Yes, People Change: On Humility and Forgiveness

I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my life is that people change– and there’s no pride is clinging to being “right.”

I used to be a very self-righteous person. I used to feel that I was better than some other people because I didn’t have certain habits, because I believed in God and they didn’t, because I was more “together.”

I was so sure of my own “instincts”– and that I would never change my mind.

I used to be one of those “all or nothing,” people, with rigid opinions that never wavered.

I was wrong. And since then, I’ve changed.

Some people may never believe that, but I know it’s true.

I believe God gave me a lesson in humility– to remind me that I am no better than anyone else just because I have a different struggle. And to remind me that I’ve been given advantages as well, which I sometimes forget to acknowledge. To show me how it feels to be judged. And it’s hard, because we still need to draw boundaries and assert ourselves if we are uncomfortable, hurt, or angry. But we can do that without being cruel or condescending.

And that’s what I’ve been working on this year– being honest while also being more rational and less impulsive. To explain to people that sometimes I need time before I can respond– out of respect for both of us.

And I’m doing much better.

It reminds me of “Beaches”– with Hilary and Cece.

Most of the time my personality is more like Cece– I’m loud, I wear ridiculous outfits, I’m a free-spirited creative person with a dream that I can’t surrender to write. Sometimes I can be selfish and at times my temper can be sharp.

But when I’m truly hurting, I’m more like Hilary. I shut down. I don’t say anything. I try to work through the pain on my own. But I’ve learned, that hurts people more than anything I might have said in anger. Silence is often the one thing people can’t forgive.

There are times when cutting off contact is merited– when they won’t accept respect your feelings or accept your boundaries, and there is no other way. When you know that no amount of talking will change things, because you’ve already tried exhaustively and you are fundamentally incompatible.

But those times are rare.  But if someone loves you, that silence on your end is excruciating.

I’m learning to say what I feel when I feel it– and to apologize when it’s merited. Everyone has a limit– some relationships need to end and can’t be reconciled. But it’s always healthier to get your feelings out than to hold them in and let them fester.

I’ve learned to never take it for granted when someone apologizes to you. Because even if you you’re hurt beyond words and not ready to forgive, there are many people who never bother to apologize.

It takes a lot of character to apologize.

Even if the relationship can’t be reconciled, you can still accept their apology and honor their effort.

And I’ve learned that it also hurts us tremendously to withhold forgiveness out of spite. If we don’t release that energy, it becomes corrosive to our own souls at some point. It eats away at us. It makes much more energy to remain angry than to let it go.

I would rather apologize and never be forgiven than remain in perfect righteousness and never be vulnerable.

If I apologize, it’s out of my hands then. If they don’t choose to forgive me or acknowledge it, that is their choice– and it may hurt.

But it will never hurt as much as not taking a chance.

We all fight to overcome a struggle– and for every person, that struggle is different. We don’t know why we have the challenges that were given to us, but we do the best we can with them.

Here’s the thing– people are human. We all struggle with something. For some, it’s addiction. For some, it’s believing in God. For some, it’s intimacy. For some, impulsivity. For some, it’s depression or anxiety. For some, it’s money.  For some, it’s loneliness due to physical illness that makes them feel isolated. For some, it’s being TOO logical.  For some, it’s not knowing what to say even if you want to be supportive.

We all have faults. But I believe that fundamentally, we’re all good. And that we respond to how others treat us. We may go through seasons of bad judgement, but I think we all have the strength to learn and emerge thriving if we are committed to change.

If you live your life by cutting out everyone who challenges you or upsets you, you realize soon that you’re not left with many people. People are in our lives for a reason– to love us, to challenge us, to inspire us to growth by their own achievements.

I no longer believe that there is such a thing as a “bad” person. When people are in pain, they act out– it’s human.

The only answer for pain is love. I pray for them, and myself. And eventually, my heart changes. If I’m lucky, theirs does too.

Because if someone hurts you, it hurts them as well.

And if you can forgive them, you’re giving yourself a gift as well as them.

The gift of peace. The gift of not harboring resentment.

The gift of unconditional love for yourself and others.

These days, I’d rather be humble than “right.”

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