“ You’re dead to me ”
There is such a small number of people nowadays that can say that they haven’t cut off at least one person in their life. In fact, I don’t think that such people exist. And it’s all-natural – our ancestors did it since forever, we do it, and perhaps we’ll keep on doing it.
“ That person’s dead to me” or “I will never talk to him again ”
And any other expressions we use when we proclaim that we have stopped treating the other person as a person. And it is, of course, because of a mistake they have made – usually a grave one.
Cutting someone off bears such intensity which can affect our social life greatly – and cause plenty of awkward moments that simply wreak havoc on the social lives of those around you.
Because, since we are trying to act like that person is literally dead, trying to wipe any memory and trace of that person from our lives, the people around us don’t necessarily have to do that – and here is when the conflict becomes larger.
We expect the others to treat that person as dead as well, and we get considerably irritated when we find out that they have continued communicating with that person, so we cut them off as well. In the end, you might end up cutting yourself off from the social circle you were part of.
In the past, cutting someone off meant a difference between life and death.
When we cut someone off, even if we consider them dead to us, it doesn’t mean that they really are. In the worst case, it will cause problems in our social lives, but that’s where it stops. Ostracizing someone in the past, however, meant the death of that person in the literal sense.
As professor Glenn Geher, Ph.D., explains, “for the lion’s share of human evolution, social worlds rarely exceeded 200 people.” And if you found yourself in such a society, choosing to just move out wasn’t quite an option.
“Historically, getting kicked out of one’s band would have caused the direst of consequences. Being cut off from a small number of folks in a group of 200 could easily lead to being cut out by a larger subset of individuals over time.”
And being removed from the important social connection could have meant either a lack of reproductive opportunities or death – both leading to an evolutionary dead-end.
From this experience, our psychology started perceiving social alienation as a major threat that causes disproportionate levels of social anxiety. So, it won’t come as a surprise that we know this alienation would make the other person feel awful, as it has been embedded in our psychology.
However, there is an evolved alternative to this: forgiveness.
Another thing we have inherited from our ancestors is the strong moral emotions that have evolved largely “to help people stay connected to others in ancestral bands,” explains Geher.
These emotional states include regret, shame, and remorse – and are meant to motivate people to engage in “reparative altruism” so that we can try and repair things with the people we have hurt.
And it’s just natural that we make mistakes and are prone to hurt people. But it’s as natural to ask for forgiveness and make things right again by taking the necessary steps. And forgiveness is an important behavior that is related to such situations.
While it’s the slighter’s job to take the necessary steps to ask for forgiveness, the hurt person should decide if forgiveness is perhaps the better alternative to cutting them off – and in many cases, it is.
The benefits of forgiving are great. “Forgiving others has the potential to raise one’s reputation as being other-oriented,” explains Geher.
“When done carefully and in a way that doesn’t make one look like a punching bag in the broader group, it’s a signal that one is kind and highly trustworthy—and that one has the interests of the broader social group at heart.”
According to research, forgiveness makes us feel better, and this suggests that the benefits of forgiving must have been great to our ancestors who were forgivers as well.
To err is human, to forgive is divine.
The older you get, the more you feel like you’ve seen it all – and perhaps you already know how difficult it is to deal with a social cut-off. And while it’s completely understandable as to why we sometimes have to cut some people off, when done properly, forgiveness can bring a lot more benefits to us and our social circle.
“When done well, forgiveness ends up not only keeping a social circle intact but has the capacity to raise the status level and respect that people feel for the forgiver,” says Geher.
You have to accept that perfection has never existed among any of us, and it can never exist. Being perfect means being accepting and understanding. If you truly see that the other person is feeling guilty and remorseful, it is definitely worth it to give them another chance.
In the end, having more people around you who you have forgiven can only lead to a more positive life. Cutting off brings negative emotions on both sides, and doesn’t result in anything but pain.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is an act that brings positivity and calmness and can help you and the relationship with that person truly grow into something more meaningful.