i am not easily hurt or offended. i'm just not that sensitive, i guess. growing up an only girl with four brothers may have something to do with it - maybe i am less comfortable allowing myself to feel stereotypically "female" emotions. (oh, how we could delve into the depths of my psyche on this issue. maybe some day. then again, maybe not.)
i also do not trust easily. i'm polite. i'm friendly. i have a lot of "friends." i am a good friend to others, but there are only two women in the world who know the real entire me. i have a close relative who was, after ten years, becoming a friend. i haven't shared any deep dark secrets with her, but i am almost another parent to her child.
(deep breath.) ok . . . she criticized my child and my parenting skills. in a semi-public setting. it took no more than a few hours for the story to reach me.
i was devastated. i didn't know how to handle it. i decided almost immediately to forgive her, but what to do about it was beyond me. (my willingness to confront issues early and head-on has diminished since i've left the corporate world behind.) after several hours of hard thinking, i called my mom and cried. she listened and told me the criticisms were not accurate.
my mom is not the type to insert herself into her children's lives. she minds her own business. but in this case, she butted in. she called the relative. i do not know what she said, but whatever it was, it was the right thing to say, judging by the end result.
i would have waited until i wasn't so emotional before calling my relative to talk about the issue. so when caller i.d. showed she was calling that very night, i debated whether to answer. but i did. she was outside on the front porch and asked me to come out and talk to her.
i honestly do not know if i could ever be brave enough to do what she did - she got right to the point, told me she was very wrong, had no excuses and apologized. i did not make any effort to ease her discomfort (totally unlike me). i acknowledged her "wrongness" and let her know how deeply it hurt me. but i also told her i'd forgiven her almost immediately and accepted her apology.
i'd thought that even though i forgave her, our relationship would be forever damaged and doomed to remain politely distant, but as she answered my question of why she would say such things, something happened. the hurt i'd felt melted away and my broken trust mended. just like that. i didn't excuse her behavior - and she didn't ask me to - but over the hour or so we talked, we reestablished the foundation of our relationship.
forgiveness is always necessary, but not always easy for me. i should say it this way: forgiveness is a decision. not a feeling. sometimes the decision is made with gritted teeth and the "feeling" comes later. sometimes so much later that i wallow in my feelings of hurt or anger and realize i have to decide all over again to forgive. eventually the feelings match the decision. it's hard work!
but i know two things about forgiveness. the first is that it's required. if i want God to forgive me, i've got to extend forgiveness to others, even if they don't "deserve" it. the second is that withholding my forgiveness makes me a hostage to my pain and anger and prevents me from feeling peace in my life.
like i said, it's difficult. but this one time, God made it easy for me. for that, and for the repaired relationship with my relative, i'm grateful.