Years ago I was in a working relationship with a group of young men who, like myself, had dreams of taking our adventure to the highest levels possible. Unfortunately it all came crashing down when a principal person decided he wanted to separate the group and a couple of us were left stranded.
It hit me very hard, to say the least. In fact, it hit me so hard I stopped doing something I had a passion for simply because I was full of so much frustrated anger and blame towards this person, feelings I have carried for the ensuing 33 plus years. In hindsight it includes feelings of dis-empowerment: that horrible emptiness when you believe you no longer have control over the important things in your life.
And then, not so long ago, this person came back into my life in an unexpected way: asking to ‘friend’ up on social media.
My initial reaction was confusion. I asked myself: ‘what can I gain by spending any time interacting with this man? Why bother? Life is too short and why stir up the old grievances?
But then a strange thing happened: I recognised that, while I was definitely, absolutely still carrying anger and frustration towards this person I no longer wanted to be doing that. In fact I had a clear feeling that it was time to put it all to rest… to somehow let it out or maybe even let it go. And that felt good… as a concept anyway.
So contact was made and a dialogue began. I honestly admitted to him that I was unsure about re-connecting and he came straight back with total understanding. In fact, he told me why I should be carrying bad feelings towards him for what happened all those years ago. Whoa!
I decided to write out how I felt and send it to him. Then, if he was totally clear as to why I still carried animosity then he could decide whether or not to continue.
My first letter turned out to be full of blame. I listed all the reasons why it was all his fault and everything I ever felt about everything he had done to me. It wasn’t pretty.
Jude pointed out I’d basically written ‘hate mail’ when I ran it past her to see if I’d expressed myself clearly. Blame doesn’t work, she reminded me… try expressing your feelings instead.
Take #2 worked much better. I found myself writing feelings and how what happened all those years ago was still hanging around in me. I explained the impact it had on me rather than blaming him…. and an interesting thing happened. He responded by fully taking responsibility for who he was back then, and for everything that happened as a result of his decisions and actions at the time.
After some more back and forth he suggested we meet up - which we did –and it was a very interesting evening. I now know I have moved through all this thanks to his willingness to allow me to confront him personally as well as my own feelings. What began as a catch-up that shifted through more open honesty finally became a very pleasant reunion. After all, not only had we shared a powerful experience back in those heady days, we also found we now had more than a few things in common.
I learned that his own story is a cross-section of self-confrontation in itself, and that he survived a time where he could easily have collapsed into his own demise. Instead he worked through it all and grew to become the man who has now enabled me to deal with the after-effects of our time together.
I now feel as though a horrible weight has been lifted from my shoulders. In many ways I now feel free. Yes, what happened happened… but now I no longer find the memory of those events fills me with darkness or unresolved regret.
As a learning, growing experience I can honestly recommend looking at anything that’s weighing you down as objectively as you can. Maybe seek help with that. Then see if there is something you can do to empower yourself to move through it.
And what about grudges? They’re something we carry like dead weight if we allow them to fester. And that festering can become something worse if we allow it. Revenge comes from this type of energy and revenge is a dish best served up on a movie screen for quick entertainment. I mean, too many of the world’s conflicts come from grudges and blame.
In hindsight, when I look back over those angry, confused, unresolved issues I carried over 33 years I am now thankful I have had the opportunity to confront them and move on. What I learnt is that ‘The Enemy’ isn’t always the person you harbor a grudge against, it’s the grudge itself.