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A Lesson In Forgiveness
by S. J. Connolly-Reisner

Two weeks before my cousinís wedding I resigned as her bridesmaid. It was a rash decision. She was overwhelmed with the stress of planning her wedding. I was overwhelmed with stress at work. An argument ensued. We did not speak to one another for two years.

Deep inside I felt terrible about the situation. I said some nasty, horrible things. I tried to ease my mind by brushing it off. I tried to make myself feel better by telling family members that I behaved appropriately. The truth was I knew better. Neither of us was right, and things were not all right. Thereís that feeling of loss and disorientation that accompanies a relationship that has ended. If there were unresolved issues, feelings of guilt and/or betrayal can hover beneath a surface layer of anger.  

One year after the argument, the anger dissipated, and guilt crept in. I should have been more receptive to what she was dealing with at the time. Planning oneís own wedding is by no means an easy task. I remember watching my sister plan her wedding, and from that, deciding to get married at the DMV when my turn came. I should have placed myself in my cousinís position, utilized my experiences from past events, and realized what she was going through.
 
It has been my experience that all arguments result from miscommunication, and the lack of empathy on the part of at least one person involved. Perhaps all humans have the tendency to be selfish creatures. When our own lives overwhelm us with stress, it can be difficult to be the sounding board for someone elseís problems. When we are experiencing stress we tend to become self-absorbed, living in our own little box away from everyone else. But hind sight is twenty-twenty. It isnít until we are removed from the situation, when our emotions have had time to cool, that we can look at an argument objectively, seeing it for the first time for what it really was.

It took me two years to finally admit that I needed to take responsibility for my part in the argument. When I did, I swallowed the lump in my throat and attempted to apologize. I hesitated. I could not find the words. I was ashamed and humiliated that I had tossed a lifelong relationship to the wayside over a dress, and my own inability to effectively cope with my own stress. Apologizing wasnít enough. I realized that I had to forgive myself before I could move forward with apologies.
 
I thought about forgiveness for some time. I wrote about it in my journal. I found it was easier to forgive my cousin than it was to forgive myself. I cannot even begin to count the times Iíve heard the phrase: ďYou are your own toughest critic.Ē  This was certainly the case. I knew I was wrong. I felt horrible about it. Forgiving myself became a laborious task of self-discovery.

Last October my cousin and I finally decided to meet and discuss what had happened. We shared why we were angry with one another. We openly took responsibility for our own parts in the argument. I apologized for not being able to see where she was coming from, and for losing my temper.

I learned several things from this situation. First, if you do find yourself in a situation where youíve lost a friend or family member to an argument, remember to forgive yourself first because it will be easier to forgive the other person if you accept your part in the situation. It only hurts briefly when you admit you made a mistake.

Secondly, forgiving someone else is easier if you stop and realize that we all do, and say, things we regret. None of us is perfect. Realize the other person was most likely acting out of insecurity, fear, or their inability to cope with stress. And third, when you find yourself in a volatile situation with someone else, try to observe your emotions without reacting to them. This is more difficult than it sounds. Reacting too hastily could lead to an unresolved situation where you may not want to forgive yourself, or someone else, for years to come.

Itís been almost a year since my cousin and I reconciled our relationship. I am finally at peace with what happened, and have been able to let it go. There is no longer that pang of guilt, and I am no longer angry with myself. We both agreed that it would take time to mend our relationship. Weíre taking it slowly. One day at a time.

__________________

S. J. Connolly-Reisner is a freelance writer. She currently resides near the Rocky Mountains with her husband and four cats.

 

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