Yeah. I'll be the first to raise my hand in this class and say that forgiveness is a process. What I mean by that is, whether you choose to forgive someone while looking them dead in the eye, while journaling at home or while standing at the foot of an altar, rarely do you say the words, "I forgive you" and, immediately following, everything is fully resolved. Or healed. When you decide to forgive someone via your words, it is basically like making a public declaration that you are going to put yourself on the path to, as the dictionary definitions of the word state— "to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.)"; "to cease to feel resentment against and absolve (to cancel an indebtedness or liability of", or "to set free or release, as from some duty, obligation, or responsibility)".
Pardon. Not resent. Release. Hmph. No wonder so many mental health professionals say that when we choose to forgive a person, it's far more for our benefit than it is for theirs; that to choose (because it is always a choice) to hold onto the fallout of our experiences is holding us back, stressing us out and, according to many reports, even making us sick. No joke. There are studies that reveal unforgivingness can keep you in a state of anger and raise your blood pressure. Unforgivingness can also increase levels of depression and PTSD. Shoot, unforgivingness can even cut your lifespan short. And really, y'all, is holding a grudge really worth all of that?
That's why I wanted to take out a few minutes of your time to first say, if you know there is someone you need to forgive, for your own health and well-being, please consider doing so. And second, if you're reading this and you someone who hurt you, offended you and/or totally pissed you off immediately comes to mind, just to make sure that you're as free from the situation as you may believe that you are. You can do this by going down this checklist of signs that a person isn't as good at forgiving as they might think that they are.
Why Is Forgiving So Hard to Do?
Since most of us know that bestowing forgiveness is essential in life (because none of us is perfect, right?), why is it that so many of us seem to struggle so much with forgiving others? In a good article that I read on the topic, the author brought up three good points. A lot of us don't forgive others because 1) we don't want the "offender" to think that what they did was OK; 2) we don't think that the person who hurt us deserves forgiveness, and/or 3) we don't trust them. Thanks to my own forgiveness journey, what I have learned is, far too often we are hesitant or even afraid to forgive someone because we think that forgiveness and reconciliation are one in the same, when that is not even remotely the case.
You forgive as a way to heal from the hurt or harm that was done to you. You also forgive in order to release yourself from the temptation to keep the cycle of pain going by hurting or harming the other person (or someone else because you are still holding onto unforgivingness).
Reconciliation is another matter entirely. If it is even on the table for discussion, the offender has some work to do in order to restore what has been lost (and if they are truly sorry, they are all for putting the sweat equity in with their words and actions—no question about that). So no, never feel that just because you have forgiven someone that you are invalidating your feelings about the offense or that you have to have the same kind of relationship with them moving forward. Forgiveness isn't designed to make you more vulnerable; it's actually meant to empower you by helping you to let the pain, fear and frustration go.
Now, with all of this out of the way, here are some pretty telling signs that you're not as good at forgiving as you probably need to be.
1. You Don’t Really Ever Let Things Go
Something that I deal with a lot in marriage counseling are people who forgive with their mouths but not necessarily via their actions. What I mean by that is, although one spouse will claim that they've forgiven their partner for something that they've done, the moment they do something else that they don't like, the past issue comes up. It's almost like they hold onto it like a trump card to use in an argument in order to "win" it. Nothing healthy comes out of it because really, who wants to constantly hear about their past missteps and mishaps all of the time?
Say that you are married, your husband misspends some money and it caused a check to bounce. You talk it through and then tell yourself and him that you are willing to let it go. But then he forgets to pay a different bill five months later and you bring his misspending from before up, even though these are the only times in recent history that it has happened. This is a good example of not being able to let things go.
If your man really isn't the best with money, perhaps it's time for you to handle the finances or for you guys to get a financial consultant. But to berate him every time he does something, even though you claim you've forgiven him, means that you actually didn't. Not only that, but the more that you "stockpile" his mistakes, the harder it will be to get past a challenge or problem the next time one comes up.
