“Uh, oh, look here.” Husband Cliff was perusing local news online in our city newspaper. “Here’s a photo of Kitty and Karl Ellison’s house. A big, old live oak fell on their roof yesterday!” I shivered as I glanced at the disturbing sight. Seconds later, I felt a different emotion. Though the nasty news made me feel sorry for the Ellisons, who had just remodeled their home, it also dredged up a grudge I had held against Kitty for over a year now.
Earlier, Kitty was in a position to weigh in on the decision to have Cliff present one of his art & music themes to an organization she was part of. She nixed the idea at a time when the booking would have been most welcome. Ever since, when I saw her socially I felt the sting of the offense. Whatever the excuse may have been: “No money in the budget” . . . “We don’t want to ask attendees for a donation” . . . had sounded lame to me. In short, her decision registered in my heart and mind like a sharp jab.
But a tree had fallen on their house! The horrible event could have made me think, “Serves her right,” she is not a charitable person anyway. But instead, I felt sympathy. A few years earlier, a tree had fallen neatly beside our house, very little damage done. From the looks of things, the Ellisons would have to move out of their house now, live in a hotel for a while, and petition for the insurance company to cover the huge damages. Now it was my turn for an “Uh, oh!”
My “Uh, oh” was followed by a change of heart. Instead of feeling secretly happy at the Ellisons’ bad luck, I wrote a check and sent it to them with a note. It’s wasn’t a large check, but it was an acknowledgement of my empathizing with their situation. As the envelope with the check sailed off through the mail, I felt relief, a huge burden of un-forgiveness lifted.
In return, Kitty sent me a Thank You note, which I‘ve held onto:
In retrospect, I am certain the slight I felt was not intentional. And I should not have taken Kitty’s decision personally.
What others say or do often has nothing at all to do with us.
* Names and certain details have been changed.
* * *
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”
― C. JoyBell C.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was me.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. . . . Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God: for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are very wicked.” Luke 6:35, The Living Bible
Can you identify in any way with my story?
How do you handle slights and offenses?
Good morning, Marian! I think it is a natural experience to take things personally. We all do it. It was good that you could feel empathy for “Kitty” and let her know right away. And I’m sure you felt better afterward. We had a wind shear come through town once. It happened so quickly–all the power went out, and a tree crashed onto my car. Thankfully, not the house. A friend in town came by to see if we were OK, and I was grateful for his thoughtfulness.
Good neighbors are sometimes in short supply. I’m glad you had a caring one to stop by and check on you when he saw the damage.
Actually, I didn’t let Kitty know right away. I nursed the grudge for a while before taking positive action. Thanks for appearing here every single Wednesday. Today you are again numero uno, Merril! 😉
Thanks for sharing this story; it is not easy to admit the grudges we sometimes carry. But we all do. Thanks for being vulnerable here! Some of my grudges are too petty to share here. I will be contemplating this for awhile!
Even petty grudges are pesky. I try not to let anything interfere with harmony in my life. But, you know how things happen just because we are human. I’m glad you could relate to this post, Melodie. Thank you! 😉
What a kind heart you have, Marian! The world could do with a few more like you.
I joined a writers’ club just over 15 months ago, so you can imagine my mixture of nerves and excitement on my first meeting and when it was my turn to read my short story, only to find an old member didn’t have a kind word to say about it and her comments were very hurtful. However, although it knocked my confidence to its core, I continued going to the meetings (pre-Covid-19) and contributing with stories and comments online, (since Covid). Said members has also contributed her own work and I always make a point of highlighting what I enjoy about them and never criticise. I have noticed she has made some nice comments on mine too! Kindness is infectious. 😉👍
Wow! You did the right thing, overcoming negativity with being positive. I’m guessing you taught (by example) a lesson to the woman who criticized you: Couch constructive criticism with something truthfully good. There’s always something good, even if it’s just the effort to make a first draft.
What courage, Fatima. Thank you! 😉
It tends to work wonders. Thank you.
It’s human nature to take thing personally, but keeping records of things others have done to offend us is exhausting. “What others say or do often has nothing at all to do with us.” This resonated with me, Marian. We never know what others are experiencing in their life. It can be easy to pretend things are perfect in your world when circumstances say otherwise. I’ve learned if I think what others say or do is really about me, I’m being self-absorbed and living by my feelings, which is never a good thing.
