Leading up to Thanksgiving, each day I will blog about what I’m doing to be more grateful. I invite you to join me, and to share your thoughts, observations, suggestions and ideas.
Day 11: Giving thanks for the people who have hurt us
It was the prophet Don Henley who said:
I’ve been tryin’ to get down
to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about…forgiveness
If you wanted to go with a more classic call to action, how about “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
But let’s really be honest about where we invest a lot of our time — being angry at and resentful of other people.
Living in New York is great for me as an amateur sociologist. I get a lot of opportunity to casually observe (John might call it “eavesdrop on”) conversations, whether that’s on the sidewalk, on the subway or in restaurants where the tables are too close together.
It strikes me how often I overhear passionate complaints about the offenses of another person. Whether it’s about a coworker, a boyfriend, an ex-wife, the consistent theme seems to be that the other person has wronged me, I’m the victim and it’s just not fair.
As my mom used to say, life’s not fair.
Years ago, when I took Dale Carnegie, one of the biggest lessons I internalized was seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. If someone has hurt me, I try to think about what might have motivated him or her to do that.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not bitter.
So during the Month of Thanksgiving, I’m going to take that a step further. When I feel myself being angry at someone, I’m going to search for something to be grateful for.
Let me try with an extreme example: my ex-fiance devastated me when he broke off our engagement and admitted to cheating on me.
- I’m grateful that he broke it off before we got married instead of going through with it in spite of his doubts about us.
- I’m grateful that in the months after the break up, we had a few open, honest talks about why the relationship ended. It was crushing to hear that he’d never wanted to marry me but he didn’t want to disappoint me. Still, it was valuable information in understanding where we’d gone wrong.
- I’m even grateful for the heart break, because it prompted me to do a lot of soul searching about what I’d done to contribute to the failure of the relationship and about what I wanted in a husband.
Maybe there aren’t as many lessons to be learned in every aggravating relationship. If you’re just mad because the cashier at the grocery store was rude, you might not grow as a person.
But what if I try to find gratitude in the more common, everyday moments of interpersonal strife? If I’m irritated with a coworker, for example, can I find a reason to be grateful — that I have a job and therefore have coworkers? that I really like a lot of the people I work with? that maybe I’m working on improving the source of the irritation?
Can you be grateful for people who have hurt you or upset you?