory. Past health issues have turned my brain into Swiss cheese on a few occasions, but for the most part I have an unusually good memory. I have memories back to the day I was born. Memories of things that are never shown in family photos or written anywhere, and that my family can confirm. This came in really handy when I was in school because I hardly ever had to study. I don’t get to pick and choose what to remember. I remember a lot of really wonderful things, but also remember not-so-pleasant life experiences in vivid detail. Needless to say it makes things a bit complicated.
Often times others will have already forgiven me for something that I have continued to beat myself up over. What I’ve found is that I can give myself permission to forgive myself if I learn from my shortcomings. Trust me, learning from my own mistakes is easier said than done. Has anyone else ever had the experience of making the same mistake over and over before you realized it was a mistake? This is why it is important for me to look at my own flaws. I can’t improve or fix things if I don’t acknowledge what’s broken.
This is how the cycle of forgiveness works for my own flaws.
I purposefully and consciously choose to look at my own flaws OBJECTIVELY. I must look at my faults objectively so that I don’t get caught up in negative self talk.
I decide to figure out why I have a particular flaw and if it might actually be useful for anything in my day to day life. Is it a defense mechanism or a coping mechanism?
If it serves a purpose I aim to use my “flaw” more constructively so that it may become a strength. If I feel that it is not healthy for me I will work on completely changing my perspective. More often than not I find that my “flaws” serve a purpose and wind up trying to find a better use for them.
One of my biggest flaws is that I have trouble with forgiveness, and it’s not healthy for me.
I believe that my habit of over-trusting people in the first place is part of this circumstance.
I want to walk into every relationship with the people in my life believing that their intentions and motivations are completely pure of heart. I want to believe that everyone is genuine and trustworthy. Along with this belief I end up over-extending myself in my personal interactions and will sometimes wind up disappointed with people. I will overlook glaring flaws in others in hopes of their good qualities shining through. I want to make it clear that I do not believe this optimistic attitude is a flaw. There have been plenty of times that I’ve been thankful for this perspective and it has been beneficial to my life. Being optimistic is not a flaw, over-extending myself and over-involving myself with people is my flaw. A new acquaintance may very well be pure of heart, and they may very well be genuine and trustworthy; but, this does not mean that I am obligated to extend anything more than common courtesy until I have better experience with them. It is my belief that everyone deserves common courtesy – people deserve respectful manners right away.
Let me also make it clear that I do not regret going over and above common courtesy for people even when they end up disappointing me.
“Over-trusting” people is an instance where I must carefully examine my perspective and learn to use this character trait more constructively.
I’ve found that I like giving of myself. I like doing wonderful things for other people. It makes me happy to make others happy, but I’ve learned that you can’t count on people to be appreciative or to show appreciation. It seems like some people have a sense of entitlement and they take people for granted very easily. I’ve learned that give-and-take can find a happy balance in most relationships, but that I must give purely to give, and without expectation of receiving even common courtesy in return. It is so pleasant when people take the time and energy to show they care, but this isn’t something I can simply expect from people.
All relationships are a two way road – whether it’s someone you bumped into on the train or a soulmate that you’ve been with for decades and anyone in between. Your interactions and feelings about that relationship are a combination of both of your words and actions – theirs AND yours. I must remind myself of this because I know I have a tendency to place the entirety of blame in a bad situation on either the other person or squarely on myself. I must remember that it IS a two way road, and we are both responsible for our own parts of things.
I have found that I have two methods for forgiving people.
It may simply be a toxic relationship. In those cases I must remove myself from the relationship to be able to view the other person objectively. This is often one of the hardest choices to make. I have to take that step away from people so I can simply see them as another person struggling with their own flaws. I know myself enough to know I have trouble coming to that level of peace if their choices continue to negatively effect my life. I don’t need to ask them to change. I don’t need to hate them, and I don’t need to hate their flaws. I take that big step away and they can’t hurt me anymore. Then I can see them as simply another human struggling with their own pain, and that is so much easier for me to forgive. This type of forgiveness is reserved for extremely toxic relationships, and not my preferred method.
Most of the time a decent relationship will go through toxic circumstances. Everyone handles stress differently, and everyone handles life’s “downs” differently. Relationships go through ups and downs just like individuals. I’m talking about all relationships: lovers, friends, siblings, parents, children, and acquaintances. Someone will eventually have a bad day, you will eventually disagree on something, and your priorities will fluctuate over time. I’ve found that some friendships will grow apart, and grow back together, and grow apart again. I do not have to remove people from my life if we simply don’t have the same priorities at any given time, but for my own health I choose to surround myself with people that share my priorities, aspirations, and dreams. Sometimes a disagreement will hurt my feelings, or someone else’s bad mood will rub off some bad-vibes-ick into my life. Sometimes I will unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings, or my bad mood will rub off some bad-vibes-ick into someone else’s life. Forgiveness for these types of circumstances is based on mutual respect and a desire to mend things. It requires communication, and sometimes even negotiation, but will eventually come to a reasonable solution. A reasonable solution may be as simple as an apology, or more complicated like taking steps toward major life changes. If I value a relationship I will step up to the plate and be completely willing to do my part.
I realize that I am young, and I hope that I will continue to evolve and develop my opinions on forgiveness. This is just what works for me at this point in my life. I am fairly outgoing, I have a large family, I’ve made many good friends, and hundreds of acquaintances over my life. I’ve only encountered around a dozen toxic relationships with people that I simply must let go from my life. I have many people in my life that I respect with differing priorities than my own – we interact every once in awhile, and I can see wonderful things happening in their lives. Then I have a decent size group of people that I interact with regularly. I care a lot about these people, and these are the established healthy relationships that are completely worth going through the ups and downs together.
My biggest challenge with forgiveness is acknowledging those toxic relationships and removing myself from them. I often feel like a toxic relationship is a failure on my part, and I attempt to mend things that aren’t in a position to be fixable. Things get really complicated when there’s a group of people or a lot of mutual friends. Sometimes a few of the people are a toxic relationship, and others simply get caught up in the toxic circumstances. Unfortunately I haven’t found a magic wand that simplifies these complexities. I simply try to continue to show my appreciation for those I care for, and do my best to avoid those that aren’t good for me. Life isn’t black and white or cut and dry. The problem with this is that it leaves an opportunity for those people to continue to negatively effect my life. I will often be able to remove myself from a toxic relationship, and through mutual relationships still find myself negatively effected by a person’s actions. This makes it very hard for me to view people objectively and completely forgive. I’m still working on this. Someday I hope to experience a better way to learn forgiveness, but this is how I am growing for now. I do my best to allow myself to be angry when it’s appropriate to be angry and try not to carry that anger around. Ultimately, I think I will feel pleased with myself if I can learn to forgive more easily, and not allow myself to be negatively effected in the first place. Until that day I will continue to do my best to view myself and others as just people going through life and doing the best they can with their own challenges and struggles – I will continue to learn forgiveness.