As an author of multiple books, you must have faced criticism, probably jabs from writers who may be envious of you, just a guess. Your last line is the perfect antidote for self-pity: I’ve learned if I think what others say or do is really about me, I’m being self-absorbed and living by my feelings, which is never a good thing.
Thanks so much, Jill! 😉
What a beautiful story of forgiveness! Forgiving an offense is one of the hardest things we will ever do. I have held on to offenses for years to the detriment of myself. So glad you were moved to put the past behind you and help.
I can tell you too understand. People who wrong us either are unaware of the fact or perhaps discontent with their own lives. I have a hard enough time keeping my self balanced, so no time to judge others’ motives., at least most of the time.
Thanks for weighing in on this touchy topic, L. Marie! 😉
Marian — You’re so right when you say, “What others say or do often has nothing at all to do with us.” And on the rare occasion that it does, I try hard not to be held hostage by the opinion of others. Sometimes I’m successful, other times I’m not. I think it’s part and parcel with being human.
You are right, Laurie, being held hostage is an unpleasant place to find ourselves because we feel imprisoned. I try to stay out of feeling “jailed” by others’ motives or opinion.
Like you, I’m faced with my humanity often … every day, even … and make progress even if it’s zigzaggy. 😉
Good morning Marian. I had to look up “slight” after slightly understanding the word from the context. 🙂 You are amazing to forgive and help out at the same time. I agree with all the quotes you mention at the bottom. Being offended by and mad at someone produces a heavy weight and it makes you keep thinking about the negative event as well. Yet, I still have a hard time to forget and I do appreciate it when karma deals with offenders… As long as it’s nothing too serious, because then I would feel bad and guilty!
Most names in my memoir are for friends and people who played a small part in my story. One person did us wrong and I decided to not mention him. Then, as even years later his actions still bug me, I had a change of heart and decided to put his name back in the book. I discussed this with my editor as I started doubting the use of his name after all. She “convinced” me to leave it out with a little statement that karma will take care of him. 🙂
I’m smiling at your “fix” for a problem character, maybe someone you thought of listing in Acknowledgements. It’s good to have a sounding board when making touchy decisions like these, so your editor helped.
I think we writers are especially vulnerable because our work is so personal to us. Thanks for weighing in here, Liesbet. 😉
Never underestimate the power of forgiveness. When I read about a woman who visited a prison and forgave her husband´s killer, I was astounded. But she said she had to do it in order to go on living. You did the right thing and by doing it you grew as a person. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.
You’re welcome, Darlene!
This morning in my devotional, I read of a Korean family (and their relatives) who forgive the killers of their son, (nephew and cousins). A group of Korean Christians offered to rehabilitate the killers by offering them religious, vocational, and mental help until they were released. Like the wife you described, they must have been motivated by a desire to live without the stupendous burden of hate. And going way beyond – to love.
Thanks for this terrific example, Darlene!
Your story reminded me of a book called The Four Agreements. One of the agreements is to recognize that the choices of other people may impact us, but have nothing to do with us. Those choices are about them and who they are. It’s a piece of wisdom that’s stayed with me for years. Great post, Marian. <3
Diana, as writers, our work is very personal to us, and it’s futile to try to interpret people’s motivations, especially if they are critical.
As you say, “the choices of other people may impact us, but have nothing to do with us. Those choices are about them and who they are.” Thank for sharing your wisdom here! 😉
Yes! Thanks for the quotes, reminding me that I still have some junk to throw away… <3
Yes, Bette, it’s hard to keep a clean house: The “junk” of hurt feelings tends to accumulate. I join you in this continual process; it takes effort to keep a clean slate! 😉
Oh, those grudges and resentments are a pain in the you know wha, but they happen to all of us. At my best I try to let them go immediately and not take them personally. Doing a random act of kindness, like your check to your friend, or someone you don’t even know can make up for all those grudges when we carry them around for too long. They also bring us love for others and ourselves.
Wonderful Post, Marian.
I’m glad this post resonated with you, Joan. As the saying goes, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” Sometimes it takes real effort for the divine to shine! 😉
A wonderful story and a kind gesture, Marian…To err is human as they say and I think we are all guilty of harbouring a grudge at times…I can certainly think of at least one I should let go…Thank you for giving us all a reminder 🙂
You’re welcome, Carol. Getting hurt and letting go is a life-long process, I think. Blessings to you as you find the courage to “let it go”! 😉
I think you are absolutely correct, Marian…time to let go and thankyou x
Thanks Marian, beautiful post. Sometimes even years need to pass before finally letting go of the grudge. One pops up every now and then for me and I always wonder in what way I was the hook that facilitated the ‘event’. I now look on that hurtful incident with compassion towards them and to myself. Thank you for the lovely quotes.
