I just knew it would only be a matter of days before I wrote something on this topic. Probably the main reason behind this is, that I am currently taking part in an online ‘challenge’ (for 5 days only) all about the Art of Forgiveness being organized by another friend of mine: Veronika Rutten (www.veronikarutten.com). Believe me highly recommended!
So what is behind this word?
Forgiveness: is the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
Forgive: to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) or an offence, flaw or mistake.
OK a big topic then, which applies to all of us I think.
During the challenge I surprised myself how many thoughts and insights on this subject came up. A lot!
So I will share a personal story of my own as this illustrates the subject in one of its many forms.
For a long time, more than 25 years to be exact I had a friend. We shared a lot with one another, mostly concerning our children, school issues and so on and she was also my hairdresser. I lived in the same town as she did until I moved away in 2013. Strange in retrospect, the friendship became even stronger when I moved away. We had so much more contact and often talked about how many wasted moments there had been when we both lived in the same place. I knew her husband and children well too and vice versa.
It was around the time before their 25thWedding Anniversary that she began to confide a lot of things with me. She no longer loved her husband and over the past 5 years had sprung from one affair to another. I will not write about some of the very personal things she told me, but to be honest I was shocked on some matters. Not so much about the fact that she was not in love with her partner anymore (that happens all the time and is quite the norm these days) but more about the nature of the affairs. I had often wondered how anyone could be so tolerant of another, that she kept managing to be constantly either ‘out or away’. So really there were so many signs that this marriage was doomed and it was just a question of time before it was going to end. So you may think maybe her husband was far too easy and should have put his foot down more often? Probably, but he didn’t, because he loved her so much!
And end it did. The marriage finally stranded after she had been away yet again, across the world and came home and announced she wanted a divorce. I knew of course at the time, that there was already a new partner waiting in the wings. But I kept my mouth firmly shut. After all that is what friends do don’t they, respect confidences?
The divorce was tough and it hit her husband really hard. He was in one word – devastated. Why? He did not understand and she never really told him why. In the summer I was actually staying with them for a few days. What a weird situation, officially divorced but still under the same roof? That happens a lot these days, purely on a financial basis, if a house has to be sold, also her business was there too and the clients still came and went irrespective of what was going on ‘next door’. One evening during a long discussion with her husband, he actually asked me upfront: has she met someone else? I had to lie. That is so against my nature, but his pain and sadness was so great, who was I to inflict even more? I so regretted that moment and I thought about it a lot all the time.
Later in the same year, she visited me with the new ‘man in her life’. He seemed nice enough, I suppose, but my underlying thought was – it wasn’t quite right. He was almost like a gigolo, she was so in love, completely blind for absolutely anything anyone said (including her own family, even the children) and it was ‘utopia’ as far as he was concerned, a pretty new, very willing girlfriend who paid for everything too. Fill in the spaces yourself between the lines! Twice divorced himself, a number of children from different wives. I sometimes thought, it was perhaps not the best of choices? But she was my friend and even though I basically knew she could do so much better and eventually the shine would wear off as they had very little in common, apart from the physical. I kept quiet.
Quite by chance, during another visit the ‘new man’, accidently (or not?) said things to my family. Things that I had really shared with her in great confidence myself. Because that it what happens, of course in any dialogue with someone you consider to be a really good friend, things get shared. Often perhaps just as a comparison to make a point, to offer advice, to show your own vulnerability. The end result was that I was absolutely furious that she had told him things I had said in confidence. And even more so that he thought it was his place to talk about it too! I hardly knew him after all.
I was in the first instance, speechless, literally. Shocked, disappointed, incredibly hurt but most of all – so angry. Angry at whom? Well in the first instance with her, because she had gone so beyond the norm as far as I was concerned and this is my friend? Eventually when I had simmered down a bit, I wrote an app to her, saying upfront and to the point, what I thought, and when I think back, we used to app each and every morning for months and months so this was quite normal. Not just the easy way out.
The response back was not what I expected. She blamed me for everything! That shock was even bigger. So I decided to ‘control, alt, delete, (as we say) literally everything and break all my contact with her. It was not easy believe me, because in the end I felt guilty. I took a lot of the blame upon myself mainly because I did not just understand. I felt enormous pity for her ex, her family and her children, because suddenly I saw a side of her that was totally strange. It was the ‘easy way out’ for her because I never heard another thing. Nothing, complete silence. A friendship ended like putting out a sack of waste into the garbage! That is tough.
It played around in my mind for a long time. But I did not do anything. I did not try and reinstate the contact. Why? I just got to the point when I could not, that is the only answer I can give you all.
However, something changed a lot when I took part in this 5-day online challenge, which was all about forgiveness. You may be thinking that it was all about eventually forgiving her for such abuse of a friendship. No, it was about forgiving myself. I have spent sleepless nights going over things again for sure, wondering what went wrong. I still have some photos taken this summer during the week I stayed with her and there are a lot of happy memories there too.
So what is forgiving yourself all about? Well it makes you look once more at things purely from your own side. True, I had taken on all the blame, but there are always two parties or more in any conflict aren’t there?
It is actually Day 4 today, final day tomorrow and it has only literally taken me a few minutes every morning to start my day. Writing down short answers to short questions. But good questions because the answers were the same. Each day brought a new theme, looking at a certain thing in a certain way, like for instance today is about: learning and growing.
Is this true? Yes, because today I feel as if there is suddenly more space. I have finally been able to shed all feelings of guilt and that the ending of this friendship was my fault. It wasn’t, I just got caught in the slipstream of basically her insecurity, her faults, her blindness, her egoism. She suddenly was no longer a friend and I grew because I know now that this friendship is well and truly over. Why? Because there is no trust anymore. From my side. When trust has gone and is so damaged, it is better just to release and let go. By forgiving, because I do, I allow myself to grow. I have learnt and grown.
I think a lot of you reading this will be able to identify with this yourselves. Every single story will be different. For sure. There may be much bigger issues and reasons than in my story. But sharing it with you was my way of explaining the words: Forgiveness and Forgive. You can do that too you know. You don’t have to debate about it for a long time; just really it is all about forgiving yourself. It may sound strange, but just try it!
I did not realize the importance of the words really. And the power that lies behind the action of forgiving yourself. I talked about it a lot with family and other friends and they all said: she is not worthy of your friendship. I think that too, but at the same time, I can forgive, first of all myself and then her.
That is really important.
And when you can do that, you will really surprise yourself how much you grow!
Images: Google Chrome