Monday, February 11, 2013
Dave and I had been friends for close to ten years. About five years ago, Dave went through some really dramatic changes in his life. I offered as much support as I could but Dave gradually slipped into a life style that was destructive and dangerous. In short, he scared me. I tried reasoning; I tried yelling and screaming, group intervention, the whole nine yards but to no avail. Dave, as we used to say in the 70’s; “checked out.” It was then I learned that practicing “You are who you hang around with,” is much tougher than repeating it like some sort of mantra. During one final, emotional encounter, Dave and I parted ways and I haven’t heard from him for almost five years.
One thing I’ve been working on for a while is creating space inside of myself for health and wholeness and removing the things that keep me from reaching that place. So I lie in bed one night last week simply reflecting on life in general and Dave crossed my mind. Our parting wasn’t pleasant. It was necessary but not pleasant. Dave chose a path to walk I couldn’t abide by. Anyone who tells you love isn’t ever painful has never known true love. I’m not sure if I was angry, frustrated or a little of both but as I lie there last week it crossed my mind that I could have handled it better. My next thought was that after five long years I owed Dave an apology for the way I’d handled things.
I sent Dave an email late Monday evening. I told him I didn’t know how to begin so I simply told him I was sorry for the tone, tenor and some of the language I used during our last meeting. I told him I didn’t have a hidden agenda and that I didn’t have five months to live or anything like that. I handled the situation wrong and for that I was sorry. I have to tell you, I felt a large weight leave my shoulders when I hit the “send” button and then I forgot about it. I was surprised that Dave answered my email. I wasn’t expecting it and hadn’t written it to illicit a response. I wrote it because my heart told me it was the right thing to do. I was apologizing; not looking for forgiveness.
Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee always made a point to walk to the front of the temple and make a show of his praise, a sorta “Hey God look at me!!! Thank goodness I’m not like any of these other people. I ALWAYS do the right things. I NEVER do this or that. Dang, I am an amazing person, aren’t I”
In the back of the temple sat the publican. Best I can figure is the publican was the guy was frowned upon socially, morally and professionally. They weren’t held in high self- esteem. They probably struggled a lot in life and had a hard time getting things right and most often “stepped in it” more often than not. Jesus says the publican sat in the back of the temple simply praying “God have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus then asked the crowd which person prayers his Father heard. (I always see myself sitting somewhere in the middle of that temple – Not to humble but not too proud either.)I hadn’t told anyone about my apology letter, not even Joan, and I tell Joan everything. (Joan often raises her hand and shouts “TMI John, TMI)
Dave’s response was unnerving. In short he told me he was glad I had suffered and NO HE WOULDN’T FORGIVE ME. I felt bad for a few moments. Maybe he misunderstood or maybe I didn’t communicate clearly so I wrote back and told him I wasn’t asking for his forgiveness, I was apologizing for my actions. His forgiveness would be freely given or not. Like the publican I was acknowledging “my sin.” Dave’s response was two words.
Jesus tells us that each day we must pick our cross and follow his path. The Buddha teaches that before we reach that moment of joy and bliss that suffering is necessary. It’s the other side of forgiveness. It comes when we extend a hand and sincerely apologize and our apology is rebuffed. It doesn’t minimize the effect, but sometimes it hurts.
Namaste dear ones