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January 13, 2020
Word of the Week: Forgiveness
Notes From Camp 003 (our Dear Abby/Dear Sugar advice column: accepting applications here)
Four years ago, I unexpectedly was invited to attend a recruiting event in San Francisco for a company in which I was interested. I was ecstatic, but was in school and was told the flight and hotel needed to be on my dime.
Excitedly, I reached out to two of my closest friends who lived in SF to let them know the good news. One of my close friends had an extra room she and her boyfriend would Airbnb on a regular basis, so that was a given as my accommodation.
When my other friend found out I was staying in Berkeley, she asked me to do dinner in SF first before going to Berkeley. I landed late, so that would have meant 0 time with my Berkeley friend except to sleep. I kindly asked if she would be open to coming to Berkeley. That was out of the question.
I then got a slew of texts that this was the last straw and that I had been a bad friend for years. I responded that this was a 24 hour trip and I landed late and why couldn’t she come to Berkeley, and that only intensified the opposition.
We ended the conversation with a goodbye and a not-so-agree to disagree.
I then found out she told a close mutual friend the “story” and that I had been a bad friend for years (for reasons never explained to me). I figured, I’m done. It was great while it lasted, but we’re done. This friendship is no longer adding to my life.
Two weeks ago and 4 years later, I got a text on my birthday that she was living where we studied abroad and that she’s been thinking of me and wanted to say happy birthday. There wasn’t an apology but more of “I hope we can overcome our past differences.”
Now my question. I know a healthy life is all about forgiveness but it’s hard for me to forgive somebody who’s never asked for it. I still feel angry with how things were managed but I also know it’s not healthy to hold a grudge forever.
Should I try to patch up this friendship or should I accept that it was a beautiful thing while it lasted but we’re now in different places?
My heart aches for what you have been through with this friend. I can hear how much she meant to you and also how hurt you were. There is space for all of your conflicting feelings: the sadness, the anger, the love, and the nostalgia. Everything is valid.
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We’ve all been told that forgiveness is the key to living a happy life. However, I have a bit of a hard time with that kind of blanket advice. Forgiveness is not so simple. I believe that oftentimes, women forgive too quickly. Too generously. Too freely. And as a result, we give our power away to people who don’t deserve it.
See, to me, forgiveness is not an action in and of itself; it is a byproduct. A byproduct of healing our own hearts and finding peace, acceptance, and a sense of closure about something that happened between us and another person. The other person is not part of the forgiveness process at all. You aren’t forgiving their actions or how they hurt you. You are accepting the reality of a situation. You are grieving something that once was. You are honoring the lessons you learned during your relationship. And as a result, you are slowly but surely finding space in your heart to “forgive” them. But it doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen because you feel like you “have” to.
The way we portray forgiveness in our society is actually in service to the other person. The person who is hurt by our boundaries. The person who is in their own struggle. The person who feels remorse. We often leap to “forgiveness” because it’s painful when other people are upset with us. We feel guilty. We’ve been taught to feel guilty. But at the end of the day, you need to decide what is best for you (not your friend or anyone else).
Do you feel like you have the energy to work through things together (key word: together)? Because it’s 100% up to you. You don’t owe her anything to be a good person or live a healthy, happy life. Energy is a precious resource. It’s your call whether she has earned the right to be in your orbit again.
Ask Yourself: What have you been taught about what it means to “forgive” someone?
Weekly Mantra: I am allowed to love someone from afar.