Interestingly enough, this is one of the reasons why a lot of couples end up divorcing after 20 years of marriage; they never really forgave each other for much of…anything really. And you know what they say—eventually a collection of snowflakes end up turning into a huge avalanche.
2. You Take “Forgive but Don’t Forget” Totally Out of Context
One time, I heard a guy named Cedric Dent say something about forgiveness that I think is pretty good. He used the hypothetical example of him telling someone something in confidence, them turning around and telling other people, and then them ultimately asking for forgiveness for the betrayal. According to Cedric, the best way to handle an instance like that is to forgive the person, but to also not tell them any more secrets for a while. It's not because you are holding things over them; it's actually their actions have shown that they have a weakness when it comes to respecting someone else's privacy.
I think this is the healthy way of applying the old adage "forgive but don't forget". You're not "not forgetting the offense" in order to weaponize the offender with it later up the road. You're using it as a teachable moment so that you can do all that you can to prevent being in a similar situation again. It's not about holding something over a person; it's about making sure that you apply wisdom in the future. No more, no less.
That said, forgiving while not forgetting shouldn't be about not being open to giving someone another chance. It's simply about asking yourself, "What did I learn from this experience?" and then applying it across the board. For instance, if someone revealed one of your secrets, what's the lesson? Perhaps it's something as simple as learning how to vet people better in the future. "Not forgetting" should be more about how the situation can make you better rather than how to make someone feel like they cannot be redeemed for what they have done. If you've truly forgiven them, sometimes they can be—once trust has been restored. It's close to impossible for that to happen if you're holding onto the out of context take of "forgive but don't forget".
3. You Lack Empathy in the Forgiving Process
I remember when I got my first abortion and a "friend" that I went to school with, who was a virgin at the time, told me that I was going to go to hell for it. Fast forward to her having a late period two years later and—surprise, surprise—she was asking me what clinic I went to for my procedure.
Yeah, it can be really easy to think that someone is not worthy of your forgiveness—or forgiveness, in general—when you haven't done anything similar to what they did to you (or you have selective memory when it comes to some of the past things that you have done). But we've all done something that some human, somewhere, would deem "unforgivable". Not only that but, if a lot of us were truly honest with ourselves, the reason why we don't extend the forgiveness is because, on some cryptic level, we want to have some sort of power over the person who offended us.
I can speak from very up close and personal experience that the sooner you bring empathy—" the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings"—into play, the sooner your heart will soften to a situation; any situation, really. Try it.
4. You’re Stuck in the Past
An author by the name of Criss Jami once said, "Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on." Now put a pin in that as we touch on the main points from the article, "8 Signs You Have NOT Forgiven Someone", the author shares some of the following points.
Here's how to tell if you still need to do more forgiveness work. When you:
- Use what the person said or did as a topic of conversation.
- Daydream about getting revenge or some kind of justice. A good example of this is attending your high school reunion and showing them.
- Preoccupy your mind day in and day out either reliving or dwelling on the situation or the person's behaviors.
- Get annoyed if someone even mentions the person.
- Have a tendency to avoid the person.
- Are secretly delighted to hear about the person's current difficulties and losses.
- Strongly believe you have been unfairly treated and are an innocent victim.
- Have friends and family that are tired of talking about the person and the latest drama.
In another article on forgiveness, the author said this:
"…forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life."
Something that a lot of us refuse to acknowledge or accept about forgiveness is that it can keep us mentally, emotionally and relationally stagnant. Here's an example. Back when I was dating my late fiancé, it took for-e-ver to let him fully into my heart and life because my first love had done so much emotional damage. Looking back, I stand amazed by how much my fiancé was able to tolerate me bringing up my ex or sometimes even comparing the two of them. By the time I finally did let my guard down, Damien (my fiancé) died just a few months later.
That's the thing about unforgivingness. In order to remain in that head and heart space, you have to keep thinking and looking backwards. And that is what can prevent you from truly moving forward. Hmph. The real "ouch" about that is while you're still stuck in your past, there's a pretty good chance that your offender…isn't. They are moving right along.
