I watched the second half of a movie called The Gridiron Gang on TV the other day. It’s a true story about a former football player, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who forms a football team at a Juvenile Detention Centre inLos Angeles. The coach’s goal was to use football to give the young inmates a sense of belonging outside their former street gangs and teach them what it feels like to be a winner.
I tuned in at a scene where the coach is telling one of the inmates that he needs to forgive his father if he ever wants to be free from the anger and resentment. The coach explains that holding onto the bitterness and pain only gives the boy’s father power over him. The boy turned to the coach and asked, “Have you forgiven your father?”
Dwayne Johnson may not be an academy award winning actor, but I thought he did a pretty good job in that scene. Maybe he was able to show genuine emotion because he, like all of us, has been in the position where he was hurt by someone. Maybe even “The Rock” has struggled to find the strength to forgive someone who has wronged him.
The young inmates in the movie were all in the Detention Centre as a result of behaviour that stemmed from their anger. What many of them learned while in the program was that the anger was their real prison. Learning forgiveness allowed them to let go of the anger and hatred so they could become free in their minds and make the right choices once they were released from the Detention Centre.
If someone has hurt you, you may want to ask yourself, “Do I want to continue to waste energy on being upset or angry?” If you are tired of getting worked up, having sleepless nights, avoiding the person, getting in fights, worrying about the situation, or feeling sick from the stress, it may be time to forgive.
Forgiving doesn’t mean condoning the offence. What the person did to you will still be wrong and hurtful even after you let go of the resentment – if it wasn’t wrong it wouldn’t need to be forgiven. Forgiving also doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat who is letting the person get away with what they did. If you continue to be hurt by something someone has done to you in the past, they will continue to have power over you. If you move forward, you can reclaim your power from them by saying to yourself, “you can’t control me any more”.
Chances are that the person who hurt you either doesn’t think they did anything wrong or won’t change or learn anything just because you are hurt and angry. You can choose to hold onto the resentment in hopes that they will one day realize that what they did was wrong and apologize, but you might be waiting forever.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ll forget what happened or accidentally let it happen again. If you’ve learned to stay away from the person, or only share certain information with the person, or not depend on the person, then you don’t need the anger to remind you any more.
Living with anger and resentment uses a lot of energy and it can make you sick with stomach problems, heart issues, and skin conditions. It can isolate you from the people and activities you once enjoyed. It can prevent you from taking opportunities that are best for you. It can also get you into trouble if you are acting out of frustration or spite. In which case, the person who hurt you doesn’t care – you’re the only person who is continuing to be punished.
There are a lot of quotes about forgiveness, but this is one of my favourite: “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him” – Booker T. Washington. Some people worry that it’s a sign of weakness to forgive, but it’s not. Only the very strongest people are able to find compassion for a person who has hurt them and then forgive them for being flawed and not being able to do better.
– D.R. Graham