by Cindy Pitts Gilbert Buford Weekly November 2016
Conflict is inevitable in life. How we deal with conflict and forgiveness either makes us healthier and happier or is toxic, make us miserable, and leads to disease.
What is your approach to conflict? Are you a grudge holder or a get even vindicator? A bottler, avoider, or venter? Or perhaps you are the peacemaker. No matter which way you handle conflict there can be consequences for the actions we choose. We all want to believe our way of handling a situation is the right way. Everyone else is wrong and we are justified in our anger. Maybe we feel justified when we feel we have been wronged, but it could be killing you.
How much time do we waste in our relationships living in a state of “un-forgiveness?” Who really gets punished more? Being angry at someone close to you is hard work. Not only do you feel angry for what they may have done to you, which is draining enough, but you then have to contend with the loneliness of keeping up the good fight.
We sit around on our high horse of righteousness and, honestly, we miss a lot of joyful moments with the person who upset us. Let’s say you get angry with someone at work for repeating something you said in confidence. They tell someone else and you find out. Do you have a right to be mad? Yes, of course. But how long do you stay mad and how many others have to suffer right along with you and the one who offended you. They get to hear you complain but they also have to deal with the awkwardness of the situation.
I have a saying I use all the time: “Let the punishment fit the crime.” How long or how loud does the punishment go? Some people will hold a grudge for weeks for some simple offense while others will have their say and move on. We do feel justified when we are wronged, yet why do we feel justified until everyone around us is punished equally for our hard earned anger? Do we get angry at work and take it out on family? How about the silent treatment for those who have offended? Are we so obvious in our grudge that we make others at work or home equally uncomfortable?
How about our inner circle? Are they held more accountable for our feelings than those who may be just acquaintances? People are human and we all make mistakes. We all learn what is right and wrong. I’m not talking the big betrayals, like cheating, lying or causing real harm, or those who keep hurting us over and over. I’m talking about the daily routine conflicts. Aren’t we responsible for our own reaction to any given situation?
Science has proven that those who hold grudges or bottle their emotions are much more likely to die younger from the stress hormone Cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) than those who vent and release. When Cortisol is present in the body, the feel good hormone, Oxytocin, cannot exist. Oxytocin is what mother’s feel when breast feeding and what a really good hug feels like. Those who cannot forgive and move past a situation hold onto Cortisol, causing inflammation to build up in the body.
Inflammation leads to disease and disease to pain and eventually death. The longer you hold onto your anger the more physical damage you are doing to your body. Forgiveness is really more for you than the person who wronged us. So much time wasted getting in our own way. We get mad at someone we care about for some offense and everyone loses. Take the healthy approach: just let go of the little offenses that are part of being human. Give the people in your life a break, especially yourself. Smile more than frown or your face will stay that way.