Before my senior year in high school, I never knew how to say “I’m sorry”. And if I did manage to grumble those two words, I certainly didn’t mean it. I had made it a habit to forget, but not to forgive.
Prior to this, I had developed an unhealthy routine in my relationships. I’d start an argument and never resolve it, refusing to release that person of my charges and refusing to take claim for part of the fault. Instead of settling matters and bringing a conclusion to these feelings, I let them hang in the air, There those feelings stayed. They brewed. They created tension. But, eventually with time, they would fade. I would bury them. Forget them.
My learning process begin in 2008, when I moved to Alaska to live with my best friend. When one day we started arguing, I went on with the usual routine. Fight about it. Avoid the subject. And forget it. But, one thing changed this time: she didn’t let me forget it. Unlike my past conflicts, which were securely buried under a blanket of time, this one was brought to light. Not only did this friend bring it up, she apologized for taking part in it and forgave me for participating, as well.
This pattern continued for several months: I usually initiated the arguments, the friend would apologize/forgive, I would follow her lead and amends would be made. This whole ordeal was still very bizarre to me; it surprised me that she would sacrifice her pride to end a conflict. But, I noticed something,: after she apologized I was able to let go of the anger, to release her from the charges by choice, not by letting my feelings fade away. And after she forgave me, I was able to forgive myself, to be able to look back on it and simply say it was a mistake that I don’t want to make again.
And thus, I began to catch on. No longer were my “sorry’s” empty and forced, but they were heartfelt words that I believed and continue to believe in. I caught on to the fact that letting feelings fade is not healthy, nor is burying them. You need to look your problems straight on to confront them.
Now, when experiencing a conflict, I realize a need to talk it over, to unearth it. Even if I haven’t come to agree with that person, I know I cannot let that hold me back from forgiveness. With these experiences and realizations, my usual routine has changed. No longer is it an unhealthy habit of burying feelings, but a beneficial choice. And the choice is to forgive, not to forget.
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