In an earlier post on Practicing Forgiveness, I spoke about a heated argument I had with a close friend of mine while we were on a trip together. Although four months had passed since the original incident, we had not discussed what happened and there was still a lot of tension between us. I wanted to talk with her and hopefully come to a new understanding, so I phoned and left a message for her to call me.
When she called back, we agreed that the situation was unresolved and she was still upset. The conversation started off okay but soon deteriorated into another argument. The more I spoke about my hurt feelings, the more she dug in her heels and insisted that I wasn’t hearing her. She wasn’t giving in and continued to argue. After all, she had invited me as a “favor” to take care of me. Then she realized she couldn’t both do her regular job, and tend to the problems on the ranch. She made a “mistake” and would never invite a friend again, unless she was on vacation. As the conversation continued, I became more and more livid, more and more hurt, and did the worst possible thing—hung up on her in mid-sentence.
Although I wasn’t proud of my response—hanging up on my friend, I was triggered. My anger was building to the point of combustion. Sure, it would have been better if I could have taken Venerable Dhammananda’s advice and paused to say “I’m too angry; let’s talk again when we have both calmed down.”
How had this happened? I wanted to come to a new understanding. I had just finished reading Desmond and Mpho’s Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving. There’s a chapter on renewing or releasing the relationship. I was convinced that we could renew the relationship. I imagined we would be closer than ever, crying and laughing together. Instead, we were worse off than before, the threads that bound our friendship were slowly disintegrating.
When I reflected back on our conversation, it reminded me of arguments I had with my mother during high school. My mother would criticize me, I would grow defensive, and respond back in anger. The longer our conversations went on, the worse I felt. There seemed to be no resolution. In fact, I often felt as though I were the unwanted child, the bad daughter, and shame would overcome me, like I had somehow intentionally caused an argument that I had never started in the first place.
Desmond Tutu wrote, “If the person is not sorry for what they have done, you may decide it is best to release the relationship.” It was clear to me that my friend felt no remorse for her part in the altercation and that I needed to release her. If I could have one more conversation with my friend, here is what I would say.
Thank you for your beautiful friendship all these years. It’s time to move on. I no longer need you to take care of me. I wish you all the best and I release you from the confines of our relationship.
Unfortunately, that conversation will never happen. I will never have closure. All I can do is forgive myself, breathe, and admit I did the best I could in a difficult situation.
Have you been in a similar situation? What happened and what do you wish you had done differently?