I used to spend gobs of time ruminating over the horrible things that other people had done to me. Yes, gobs – and yes, that’s a technical term. I still do, but I try harder not to. I’m 52 years old, and I can still get physically ill when I think about the boys in high school who used to bully me incessantly and their friends who stood by and did nothing about it.
A MILLION REASONS WHY
They were boys. I can only hope they grew up and out of their childish behavior. Sometimes I envision one of them, just one, contacting me on Facebook to apologize. I don’t think that will happen though because when I was on the reunion committee and had to contact everyone – find ‘missing’ people, verify addresses, etc., one in particular kept hanging up on me each time I introduced myself. I could speculate a million reasons why. Eventually, I stopped calling and he never got an invitation.
You know what makes me more ill? Literally, I just got back from the bathroom after thinking about it. It’s the boys who were already men when they bullied me. They gaslighted me. I was harassed. They mentally tortured me. I endured the abuse for almost four years. They were all adults. Old enough to know better. Old enough to be responsible for their own behaviors, but never held accountable. They obviously never grew up. These were some of the men I served with in the Navy at one my duty stations. You can read about it here.
A SLAP IN THE FACE
Here’s the thing though, the people who have wronged me, – those who wrong us, do so, and move on to their next conquests. They’re not thinking about us anymore. It doesn’t matter if they did it 35 years ago, 19 years ago, or last month. Why? Because they don’t care about us. If they did, they wouldn’t have wronged us in the first place. Their time and energies aren’t spent on us, so why do we spend our time and energy on them? Thinking about them? Crying? Dwelling on them and what they’ve done to us? Why do we hold space for them?
I didn’t have a sudden philosophical moment of enlightenment. No, this realization slapped me in the face recently. A Navy shipmate of mine, someone I attended Navy “A school” with and later stationed with again, sent me a Facebook friend request. My heart raced; my mouth watered; my hands shook. Why did she send me this request? What was her motive? She was friends with many of the people who mistreated me and given opportunities to intervene, did nothing. I could have simply declined, the request, but ohhh…..Facebook drama. Maybe, just maybe, she’d be the person to extend the proverbial olive branch. So, I bit the bullet, and before accepting her request, I sent her a message.
“So, I have to be honest. I’m a little curious about your friend request. The last interaction we had was during a formal negative counseling I was getting – you were the witness. You and I didn’t exactly leave on good terms with each other.”
And what was Kate’s response?
“Really? I thought we were already friends on Facebook….I was at a hospital today and saw an ice machine made by a company with your last name. Made me think of you.”
I went on to explain that we were never friends on Facebook and about many the things that had happened to me. She swore she had know idea and went on to say something that floored me.
“Well, if it’s any consolation – I only remember good things about you. I remember that you were thorough and driven…”
I was flabbergasted. Kate is one of the people I held a grudge against for 19 years. NINETEEN YEARS! And, she had only good things to say about me. God just turned my world upside down. Everything I thought I knew was being challenged. Kate herself had never wronged me, but I made her guilty by association. I made assumptions.
WHAT I LEARNED EARLY THAT MORNING WAS PROFOUND
- I sometimes hold a grudge for something that is imaginary.
- I can express my pain while learning to let go of the past.
- The people who truly wronged me are likely not thinking about me.
- I can choose to evict all the people who are taking up residence in my mind.
- I can choose to move from being a victim to surviving to thriving.
- I can choose to forgive myself.
- Forgiving means letting go of the past. It does not mean condoning behavior and does not require reconciliation.
- Letting go is a decision.
- Letting go is a form of self care.
- Letting go can happen at any time during the journey.
God is amazing in so many unpredictable ways. God used Kate. Kate probably has no idea what her friend request has done for me. And, while I haven’t yet told her, I plan to soon. It may not be life altering, but it has put me on a new trajectory.
I haven't forgiven everyone. That's a tall order, but I'm working on it.