I’ve always been a big believer that your true character is molded in the wake of how you deal with pain.
Do you step out into growth and understanding? Or do you continue to suffocate yourself deeper and deeper into anger and hatred?
Let’s talk in terms of relationships.
Say you’re with someone who betrays you — cheats on you, emotionally or physically abuses you or does something else that you deem unforgiveable for you to continue to be in a relationship with them. Maybe they string you along and let you down, or they hurt you by breaking things off with you when you’re madly in love with them.
What will be your first reaction?
Anger, of course.
You might even be completely enraged. Which is good. Get angry. Be mad and feel the full force of the emotion. See, the problem is not getting angry in the wake of heartbreak and emotional crisis, it’s choosing to live in anger. When you choose to stay angry, you’re actively choosing to live a life of suffering.
“The reason is because anger is Stage 1 emotion. When we remain angry we paralyze our own progress to grow and get past pain. In fact, anger is a sure way of avoiding any pain at all.”
People hold onto anger because they want to keep some sort of leverage. They haven’t come to terms with something so they continue to remain closed off, tightened, with their fists clenched and grinding their teeth because they can’t let go. They choose to play victim of the situation rather than becoming ruler of the situation.
For example: say you’re in a relationship and get cheated on. The first emotion you will feel is complete anger and betrayal. And rightfully so.
The thing is that if they cheated on you then it’s probably because they didn’t feel noticed, wanted or appreciated. While that’s an irrational and irresponsible cry for help and by no means makes the behaviour acceptable, there is information to be gained from the situation if you choose to not be a victim. If you choose to work past your anger, you can champion the situation and grow by understanding why the situation occurred in the first place.
Maybe next time you will make sure you always communicate with your partner, even in those lulls in your relationship when the energy between you is distant. Or you will learn that the number one reason why relationships break apart and people cheat is because of contempt. And no matter how angry you are about the situation and think they are in the wrong, you helped contribute to that relationship breaking apart. They just made the mistake of going through with the physical act of cheating.
“Every time I go through pain in a relationship, I always tell myself, ‘Don’t be angry. You won’t give yourself a chance to learn and understand what happened if you stay angry’. I tell myself that because I know that this situation happened for a reason — there are lessons to learn, and once I learn and understand them, I will grow and be stronger the next time around.”
Besides, anger is heavy. Anger gives you wrinkles and puts bag under your eyes. It keeps you stuck in the past.
It also makes you think you are exempt from the problem. When you stay angry and play victim, you don’t learn because you are blaming others and not taking ownership for your part it. Anger blocks off all self-analysis and introspection.
Let me tell you, at the end of every relationship there are things in that relationship that you can hold yourself accountable for. It’s called ‘relationship integrity’. It’s how you get better at relationships and get better at understanding yourself. I feel sorry for those people who choose to actively live in anger because they do not grow and learn from the situation.
Two and a half years ago when a very volatile relationship I was in ended, I told myself that how I handled myself in the wake of that ending would speak volumes of my character and help form the person I would become for future relationships. I knew that I had to take ownership for my contribution to the demise of that relationship. I knew that I had to understand what I did that led to the breakdown, and forgive myself, and forgive them as well.
I knew anger would keep me stuck at that breakup. That I would not be able to transform and evolve my life if I did not let go of the weight of the anger. That only by looking at myself, digging deep and understanding my wrongdoings and holding myself accountable, was I going to be able to become better because of the experience.
I understood that anger is easy. It’s a cop out. That’s because it doesn’t require you to run through the full gauntlet of emotions — pain, sadness, sorrow, depression. It’s choosing to feel nothing from the situation, to pretend like it never happened, thus stunting your own personal development.
People often choose anger because they want some sort of revenge. They still actively wish ill will upon someone, hoping that karma deals them a blow and they get “what’s coming for them”. The thing is that type of mindset and emotion is like playing for an audience that doesn’t even exist. Holding your own anger is not going to make someone else’s life worse, it just makes yours worse by filling yourself and your relationships with poison.
“In breakups, people always try to ‘win’ and be the one who comes out on top. Anger is often something that people will hold onto, shifting blame on the shoulders of others so that they don’t have to look at their own actions and behaviour.”
The one who comes out on top is the one who takes ownership for their side. The one who is transparent with themselves, and others, about what they did to contribute to the breakup. That person comes out on top because they are giving themselves an opportunity to move on in a healthy way. The other, who stays riddled playing the “blame game,” just stays stuck, continually recycling anger and regret through their body.
I read a quote online recently that really struck with me and spurred my idea to write about this topic. The quote said, “forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.”
People choose not to forgive because they can’t let go of what happened. Whether that’s because they needed closure and they never got it, or they choose to be angry about something that they can’t change and have zero control over. But by not choosing to forgive, you remain in the fetal position, victimized, a shell of the human you’re capable of becoming. You stay trapped. Stuck with the weight of anger on your shoulders. Only when you forgive can you fly and flourish.
I say that our true character is formed by how we react in the wake of pain and emotional crisis because those are telling times that give us the opportunity to rise into a breakthrough, or crash into a breakdown. Holding hate in your heart is an avoidant tactic for the emotionally weak, while forgiveness of self and others becomes a breakthrough for the emotionally strong.
You forgive because you understand that the weight of anger is too heavy to hold onto. That you can’t move forward to live a happy life. That wishing ill will upon others is a toxic emotion that doesn’t pay off. Only when you hold yourself responsible for your contribution to the situation can you ensure that you won’t make that same mistake twice. Those who stay angry run the risk of repeating the same patterns because they don’t take the time to learn and grow from the situation in a proactive way.
The choice is yours. You can either choose to hold hate in your heart and suffer, or you can forgive so you can be free to move on and thrive.