A few years ago, I was involved in a circle of friends that shifted, suddenly and (for me) without warning. It took me awhile to understand my role in that shift, but once I did, I was filled with a deep sense of regret at the part I’d played. I approached the person I knew I’d hurt the most and apologized for how I’d contributed to the situation.

She smiled, politely but awkwardly, and said that all was well.

But you know how these things can go. I could tell by the look in her eyes that all was not well. Some time later, I apologized a second time, hoping that I could convey more earnestly that I truly was sorry, and I experienced the same response.

From time to time, we would run into one another. Each time, I would extend myself with friendliness and a willingness to have an open dialogue, again. Each time, the same result:

Polite conversation, yes, but a clear energetic: “I’m holding you at a distance. It is NOT okay.”

Well. Okay.

 

Tender Truth

I confess that the tenderest parts of me felt an inner devastation by all of this that I never wanted to admit (after all, wasn’t I supposed to have all these tools to let someone else take responsibility for their part, and me take responsibility for mine, and let go when it was time to let go? And wasn’t the most powerful position to take, the position that she gets to be in choice about how she responds to me? ).

My shame about the situation went to extremes when I was particularly triggered–when I had a bad week or saw pictures of her online, surrounded by friends.

I’m an awful person. I’m so embarrassed and ashamed. How could I have done that? If I were worth forgiving, she would have forgiven me, so I must not be worth forgiving. I bet every friendship I ever had that didn’t work out was all my fault, because I must be so terrible at friendships. Who would ever even want to know me? I’m such a worthless, disgusting, awful piece of shit. I bet every friend I have will leave me once they get to know me well enough.

That’s right: I was willing to step right up and accept all the blame, to lash myself with the whip until I bled sacrificial drops, if that’s what it took for things to be “right” again. Underlying everything was my belief that she was the nice one who didn’t make such mistakes, and I was the bad one, who did. “Redemption” was being in her good graces, again.

Years after the circumstances had occurred that had lead to disconnection, she wrote a blog post that described what I’d done. She didn’t name me, but it was clear from the events described that it was me.

Then, in the comments, people added their two cents about how awful “those” types of people are.

I read that post, put my head in my hands, and cried.

 

Tears For All of It

  • I cried for the person I’d been all those years ago, who had unintentionally done something that was interpreted as being unkind.
  • I cried for the shame that I felt.
  • I cried in fear of what it “meant” about me that I had made the mistake I’d made.
  • I cried with grief over my Story that I hadn’t been enough, that I had not been able to make a mistake and still be met with unconditional love.
  • I cried because my shame story was coming up that I was awful at friendships and must be truly terrible.
  • I cried with compassion, because I know that the woman I was at the time, that woman who had made mistakes, was doing the best she could, with the tools she had.
  • If she could have done better, she would have. Plain and simple.

 

Unlocking the Story

And then, a few weeks later, randomly and without warning, a mutual friend casually brought up this old acquaintance, and mentioned challenges the old acquaintance was having getting along with people in her current social circles.

I nodded. I said “Hmmm.” I didn’t respond. I didn’t want to hear the juicy gossip. Someone else’s loss was not my victory.

I went home that night, my entire Story tilted on its axis because the revolution had swept through and I now realized truly that:

She and I were the same.

We both had places where we were fumbling and awkward and not doing it perfectly.

We were both making mistakes in our lives and, along the way, in our friendships.

And, most probably, we both were people who hoped that when we made mistakes, we were able to own our part, apologize, and hope that people would still love us, anyway.

 

The Happy Ending

The happy ending is not that suddenly, divine intervention came in from the Universe–we didn’t suddenly meet on a street corner and patch things up.

In fact, nothing “changed.” Nothing needed to. The Story I had needed to get out from under was not the Story that her forgiveness would mean something about me, or my life, or who I am.

The Story that I was weighted under was really one of comparisons, that someone else had it figured out and lived a happy life of great friendships, and that I was the screw-up who would probably end up alone because I was such a screw-up. Oh, the shame piled on top of shame, with that!

So please consider: the Stories that you carry around about who you are, what you’ve done, and what it all means? They might not have a shred of truth. They probably don’t have much truth.

And it’s all in the past, anyway, except for when we’re bringing it into our present. Why continue to live out the past?

And in case you have someone in your life who is hesitating to forgive you, let me offer you reassurance:

you are worthy of forgiveness
you are worthy of forgiveness
you are worthy of forgiveness

And, P.S.?

They are, too.