I used to be a champion grudge-holder. Really first-rate. It took little to draw my ire and–once provoked–that was pretty much it. Oh, sure… I might, for some reason or other, act as if I’d forgotten whatever perceived transgression had occurred. But I never did. It was always there.
It takes a lot of energy, being that angry all the time.
The irony, of course, is that now that I don’t do that anymore, I joke about the kinds of things I used to genuinely feel, because I realize it was extreme and I think it’s funny. And the sort of people I used to detest take it as truth rather than comedy. This tends to upset me, for a while. But I just can’t generate the kind of single-minded hatred I used to. I guess I’m getting old.
(See? Like that. It’s a joke. And dumbasses everywhere are going “Oh no! She’s upset she’s not MORE EVIL! How disturbing!”)
I don’t have any desire to get into a protracted discussion about religion. For me, changes have come about in my life over the years because of my relationship with God. Sure. One of those changes–at its most basic level–is that I believe the Golden Rule applies to forgiveness perhaps even moreso than it does to any other act. I think it’s important to forgive and be forgiven.
I also realized that NOT forgiving often had much more deleterious consequences for ME than it did for the person I was busy imagining being run over by a bus.
But the thing is, life was a lot more straightforward when I felt entitled to write off people whom I felt had wronged me. Go figure.
Now I often find myself struggling to find the balance between turning the other cheek and not leaving myself open for further heartache. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, and not condemning is not the same as condoning.
Recently I found myself feeling mistreated in the context of a (surprise!) complicated situation. I walked away, because it seemed the most logical course of action at the time. I forgave the other person as best I could; acknowledging that they’d done their best and probably meant no harm. But in this case, letting the relationship go was what felt like the best choice all around. I thought I’d done okay.
A few days ago I felt compelled to check in on this other person, only to discover that they are going through a tough time. My emotions were quite unexpectedly stirred up. The cherry on top? Their current situation is a lot like the one in which I’d felt slighted, previously. Coincidence?
I believe in karma or something like it, but maybe not the way you’d think. I don’t think this person “deserves” this difficulty, necessarily. I really don’t know. But part of me believes there’s a reason it’s happening, and furthermore, a reason I found out about it.
Part of me believes this is an opportunity for both of us. If I could just find the right way to offer my genuine concern, there could be some growth. But how do I do that, when–no matter how altruistic I’d love to be–the inescapable truth is that although I AM genuinely concerned, and do wish I could help, part of me wants to help so that this person GETS what happened before. And so that I can tell myself that I put my money where my mouth was.
Where does it stop being offering the other cheek, and become beating a dead horse, cutting off your nose to spite your face, and a million other cliches that basically boil down to being stupid and/or self-serving?
I’ve started to contact this person several times, and stopped myself every time. I’m afraid my advances would be unwelcome. I’m more afraid that they will be misinterpreted as being mean-spirited or somehow predatory. I’m afraid that instead of helping to finish healing a previous wound, it will end up ripping it wide open again. And I’ve defensively pointed out to myself that it’s not like THEY’ve shown any desire to contact ME, so why should I bother?
So I’ve done nothing. Except ache for this person, in spite of myself; and wish I could just not care or take some payback joy in their suffering, or something. But I don’t. And I hope that if they need me, they’ll let me know. Because I’d listen, and get it.
Yeah, that hate thing was definitely easier.