Beating a dead… cheek?

By Mir
September 19, 2005

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.


  1. Meg

    Oh, I SO know what you mean. I feel for you. That whole personal growth thing SUCKS and I still find it easier to hate people. ::g::

    In your situation I think I would send a short, not-expecting-a-response email. Something like, “I heard you’re going through some grief. Just wanted to say I’m sorry and I hope it improves soon.”

    (yes, it can be misinterpreted as meaning you’re sorry but kind of glad too and want them to burn in hell! But at least you feel like you’ve tried…?)

  2. Jules

    There’s this part of me that says embrace your growth and do what you feel in your heart of hearts is the best course of action…

    Then there’s the part of me that’s pissed there’s no Peanutbutter Klondike bars for breakfast and understands the need to be all “gotta love karma on a stick, eh baby?” …but you prolly shouldn’t listen to that particular me this morning. ;)

  3. Melanie Lynne Hauser

    Maybe just let a little more time go by, and then get in touch? Sounds like it’s just too soon for both of you, but that you’re on the right track.

  4. KimberlyDi

    Oh yeah, funny how anger turns inward while the intended target for the anger goes about their happy way, oblivious…

    As to the other person, why not make contact and tell the truth. You were upset for reason A-Z, you got over being upset, and that you are concerned about their current situation. The impish delight in feeling that it’s their just desserts is something you’ll have to deal with on a personal level.

    They might not welcome your concern. That’s their shortcoming, not yours. I’ve read something somewhere about battling an enemy where the major concern is that you don’t become the enemy. Don’t let their wrongs become your wrongs.

    You strike me as a level-headed, albeit somewhat hyper, person. You’ll work it out. I very much enjoy your blog.

  5. DebR

    What I would probably do in that situation: Not say anything to that other person because I’d feel so awkward about it.

    What I think would be better and more couragous to do in that situation: Sending a brief note that says something like “I know we’ve lost touch, but I heard you’re having problems and want you to know that I still care what happens to you and if you ever want to talk to me, I’m here.”

  6. Cindy

    Reach out….with no expectations. If you get nothing back, it’s ok. The point is that you cared and tried to be there for that person. Don’t worry about the what-if-they-don’t-like-me-back stuff. If you reach out because you are kind, not because you are trying to benefit yourself, you will have been kind when someone needed it. I know it’s not easy to do but it is good karma! Besides, if the roles were reversed, it would mean a lot to you if the person you had wronged reached out to you when you needed it. OK, I gotta go polish my halo!

  7. ben

    If you love something, set it free.

    If it comes back to you, it is yours to love and cherish forever.

    If it doesn’t, hunt the bastard down and kill it.

    Saw that on a t-shirt the other day. Don’t know if it applies in your case, but hey, maybe it’ll make you smile :)

  8. Karry

    No advice today – it’s tough to be where you are at and the solution is a personal one. (Of course I’m just brimming with suggestions and how *I* would handle it but not too sure how much help my ideas would actually be) So… just know my thoughts are with you. You are smart (also? pretty!) and I know you will do what is best for yourself and for the situation.

  9. joaaanna

    Yep – what everyone else said. Esp. Cindy. No expectations – and really NO EXPECTATIONS. If you truly want to offer a word… then you should, and be ready to be ignored or brushed off. And if you aren’t ignored – then… yeah!

    PS – You pretty you!

  10. Amy-GO

    What Kimberly and Cindy said. I’ve been in a similar situation and have been too mad to say anything. And wound up regretting doing nothing and feeling like a louse. Go to this person and be honest. Offer your help. If they reject it, you will still have done what’s right, and can sleep with a clear conscience. You aren’t responsible for their reaction. Good luck and I’ll be thinking of you!

  11. sleepingmommy

    I’ve always been a grudge-holder. It’s a hard thing to get past and I admire you for coming so far in moving past that inclination.

    I have no advice, just a few words to let you know I understand how conflicted you must feel and that you aren’t alone on this one.

  12. Leanne

    I dunno, Mir.

    On one hand I’d say go for it, but on the other hand I know exactly where you’re at (I have wanted to do the same thing about my dead horse), and sometimes your prayers are the best and most honest thing you can offer up without venturing back into alligator infested waters again.

    This, coming from someone who believes that once you divorce a friend, there’s no going back. Parts will always linger and there will always be “ick”.

    Maybe I should just eat a whole can of Shut The Hell Up instead of just one forkful, eh?

  13. Rae

    A simple “I’m here if you need me, I’m praying for you” will do, leave the ball in their court, so to speak. If they’re interested, they’ll pick up the phone, if they’re not, keep praying! ;-)

    Ok, stepping on soapbox temporarily: there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. If there’s been a change on their (or your) part that would warrant another try, then pray about it. But if it’s just the emotional roller coaster, and folks are caught up in nostalgia instead of reality, then don’t bother. It’ll just be “second verse same as the first” and any healing you may have done would be undone.

    Sounds like they’ve respected your wishes when you walked away. That’s actually a good sign. So drop ’em a line and see if they respond. If not, conscience clear, and time for the moving on.

    *stepping off soapbox*. Sorry if I’ve offended. Snap outta the analysis paralysis and reach out to ’em. It’ll do you good.


  14. Mamacita

    Oh Mir, you are SOOOO much nicer than I am.

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