Of all the goals I set in October 2017, the one to “Put an end to any grudges” has intimidated me the most. This is because I tend to cling to grudges with the vice-like grip of a toddler clutching their favorite toy. Knowing this as I planned the upcoming year’s goals, I decided to attempt to abolish this practice.
I initially set the goal with the bright-eyed enthusiasm of a first-year Habitat for Humanity volunteer, but my zeal quickly waned as I realized that I’d have to forgive someone whom I had deemed nearly unforgivable.
I won’t get into the gritty and unnecessary details, but I will say that there is a person who has done so many unbelievable things to me that I felt it would be impossible to forgive them. After months of this going on, I was at my wit’s end as to how I should deal with their venom. So, in a move I’m not proud of, I finally decided to stop communicating with them altogether. Already thinking about how unhealthy that method is? Well, couple it with the fact that I saw this person on a regular basis, and you have the perfect recipe for toxicity.
This went on for close to seven months, and after some time, we slipped into a groove of ignoring each other unless we absolutely had to talk. This soon became a habit, and I began acting as if we were doing the most normal thing in the world. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks: what I was doing was unequivocally wrong. (I know, I can sometimes be slow on the uptake). I realized that whether or not someone wrongs you, you never have the right to dehumanize them by acting as if they don’t exist. By doing that, I was stooping to their level and passing up any chance to work through the profound issues at hand.
So this week I decided to do something about this, and I texted the individual to ask if they could meet with me. They said that they could, and we set up a time to talk. I was a bundle of nerves leading up to the conversation because I wasn’t sure how they would respond. On top of that, it’s never fun to humble yourself and apologize for something you’ve done wrong.
When the time came to meet, I jumped right into the matter at hand. I explained that I was sorry for the tension I had perpetuated and asked for forgiveness. The person looked surprised by my words and proceeded to accept my apology. Unfortunately, they followed their acceptance of my olive branch by saying a mixture of accusations and lies about me.
Frustration boiled up inside me because I had wanted this to be the perfect moment where we’d mutually apologize and do our best to move forward. I had so many biting retorts running through my mind as I listened to their laundry list of things they alleged I had done wrong. But after a few moments of holding them in, I realized something: firing back at them would do nothing to improve the situation. I’ve explained my side many times in the past, and it hasn’t made an impression. So all I can do is try my hardest to let go of the past and focus on showing love to this individual in the present.
So does that mean that we’ll go back to being close friends who share deep struggles and secrets? Probably not. However, I have seen the tension that used to permeate the space around us for the past seven months disappear since our talk. And we are now able to communicate without it feeling like we’re in a war zone, which is a small miracle in and of itself.
As a result of this process, I’ve realized that all I can do is work on controlling my thoughts and actions. Although I’d love to enact sweeping changes in the lives of those around me, that isn’t how life works. And hard though it may be to not dwell on other people’s problems, it is freeing in its own way.
Since the conversation earlier this week, I’ve felt a weight lift off of my shoulders because I am no longer harboring venomous feelings towards a fellow human. Sadly, this post-grudge lightness is a foreign feeling, but it’s one that I hope I come to recognize.
Take it from me, it’s never easy to abandon grudges, but I promise that if you begin the process of forgiving and moving forward, you will see how much it can radically change your life.