I recently had to swallow a bitter pill. I had had a pretty emotional day teaching at school so I wasn’t particularly feeling like the best version of myself. Something had been niggling at me for a few days so I sat down to write an email and get it off my chest. As is usually the way when we write something whilst feeling angry or irritable, we get an instant rush of relief when we get it down and push the send button but then later comes the regret and the remorse. Ever had this experience?
Anyway, the next morning, I woke up with a heavy heart and realised that I had probably overstepped the mark. A feeling of sadness overwhelmed me and I had a strong wish that I hadn’t said what I had. I knew that eventually I would have to face the music and see how the recipient had responded to my list of dot points but in the meantime I avoided opening my inbox for as long as possible. I was secretly praying for forgiveness.
The inevitable moment came and sure enough, I got just what I deserved. When I read what I had written I felt ashamed and couldn’t quite believe I had even written it. Did I really say that? Was that me? I tried to skim read the inevitable reactions to my comments because I didn’t want to go further down the black hole of remorse and regret.
The timing of the email couldn’t have been worse and could have actually jeopardized an opportunity that I had been given. I kept praying that the recipient would somehow see through my words and forgive me for saying things that I didn’t mean. I really, really, really, wanted to be forgiven.
As I was going through the mental turmoil that often accompanies these yukky moments in life, I reflected on the relationship with my husband over the past 29 years. When you live with someone and he/she stuffs up – saying or doing things that may hurt you emotionally, we often have the knowledge, wisdom and commitment to see beyond their words and behaviour and realise they are having a bad day. We might say, Hey, What’s Up? Are you OK? What’s going on? We can see that the behaviour they’re displaying is not really who they are because we know them and have lived many moments with them. In other words, if we love them, we cut them some slack and give them another chance and another and another …
With people we may not know quite so intimately, it may be harder for us to be forgiving and perhaps harder for them to be forgiving to us. We see the iceberg that is their behaviour and think that that is all there is to the story. We may not care, understand or take the time to see all the stuff under the water. We only react to what is floating on top of the surface, which is such a small part of what is going on.
So, I guess you’d like to know what happened with the infamous email. Well, I sent an apologetic email from the heart. I really felt sorry for what I had said.
I’m grateful beyond words to say that the recipient of the apologetic email was gracious and forgave me. My prayers for forgiveness had been answered! When we stuff up but then admit it and apologise, it is like manna from Heaven when the other person actually accepts our apology. This for me is one of the most beautiful things that one human being can do for another – forgive them. Apart from kindness, I know of nothing else in this world that moves me like forgiveness does. It is so powerful.
Here’s what happens. I will pay this forgiveness forward. At least I hope my heart is wise and soft enough to do that. When someone else pushes my buttons and does not present as the best version of themselves, I hope that I will give them a break, cut them some slack and send them a healing blessing from my heart. We’re all human. We're all in the same boat.
Some verses from my poem, Feeling Hurt, in my book Life's a Mango, remind me of what forgiveness looks like:
You tell them you’re sorry
And they say so too.
You both feel awkward;
Want to start all anew.
The pain starts to ease,
Your heart feels at peace.
You look in their eyes,
You see the release.
You just hadn’t realised
The things that you said
Had wounded them greatly.
They rejected instead.
It’s easy to forget
The words that we say
But when others wound us
We can tell them the day!
Feel the peace now
In your heart and your chest.
The anger is going,
Your relief is the best.
Understanding the other
From their point of view
Will help you forgive
Both themselves and you. ©
So, my friends, I will be a little more wary when sending my next email. If I’m feeling a tad edgy, I’ll try to press draft instead of send. A good tip is to revisit our email later and see how it makes us feel as we imagine ourselves to be the recipient of our own email. We write it being in one head space, ours, but the recipient reads it being in another head space, theirs. We need to remember there’s no body language, no eye contact, no voice control – there are just words on a computer screen and they can be interpreted in different ways if we are not careful, and, we really do need to be careful. We are creating a digital footprint with every word we type.
One of my Buddhist prayers says:
May my actions never cause
Even the slightest harm to any sentient being.
Instead, may they bring only the greatest of benefit.
With that all said, I will save this blog and read it later, just to make sure I haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes.