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At A Holiday Gathering With Someone Who Hurt You? Here’s What You Should Do, And Why!

Written by: Jack Carmody, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The holiday season means office parties, family gatherings, and other festive events. While these can be enjoyable, often they will put you around people who have hurt you in the past. How do you handle that ex who burned you? What do you say to the boss who just gave you an unfair review? How can you be in the same room with your estranged child? These are hard situations! I would like to map out a path forward by sharing with you what you should do, and more importantly, why you should do it.

What You Should Do

Regardless of your relationship goals with the person who hurt you, you need to lay a foundation of forgiveness. Now, there are a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean pretending things are fine. Forgiveness does not mean you have to gloss over the wound. Forgiveness is also not the same as reconciliation and does not mean allowing the person back into your life as if nothing happened. That type of reconciliation requires movement from the other person, forgiveness does not.

Fundamentally, forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness involves you and is irrespective of the other person. Forgiveness is a conscious decision you make not to hold the painful incident (or incidents) over the other person’s head. Forgiveness is a mindset where you decide not to ruminate over the hurt. Forgiveness is biting your tongue, and not bad mouthing that person when given an opportunity.

Getting to the place where you can make the choice to forgive might involve a conversation with the person who wronged you, where you express your thoughts and feelings over what happened. Others find it helpful to write the person a letter. Many people find therapy a helpful step towards being able to forgive. This process often involves some self-reflection, where you take ownership of what role, if any, you had in what happened.

Why You Should Do It

Making the choice to forgive someone is challenging, particularly if the person in question feels no remorse over what they have done. However, if you choose not to forgive, you are left with resentment and bitterness. It is often said in Alcoholics Anonymous circles, "Resentment is the poison we drink, hoping others will die." In the moment, it can feel better not to forgive and harbor resentment. It sometimes feels good to ruminate over the hurt and to talk negatively about the person who wronged you. However, bitterness and resentment are poison for the soul.

From the Christian Bible, Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone… that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble” (ESV). Unforgiveness is fertile soil for the root of bitterness to spring up. Like a root, bitterness only grows. Bitterness starts with the one incident, but it can easily grow to the point where you are bitter not just over that particular incident, but towards the person in general. If bitterness continues to grow, and it will, it will make you a bitter person. It is easy to see how unforgiveness over one incident could completely reshape someone!

Summing Up

There is no undoing the pain that someone else has caused you, all you can do is decide how you want to move forward. Do you want to make the choice to forgive, or do you want to allow the root of bitterness to spring up? If you make the choice to forgive, you will not only be able to better navigate that holiday function, you will also grow in character. Whether you chose to converse with that person or not, you can have confidence that you have forgiven them, and not given bitterness the chance to take root.

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Jack Carmody, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jack Carmody is a licensed counselor in the state of South Carolina (US), a military chaplain, and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Whichever of these "hats" he is wearing, his passion is to help people discover God's best for their lives. He is also the Veteran Coach for the TV show, "Military Makeover with Montel" which airs on Lifetime. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, and spending time with his family.



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