Why is it that some people seemingly thrive in nearly every relationship while others seem to struggle? And why is it that the people who thrive relationally also seem to be some of the happiest people you will ever meet, and those who struggle often are not? Is there some secret sauce to relationships that the first group of people has that the others don’t?
I believe there are three secret ingredients to successful relationships. And those who master them master a greater level of happiness in life. These are the three happiest people in the world.
1. Those Who Forgive
This is the person who makes the right choice—to forgive.
The book Why Forgive? tells the story of a young New York police officer who was shot by a teenager in Central Park in 1986. In response to the incident, which left him paralyzed, he said, “I forgave him because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart.”
There are two guarantees in life—you will get hurt by others and others will get hurt by you. Because of this, we need the power of forgiveness in every close relationship we have. Choosing forgiveness is optional, but if you choose not to forgive, suffering the consequences of unforgiveness is not.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. – Lewis B. Smedes
2. Those Who Forget
This is the person who refuses to be defined by the past. This person allows the past to stay there. And that’s not because these people ever truly can forget what has happened in the past, but because they have chosen to allow themselves to focus on the rest of their lives, to live again, to love again, and to trust again, despite the pains of the past.
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Lewis Boese
3. Those Who Let Go
This is the person who is willing to give second chances.
A great example of this is a man named Chris Williams. In February 2007, Chris and his family were hit by a 17-year-old drunk driver. His 11- and 9-year-old son and daughter were killed instantly, and he watched as his pregnant wife took her final breath. Chris was himself badly injured and barely able to move. But before help had even arrived to rescue him, he said he had this thought: “Whoever has done this to us, I forgive them. I don’t care what the circumstances were; I forgive them.” And now, to this day, he has publicly forgiven the young man who killed his family and even developed a relationship with him.
Letting go through forgiveness is us at our best when others have been at their worst.Those who are willing to let go relinquish their desire to punish the other person. They refuse to hold a grudge or bring up past hurts. This is the person who has found the freedom in forgiveness. Because letting go through forgiveness is us at our best when others have been at their worst.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. – Jesus of Nazareth
No person is happy simply because he or she has had an easy or problem-free life. In fact, the people who’ve been most terribly hurt also can be the most genuinely happy. Why? Because they’ve made a choice. Hurts are a part of life, especially within the family. But happiness can also be a part of life if you choose to be one of these three people.
Sound off: What other traits do happy people tend to have?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How could I show forgiveness better in our relationship?”