I have once again found myself in the forgiveness realm. This is nothing new for me. Neither is it foreign to humanity as a whole. Either I am the one who needs to be forgiven, or I need to forgive. None of this is for the faint of heart as forgiveness carries with it a cornucopia of strong emotions. Nonetheless, I have found that healing only truly comes when forgiveness has occurred.
This is my current story.
I recently left a very difficult and hurtful friendship (I referred to it as an “entanglement” here). I tried to do it as gracefully as possible. Unfortunately, the other person did not take it well. We have known each other “forever” and I suspect she had grown very comfortable with the dynamics of our relationship. Truth is, it was very dysfunctional. In all honesty, I don’t think she likes herself very much. At any rate, it seems that she coped with her own internal dissatisfaction by projecting all the things she disliked about herself, onto me. I put up with this for far too long. Some reasons being:
I knew her since we were 11 years old, and I was so used to the style of our interactions, it took me a long time to realize how very unhealthy they were;
I truly cared for her. And I loved to “save” people. I believed that by constantly returning kindness for rudeness I would somehow eventually teach her to treat me (and others) better. This never happened. After decades, things were even worse. Which brings me to today’s writing on forgiveness (an addition to a former blog entry here).
After years of hurt, broken confidences and outright spitefull remarks, I finally had to be straight with my friend. I had to tell her the truth. I no longer felt close to her. I could not trust her. The friendship had been trampled on so much for so long, it no longer existed in my heart. I told her it was over.
And my friend reacted as I always knew she would – aggressively.
(Which is frankly another reason I stayed so long – fear)
A lot was said. Publically.
My friend quickly reacted by slamming me on facebook to all our mutual friends (and anyone else on her friends’ list). She wrote that she was now “free” of me. She described me as “toxic”. She indicated that she hoped everyone will come to realize how “toxic” I am.
I was hurt.
I was angry.
I did not give her what she wanted – which was a public fight.
Instead, I turned to Byron Katie at The Work.
This was the attitude I started with:
“She should not have called ME “toxic”. SHE is the toxic one! SHE has treated me terribly for years! How dare she!”
Then I opened my mind to other possibilities, and I turned the above statement around.
“She SHOULD call me ‘toxic’ … how is this statement true?”
“How COULD that statement be true after ALL I have put up with!!!”
Well, I realized something.
I realized that I had allowed her to treat me in a shoddy way for decades (DECADES!) I began to understand that during all those years of allowing her to treat me that way, her brain has become wired to do so. I had originally believed that she would unlearn that behaviour. But, instead, it has become completely ingrained in her. It is now second nature. This is how she relates to friends. And this is not healthy. In fact, this is very unhealthy. And so it follows:
I am toxic to this person.
I have, unwittingly, encouraged in her, a very dysfunctional system of relating to others.
Understanding this has allowed me to let go of any residual anger and hurt; it has allowed me to move on from victimhood. It has freed me and forgiveness has become easy.
I wish my friend well, though from a distance.
I honestly hope she finds the peace that we all need.