The council decides to remove the security light close to your house. It has happened because the Council hates you. They know you and every member of the Council hates you for no reason. Your child gets sent home from school for wearing inappropriate uniform. This is discrimination targeted at you. Your child is a good child and because of the colour of his skin, he is being picked on. Your boss does not invite you to a team meeting for the accounts department. You are part of payroll and he must hate your guts. It is unfair that some people got invited and you weren’t.
Get the picture? A wound collector is someone who believes that every unfortunate thing that happens to them is as a result of unfair or unjust treatment. Sometimes the grievances are real, many times they are imagined. The main problem is that a wound collector will not forgive or forget and move on. He will hold on to the grievances like a snail to its shell. In fact, you only have to tell a wound collector of a wrong that was done to you and they will add it to their collection of grievances. I imagine that wound collectors spend time bringing out each wound to the forefront of their mind to air them, polish them, examine them in broad daylight to see if they can make the grievance look worse than it is, and then store them back into their minds to fester.
Every family has a wound collector. A friend once told me of an aunt in her 60s who could recount slights that happened to her when she was a child. She could tell chronological tales of how each family member had offended her, including one where a cousin had refused to share his bottle of wine with her at a family function. The incidents ranged from the believable to the ridiculous, including how the road on which she lived was not tarred because some people did not want her corner shop selling coca cola to thrive. Others included not being offered a lift home after a family meeting and not being told that a cousin’s daughter was pregnant.
Here in the UK some wound-collectors I know use their race as the origin of every slight or wrong done to them. Sometimes it is really about race but many other times it is about their incompetence or their lack of integrity. However, they find it easier to collect all sorts of wounds in every situation, from the cashier at a store telling them that an item is no longer on offer to when they failed to submit the true hours they worked, thereby fraudulently trying to claim more pay and getting fired.
Sometimes the wound is real and very painful, but that is no reason to give it pride of place in one’s life. I know a lady who got dumped over 14 years ago. She hasn’t forgiven her ex and doesn’t miss an opportunity to curse him for dumping her. However, she is so eaten up with her collection of wounds from the failed relationship that she hasn’t been able to have a meaningful relationship in 14 years. She claims she is actively seeking a man, but who will have her once they discover how much bitterness she has in her heart towards one individual?
We all say or do things that we later regret and therefore the world is full of slights for a wound collector to add to their arsenal of grievances. However, wound collectors are the ones who suffer, because they are the ones who carry around the baggage of hurt, slights and imagined wrongs done to them. This baggage grows into hatred and causes friendships, marriages and other relationships to breakdown.
I don’t think all wound collectors make a conscious decision to hold every grudge and keep note of all slights. It creeps on unconsciously due to low-self-esteem; dissatisfaction with their situation in life and from coveting other people’s perceived good fortunes. Harbouring so much hate and ill-will can lead to all sorts of psychological and physical illnesses and surely these are enough reasons not to collect wounds? Besides, it is double punishment, isn’t it? If someone does something that hurt your feelings and you choose to carry the grievance around with you for so long that it causes you to develop physical and psychiatric illnesses, you have allowed yourself to be hurt twice.
Forgiveness is key. You may never be able to forget but you can forgive the person who wronged you. You may also have to learn to forgive yourself if you regret getting yourself into a situation where you were hurt. Sometimes forgiveness will mean that you wipe the slate clean and you will never again refer to the incident in connection with the person. Other times forgiveness may mean letting go of your anger about the situation but changing the way you relate with or view the person. Some people will carry on like nothing happened but will harbour hurt.
Life isn’t about perfect relationships or smooth sailing, we have all been hurt in the past and we will all be hurt in the future. Life is an adventure in hurt and forgiveness. We are meant to learn from each experience and move on, not collect all the hurts into a ball of hatred that will eventually consume us one way or another. According to LB Smedes, to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
Finally, if you won’t forgive your enemies to heal yourself, then consider forgiving your enemies to get back at them.Nothing annoys an enemy as much as realizing that you have forgiven them and moved on!
Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to become a wound-collector.
Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on everything.