Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor Part 3 -Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something everyone wants. I know I do when I mess up. Oddly, it is something that most are very slow, if at all, to give away. If we all want it so badly when do we hesitate or deny it to others? Some would say, "I do forgive". I would question, think of someone who has wronged you that you think that you have forgiven. I mean someone who has really wronged you, it caused damage to the relationship. Think of them, bring them to mind. How do you feel? Pain, sorrow, anger, frustration? Anything like that? If you don't have any emotion other than the good, fuzzy feelings of friendship or love I am sorry to say, there is something between you that hasn't been forgiven. I know first hand.

Studying myself in situations of asking for and extending forgiveness I have noted a few things. First of all, asking for forgiveness is very hard. It is, if you are sincerely looking for reconciliation rather than an "I'm sorry too" in return. I know it is nice to get the other side to admit fault but it doesn't always happen. Sometimes they even apologize for something else that wasn't even what you had in mind! Oh, the complexities of relationships. In any case, the first times I earnestly sought forgiveness were and remain, very powerful and humbling experiences for me. In all but one case, there has been reconciliation on some level, meaning the relationship continued on either immediately or eventually in some way.

One example that comes to mind most readily is one that was not only hard but the recipient challenged my motives, I would say now to that person, good for you! It was someone with whom I worked along side who eventually became my supervisor. The thing between us was, as peers, we had differing views on how my program within the company should run. I created our program and he had run a successful, similar program at another office within the same company. My program was also successful. I was not very open at all to his trying to mentor me when I hadn't asked for it. Honestly, I was pretty full of my own ego and didn't appreciate him trying to deflate it either. Tensions progressed and further down the road our boss informed us that he had too many managers reporting to him and that I would roll up under this man's team. You'd have thought that our boss had punched me in the face right then and there. I was resentful. My relationship with this then peer and now boss continued to deteriorate. I was indignant, disrespectful and openly critical. I should have been fired but for some reason he didn't. I had come to a place over time where I needed this office distress to end. I hated going to work and I didn't want to find another job. I sat down, went over where my faults were in this relationship and humbly presented them to him after a regularly scheduled business meeting and asked him to forgive me. I went on to say, which I think is most important in these situations, to define what my plan was to not let this behavior continue. He surprisingly pushed back. He asked me to state examples of what I felt were my trespasses against him. I was caught off guard, took a second and then gave him one or two. He asked for more. I swallowed and pressed on, giving him more detail and some others. Something most interesting happened. His face changed. It softened, he looked almost emotional and informed me that no one had ever put him in this situation of asking forgiveness before. He thanked me and we left the conference room. Our relationship changed immediately and for the better. We went on to have many great wins in business together. It turns out, we were a very formidable force together and we remain friends and I hold him as one of my best supervisors, mentors and role models in business. Imagine that.

Harder though is extending forgiveness, mostly to those who are not seeking our forgiveness in the first place. This is my "all but one" person I referred to earlier. I find that this is so common among us. It is so hard to get through and although it causes us so much pain and emotional scarring, it seems we'd rather allow it to reek havoc rather than heal it. I am in fact, still working through this myself with this individual. This person is a family member. During a great trial in my life, this person extended help and the security of help and undying love for me and my daughter. I didn't know this person well in an up close and personal sense but I took the emotion to be genuine and accepted. Public and private promises were made and almost immediately were reneged on. Resentment welled up in me and two more disappointments lead to me, very publicly, announcing this person's wrongs and letting everyone know who I thought he really was. I don't even need to detail the extensive damaged that did to our relationship. I was angry, rage-filled and vengeful. I felt completely justified in my actions at the time. I still believe that this person did wrong me. The sticking point is, I have humbled myself to see my errors, presented these to this individual on more than one occasion not only to have my asking for forgiveness rejected but even harsher words hurled back at me. This person is not open to any communication from me or my daughter at this time. Rejection of me is fine, I've had to live with that before but when it comes to my daughter that is another thing entirely. The "Momma Bear" in me rises and I want to swipe my paw at anyone who dare harm her. I considered this person's actions to be an affront to the emotional well-being of my daughter and I couldn't let it go. The mere mention of his name, the thought of this person made my blood boil over. My jaw clenched, I never turned down the opportunity to voice how hurt and disgusted I was with this person's behavior to my family and close friends. Truth be told, I hated how I felt about this person and I wanted to let it go but I couldn't. I prayed about it, resolved to not feel this way any more, only to be disappointed to find myself angry and discussing how I felt about the situation, again. The crossroads came recently when I had to contact a company my late husband had an annuity with to find out how to close it out. I called and was informed that the paperwork for the beneficiary would be in the mail in a week. Not really paying too much attention, the mail came and to my utter shock, this individual was named as the beneficiary, not me his wife. Ironically, after I felt like I was punched in the stomach for about an hour, this pinnacle helped me let it go. I took the paperwork, put it in an envelope along with a note explaining what this person had to do, stuck it in a mailbox and walked away. Why did this bring about change? I really don't know. Maybe God was pressing me to put my prayers into action and decide if I really wanted to stop carrying around this baggage any more. Will this bring about change in our relationship? I really don't know but I am finally able to think of this person and wish them well. When the thoughts reappear of me talking to this person again and what I would say, I immediately changed the subject in my mind. I can't entertain the "who's right" argument any more. It doesn't matter. This was initially a miscommunication that needed to be resolved followed by someone not meeting my expectations and my reaction toward that. It could have been easily settled but now it may never happen. That's okay. I can leave it there without needing to open old wounds every time someone brings this person up or I think about it.

I've learned that forgiveness is an action. I need to decide to forgive and be committed to the forgiveness regardless of what happens. Easier said than done but I feel so much better having put this into practice. I have wronged people and I have had to ask for forgiveness and they have graciously extended that to me. They, I believe, have moved on and allowed our relationship to continue. If I would expect that from others, why shouldn't others expect that from me?

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