5. You Think That Karma Is YOUR Job
If you hop on Google, put "karma quotes" in the search field and then click on the "images" tab, you'll see a slew of karma references. Two that cracked me up were "Karma's just sharpening her nails and finishing her drink. She'll be with you shortly" and "In the end, karma will be a bigger bitch than I'll ever need to be". Two that had me like "hmm" were "Karma isn't a bitch, it's a mirror" and "You will never understand the damage you did to someone until it's done to you; that's why I'm here. Signed, Karma." But the quote that all of us should keep in mind as it relates to forgiveness is the one by Dr. Wayne Dyer—"How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours." (Louder for the seats in the back, please.)
Although most of us consider karma to be "what goes around comes around", did you know that another definition of the word is "destiny" or "fate"? I can personally attest to the fact that karma has a way of handling what someone has done (ourselves included) in a way that we couldn't even begin to come up with on our own. Plus, when we let karma do its thing without trying to help it along, we avoid reaping seeds of bitterness, resentment and revenge.
Along these same lines, the Bible tells us that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:6-10). What's really a trip about that Scripture is it doesn't put an expiration date on when that reaping will happen. The warning here is that you only waste time and bring unnecessary drama into your own life if you think it's better to be the "karma bestower" rather than forgiving someone. What's really crazy is, by trying to do karma's job, you keep the vicious cycle going—and usually end up doing further harm to yourself. (Something that unforgiveness knows will happen, by the way.)
Bonus: If You’re a Christian, You Don’t Factor in Just How Much You Need to Forgive
If you're a Christian (or you're simply someone who tries to apply biblical Scripture to your life as much as possible), I think it's imperative that I end this article on forgiveness on a particular note. Matthew 6:14-15(NKJV) tells us, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
What this basically means that in order to be forgiven by God, we need to forgive those around us. It's a Scripture that actually keeps me pretty humble because it reminds me that just like I need to forgive others for what they've done, there is stuff that I do that I need to be forgiven by the Most High for; that nothing should keep me from wanting to live a free and forgiven life so that, at the very least, I can spiritually thrive as an individual.
True forgiveness ain't easy. Not by a long shot. But if you really want to evolve and heal as an individual, it's important that you do it. Not the "bad way" (you know, saying that you do even if you don't really mean it); the right way. Hopefully this article helped to point you in the direction of just that.
Forgive. So that your karma will bring forgiveness unto you. Amen. So be it, sis.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
How I Learned To Forgive People In My Life That Weren't Sorry
Jada Pinkett Smith Reminds Us Forgiveness Isn't About The Other Person
Why I Don't "Cut People Off" Anymore, I Release Them Instead
Feature image by Shutterstock
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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30 Years Later: Here's Why I Think 'Living Single' Had The Healthiest Couples On TV
I don’t know about (some of) y’all but every time that I see a 90s movie or television program turn the Big 30 (or hell, even 20, for that matter), it definitely makes me feel some type of way. Lawd, where does the time go? Truly. And I definitely don’t feel any differently about Living Single — the show that, for starters, we all know Friends should attribute at least 75 percent of its success to since it basically gypped its entire concept from it. (Don’t get me started! Just know that you can read more about that very thing here, here, here, here, and here).
Anyway, there is so much to adore about the sitcom, even as it (rightfully so) plays in heavy rerun rotation to this day. There are the solid friendships between four Black women who remind me, interestingly enough, of the four hilarious seniors fromThe Golden Girls: Khadijah could easily be Dorothy; Synclaire would be Rose; Max would be Sophia, and Regine would be Blanche (wild, right?). There’s the beautiful friendship between their male sidekick neighbors, Kyle and Overton (Black male bonds are also a very precious and necessary thing). There are the relevant storylines, quick wit, and the kind of entertainment that most television shows today can’t even begin to touch (le sigh). Yeah, Living Single deserves all of the flowers to the point where I’m still pissed that it was canceled in the middle of its fifth season (although, thankfully, many questions were actually answered in the last episode).
Yet, even with all of this said, if I had to name my absolute favorite thing about the show, hands down, it’s the fact that when I stop and think of all of the shows that I’ve watched over the years (and it’s been a lot of them), Living Single is one where I think that every main love connection was pretty damn healthy. Not only that, but there is one couple, in particular, who I think a lot of folks could stand to learn how to love well and right from (heads up, it’s probably not the one you think).
So, in honor of the show being 30, humor me as I take just a few minutes to formally and officially shout out a few reasons why, when it comes to displaying Black love and hell, love in general, Living Single set the bar, raised it and then added tax — thirty years ago and present day.
Khadijah and ScooterGiphy
I like getting t-shirts made with pics of some of my favorite Black love couples. For instance, I recently got one done with Jesse and Angie on it (the real ones know who they are); folks always compliment me when I wear it.
There’s one couple, in particular, though, who’s been triggering the mess outta me for the past several months. It’s because, although I crown them as the healthiest fictional couple in television history (Black or otherwise), it’s hard as hell to find any good shots of them. Yep, that would be Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and Scooter (Cress Williams).
They were childhood friends who stayed friends. They always wanted what was best for each other. They didn’t let really good sex (remember their first time when Khadijah said, “We started kissing, and my clothes fell off!”) infect their friendship. Even when they got engaged, they broke it off because they knew that, even though the love was there, they were doing it (at the time) for the wrong reasons. They supported each other’s careers. Scooter was not threatened by Khadijah’s ambition (or other boyfriends; remember when she was about to move in with ole’ boy and Scooter was basically like, “I mean, I did pop in unannounced. My bad.”) Yet, he was also confident enough to tell her about herself sometimes (because if there’s one thing she hated, it was receiving correction and giving apologies).
On the flip side, when Scooter had to travel away for long periods of time, she didn’t put unrealistic restrictions on him. They both just kind of let each other be and allowed their love for one another to exist — even if it had to change different forms in different seasons of their lives. Their love was so full, real, and special that I truly believe that if Fox hadn’t “foxed” the show (SMDH), they would’ve gotten married — and had a really solid and drama-less union. Because the relationship was about freedom, respect, and friendship. And that is healthy as hell, y’all.
Yeah, HANDS DOWN, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to relationships to me. Who gives AF about Rachel and Ross (from Friends)? Khadijah and Scooter have always run crop circles around them in my eyes, chile.
Synclaire and OvertonGiphy
I already know that most of y’all probably think that I should’ve led with Synclaire (Kim Coles) and Overton (John Henton) since they were definitely the most popular couple on the show (again, I had to go with my personal favorite, though) — and with just cause.
All of the “day ones” remember that the first episode of Living Single featured Overton seeing Synclaire for the first time and instantly being drawn to her and her quirkiness (like that big ass troll doll that she rolled up to the brownstone with). He pined away silently for what seemed like forever as he was low-key courting her in the process (like when he faked being an accounting expert just to spend time with her). When they finally did get together, Synclaire and Overton took their time before having sex and yet were super affectionate and doting on one another in the meantime; this serves as a great reminder that intimacy doesn’t have to require copulation. They openly communicated their needs and expectations. They shared a liking for some of the strangest stuff around.
Overton had a way of being protective yet supportive of Synclaire (like when she was naked in that play), while Synclaire had his back when it came to things like resolving matters with his ex (remember when he kissed his ex and realized he was really over her? Classic). Something else that was cool about Synclaire and Overton is you saw dating go to courting, courting go to engagement, and engagement go to a traditional church wedding. They were sweet. They were old-fashioned (without being super critical of the other couples). They were adorable. They had a not-perfect-yet-very-uncomplicated kind of love. And isn’t it grand to be reminded that Black love can be just that way?
Synclaire and Overton are the kind of relationship that a lot of us probably imagine our great-grandparents had back in the day. And if anyone on this list is probably still together with some grandkids who also have troll dolls and tool belts for toys, it would be them. No question.
