I mentioned in my last post a friend I cut out of my life because I believed they were toxic for me. Recently, I reached out to that friend in an attempt to heal things between us. Or at least I thought that was why at the time. Things did not go well. This person had not changed and still did not accept any responsibility for the ways they had hurt me, nor did they seem very interested in fixing our relationship. I was angry. I told them off, and I stood up for myself in a way I never had previously. Then I blocked them so they could not respond. And it felt good, it felt empowering—at first. But once that feeling wore off, all that was left was the anger.
I proudly told my therapist about this interaction and how I had stood up for myself, how I had finally been able to recognize when they were gaslighting me, how I was glad that I did it because it helped me remember why I cut this person out to begin with. However, my therapist did not respond with the approval I expected. She said it sounded like I had not forgiven this friend and that I still had a lot of anger towards them. “Well I wanted to forgive them,” I said, “but they didn’t do anything to deserve my forgiveness.”
“That’s not how it works,” she said. “Forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you. It’s not about them apologizing or changing their ways, it’s not about fixing your relationship or even trying to have one at all. It’s about letting go of your negative emotions towards them. Ultimately, your forgiveness may mean very little to this person, but it’s incredibly important to your life and your ability to move forward.”
She was right. Had I really contacted this friend with the intent to forgive them, or had I just wanted an excuse to yell at them? Did I really think they might have changed, or was I just looking to justify my anger? Did I really want to fix things between us, or was I just trying to hurt them the way they had hurt me? This friend had made it quite clear that they cared very little whether I forgave them or not. I knew they weren’t going to come groveling to me saying they’d do anything to earn my forgiveness, so what was I expecting from them?
Holding on to this anger wasn’t hurting anyone but myself. I needed to let go of it if I ever wanted to get better and move on. But I’m not quite there yet. It’s not easy. It’s going to take time. And it’s going to have to occur simultaneously with my grief over the end of a relationship I once enjoyed. Because, although I’m angry about the things they said and did that hurt me, what I’m really angry about is that they didn’t value our relationship enough to fight for it.
On the flip side, this experience has helped me gain perspective on the other friend I lost in December. This was the friend I lashed out at and hurt very seriously. I said some terrible things to them, but once I realized my mistake I made every attempt to fix it. For the past two months I sent them message after message apologizing and explaining without any response. I spent hours one night trying to figure out how to send them their favorite pie in the mail, only to realize A) I couldn’t afford it, and B) I was acting insane. You cannot buy forgiveness with pie.
I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t talk to me. It didn’t seem fair, I was trying so hard. They knew I wasn’t in a good place when I said those things, I told them I didn’t mean them. Why didn’t they understand? But my therapist told me something that was very hard for my argumentative, philosophy-major, logic-focused brain to accept: emotions aren’t logical. Knowing that it doesn’t make sense to cry at a fictional movie doesn’t stop the tears from flowing. I can’t argue my friend into forgiving me. Even if they accept that I didn’t mean what I said and that it wasn’t about them, that doesn’t remove the pain I caused them.
I have no control over whether someone forgives me. I can try my best to apologize, but ultimately it’s up to them to accept and move on. It’s easier for some people than for others. Everyone is different, and there is no timeline for forgiveness.
The forgiveness of other people is not in my hands, but I do have the power to forgive myself. I was so angry with myself for how I behaved and for sabotaging my friendship. It’s harder to forgive myself than anyone else because I hold myself to much higher standards. But I know I’m only human and I make mistakes. I know I did everything I could to try and fix things. I did my best, and so I must let go of my anger and regret.
Today, the friend I hurt called me. We had not spoken in so long. Things are still tense, and I am not forgiven yet, but there is hope. Even in the midst of this painful conversation we still had the same rapport we always had. It reminded me of the quote below, from the Netflix romcom To All the Boys P.S. I Still Love You, which I watched on Valentine’s Day with my mom:
For both the friends I lost in December, whether I hurt them or they hurt me, whether we forgive each other or not, we will always have jung, and I think that’s beautiful.