The seeds of unkind words and actions sprout in the soil rich with fear, selfishness, greed, and ignorance. Such seeds, when they get lodged in a vulnerable mind, give birth to saplings of hurt. These saplings are initially weak.
Your ability to reframe the situation — to focus on what went right within what went wrong, find meaning, and accept the situation for what it was — can prevent these saplings from taking root, flowering and seeding. I wish I were that wise.
Instead of launching a fresh, mature perspective, my mind feeds the sapling. When I think of how the hurts could have been prevented, I focus less on what I learned from them and more on whom to blame. I lament the event, get angry, and think of ways to exact revenge. Ruminating on past hurts, I make my life miserable. I could do better than that.
I can learn from the ethics of good reporters and historians. A good reporter communicates all aspects of the truth, fairly and in an engaging fashion. Historians are reporters of the past. A good historian helps us understand the past without needing to commend or condemn it. Good reporters and historians try their best not to be biased. I should look at my past with their eyes.
When I study human history, I get a recurring feeling of humility. I learn that even the best intentions and efforts fail and that “chance” is tremendously powerful. Every person acts under unique constraints. Every action has unintentional and unpredictable consequences. Maybe the person who hurt me acted in innocent ignorance rather than the malicious intention that I assumed.
I surmise that a good way to look at my past is how historians look at human history. Try to see the experience in its totality. If I can do that, I will see the hurtful words and actions originating in underlying suffering, self-defense, and ignorance. I will truly and deeply find gratitude for the right within the wrong, develop compassion toward people hurt by the wrong, and more readily accept. With this mindset I might find greater meaning in the experience and give forgiveness a chance.
As a result, I will stop watering the hurts so they wilt instead of becoming large trees with complex root systems and countless additional seeds that spawn fresh saplings.
History is humility packaged as a true story. Become a true historian of your past, with an intention to understand and heal. This perspective will help you cherish the happy moments, learn from adversity, and be grateful for both.
Revisit old wounds to heal them, not open them afresh.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email email@example.com.