Maxine and KyleGiphy
These two right here, boy. Definitely, the couple who was the most fun and entertaining to watch consisted of Maxine (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (TC Carson). And can we take a moment to shout out the trendsetting hairstyles Maxine had and how intentional Kyle was about tailoring his outfits? Salute. Anyway, if any two people are an example that constant banter can indeed be foreplay, they would be it.
The clap backs were top-tier (and daily), and yet, there was a brilliance in their timing and delivery that makes them ending up together (eventually) make a ton of sense. Come to think of it, that’s what I liked the most about them — the way they let life mature some things in them both. When they had sex for the first time, they went on a date and realized (I think it was more Max’s fear than anything at the time) that good chemistry and great sex do not automatically make a solid relationship (which is mature as hell).
When they tried having just a sexual relationship (because the sex was so good), they were careful not to let it ruin their, I’m not sure if it was exactly a friendship (LOL), yet they were definitely solid advocates of one another. Even when tinges of jealousy would rear their ugly head (like when Kyle brought a woman, played by Kenya Moore, on a date), they were self-aware enough to reel it in, and when it came time for Kyle to leave for London (check out the backstory on why TC Carson actually left the show early here), even though he wanted Max to come with him, they didn’t “fairy tale” their journey. Kyle went on with his life, and Max went on with hers. Hey, it happens. Even with great sex and chemistry…to some, it happens.
Yet the best part about these two is how the universe has a way of making sure people who are meant to be have ample opportunities to accept that fact. And while it is a little wild to spin the story to where Max goes to a sperm bank and the sperm she gets is Kyle’s — I do adore that she ended up pregnant at a time when both of them appeared to be ready for a baby and a relationship together. Finally, there was full-circle peace — still loads of banter-foreplay but also a ton of peace. Well played.
Regine and Darryl
Okay. If y’all are true fans of the show, then you know that a fun fact is Regine (played by Kim Fields, who also left the show early; read why here) and Kyle dated briefly — which makes them another healthy couple when you stop to think about it because going from dating to a very sweet brother and sister dynamic? That doesn’t happen every day. And while some of you might be surprised that I didn’t go with fine ass Keith (Khalil Kain), Dexter (Don Franklin), who she ended up getting engaged to, or even the Jamaican writer Russell (Shaun Baker), who always got her to shimmy and who she said was a great kisser…I think there is another romantic connection she had who topped them all: Darryl, who was played by the late and great Heavy D — the ONLY celebrity who, to this day, I can personally say that I haven’t heard one negative thing about whether it was during his life or it was after his death.
Clearly, their relationship wasn’t super long-lasting because I couldn’t even find a GIF for it like I did for the others. Doesn’t matter, though. Darryl was a blue-collar brotha with a heart of gold, a strong sense of spirituality, a profound way of looking at life, and a comfortableness in his skin that actually got Regine out of a lot of her superficialness and materialism — and that deserves a lot of props all on its own. And because he taught Regine to look past the surface, even when they did break up, they continued having a deep respect for one another. So much, in fact, that when Regine found out that Darryl’s bride-to-be, Tina (Vivica A. Fox) was screwing around, she made sure to tell him because that’s how much she still cared for him. Beautiful.
Regine and Darryl are reminders that sometimes people come along to “refine our rough edges” so that we’ll be ready for who our “forever” is actually supposed to be. And yes, that deserves its own round of applause.
Can you tell that I watched Living Single more than a lil’ bit? Indeed and with no regrets, especially these days. Because sometimes, as I’m flipping through channels and I can hear my own self say, “TV really does hate my people” (which is another message for another time), it’s nice to see throwbacks that are full of integrity, humor and yes, healthy Black love. And as you can see, one that was in excellence is Living Single, for sure.
So, from the very bottom of my heart and with oodles of appreciation — Happy 30th, Khadijah and Scooter, Synclaire and Overton, Max and Kyle, Regine and Darryl. You will always be necessary…because healthy Black love always is.
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