I make it a habit to forgive. Frequently. Often. Quickly.
I won’t say that it’s always easy, but as I have grown older, I have found that it is absolutely necessary in order for me to have both freedom and peace of mind. There is nothing more draining than tying your today to yesterday’s hurts or grudges. It weighs you down. It robs your today of all its joy. It stifles reconciliation and puts insurmountable barriers in front of any possibility of at least being cordial.
As with every new year, comments flood my timeline with social media friends who have decided that the new year is the perfect time to cut people off.
But, every year, sis?
I’m going to have to throw a flag on the play.
Personally, I don’t subscribe to this school of thought for two reasons. The first is that we are all imperfect humans. We will mess up on more than one occasion. We will take people for granted. We will miss important events. We will say something that is taken the wrong way. Let’s face it. We will offend people sometime without even trying. It WILL happen. However, it is what we do after the offense has taken place that matters. We have to be mentally and emotionally mature enough to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, to seek out our own areas of improvement. Besides, if I know I am going to need forgiveness over the course of my lifetime, I should be more than willing to have empathy on those who need forgiveness from me.
The second reason I don’t subscribe to the thought of cutting people off every year is because if it has to happen every single year, it might be time to do a little reflection and introspection. Yep. It may be me. I may be the toxicity or it may be my choices in people that is rooted in some concealed trauma. But, I can see why some people avoid this path. That’s hard work. You have to admit that you were wrong, and in turn, you are the one who has to put in the work and change or deal with your demons. It is far easier to blame everyone else, and cut everyone off so that you can do the easy work of staying the same. The problem with that is one day, you will look up and see that every meaningful relationship you’ve ever had has been destroyed. You will end up lonely, maybe even bitter.
Personal reflection has preserved many of my relationships with people because I was willing to be vulnerable enough to admit to myself, “Sis, it’s you.” LOL!
But there have been times that those proverbial scissors had to be used to cut people completely off.
My forgiveness didn’t come as a package deal. I forgave and that was it. No friendship. No casual phone conversations. No texts. No emails. No lunch dates or weekend trips. No social media ties — just forgiveness. I’ve only ever had to cut two people off in my lifetime, so on average, that’s about one person every twenty years. Not bad if you ask me.
So, how did I decide that they were toxic to me?
First, I defined toxic.
Then, I defined poisonous.
Poisonous: extremely unpleasant, malicious; capable of causing death or illness
So, I went down the checklist.
1.) How do I feel after every encounter with this person? Are all of our encounters unpleasant?
2.) Are they malicious when it comes to me? Do they intend to harm me with their words every time we interact? Are their actions intended to repeatedly hurt me? To make me feel pain?
3.) Does something die inside of me every time I interact with this person? My dreams? My hope? My sanity? My resolve?
If the answer was yes to all of those questions, I knew I had to forgive. Then these follow-up questions determined if I cut ties:
1.) Does he or she see any fault of their own?
2.) Do they ever apologize?
3.) Do they change (not attempt, but change) their behavior?
If the answer to these questions are always no, then I found that it was time to let go.
Are they still worthy of love? Absolutely. But, I choose to love from a distance.
Are they still deserving of a community that supports them? You better believe it. But, I don’t have to be a part of that community.
Should they be forgiven? 100%. I do that and move on without a package deal.
I wish you all love, peace, prosperity, and, of course, the wisdom and courage to know when it’s as simple as forgiving and letting go.