You are SO right, Susan. I could have told another story, this one about a businessman who took unfair advantage of (once again) my husband. It took years for me to forgive, and when I did a literal weight (It felt like 5 pounds, honestly) fell from my shoulders. I remember almost gasping when I relinquished the awful grudge. I’m glad you too can view your situation “from the other side.” I guess such wisdom comes from age and experience.
I’m glad you enjoyed the quotes too. Thank you! 😉
I needed this blog theme today. Thank you, Marion. The quote at the end, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free. . .” is so true. I’ll keep working on this one.
It’s good to hear from you, Jane. I’m glad my story and the quotes resonated with you. Sometimes it takes time. May you have courage and strength to get to the other side of this challenge! 😉
Way to go, Marian, choosing forgiveness!
Thank you, Karen. It’s always the best choice, even if it takes a while to get there!
Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow on ZOOM. 😉
Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly, Marian! I have often wondered what it is that causes some people to hold onto hurtful things while others have no problem letting go of them. As one of your commenters so wisely put it: “The choices other people make may impact us, but they have nothing to do with us.Those choices are about them and who they are.”
I believe it’s a heart attitude, Elfrieda.
The offenses done to me over the years have often been minor. I find the ability for parents to forgive a family member’s killer astonishing. But then, so far, I haven’t been faced with this. As we know, God has freely forgiven me, so it makes sense that I demonstrate this attitude toward others, certainly the path to freedom of heart and mind.
Thanks for your input today, always appreciated.
Marian, when those who hurt us are hurting, we see them in a new light and gain a broader perspective. But not everyone has the courage to both apologize and forgive at the same time like you did. You have made me examine my own life to see whether there might be a similar kind of release possible.
Actually, I didn’t apologize to Kitty. I believe I didn’t need to because I never confronted her with accusing words, so she wasn’t aware of my well-concealed feelings. For months though, I nursed a grudge against her because of her decision not to move forward with a pending contract for Cliff’s performance.
Thus, my sending her a note at the time of her need was to set myself free from a negative attitude. As Lewis Smedes said, I came to realize that “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was me.”
It’s good to hear your take on the topic, Shirley. ;-D
That was beautiful Marian! Thank you for sharing such a hard topic. I know that in the Word of God our Lord makes a point of forgiveness, especially when He is hanging from the cross and He says in all His agony; “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I don’t think it was easy for Him even as God in the flesh but boy did He ever set the greatest example because He was really saying to every human being born and ever to be born-the same for everyone. “I forgive you all human beings for your offenses, sins, iniquities and trespasses and all you have to do is receive it; like the thief on the cross. That’s forgiveness, the ultimate forgiveness! When I think of that I just have to wonder about God’s great love for us all! I am so glad that I received His forgiveness and He is the one who helps me forgive when I really don’t want to. Within myself I don’t have the will nor the power. So glad He is my Savior, for everything I need saving from; mostly myself!!!
Dear Cactus Flower, that is quite a testimony to the power of God to forgive. And I agree, we do need saving from ourselves, so prone to wander from the path of love and forgiveness. Thanks for checking in today with a comment too. 😉
You are welcome! I plan on doing more writing now that I am all settled in.
Good for you! ;-D
Once upon a time I felt great resentment toward a young high school friend of my son’s. Finally, after too many years, I understood how resentment makes us the victim. It was like magic: poof, out went the sense of resentment.
“Don’t take anything personally.” has been my credo for awhile now. Criticism et al, ALWAYS says more about the speaker than the listener.
Nice post. Thank you for your honesty.
Yes, Janet, it’s taking me a lifetime to learn this: Don’t take anything personally. And it is true: hurting people hurt people.
Here’s to being a victor, not a victim. Amen, sister! 😉
Good lesson, good heart, and loved the quotes. <3
Debby, thanks for affirming the lesson here and in your book P. S. I Forgive You.
And, I agree about the quotes – when I read quotations like these, I wish I had written them! ;-D
I know that feeling. 🙂
Marian, I think we all have experienced slights and offenses. I was fortunate to have learned years ago as a young nurse working in a busy ER where the nurse is often the brunt of hostility from doctors, patients and other nurses that another person’s behavior has more to do with them not us. It was a powerful lesson that served me well whenever I felt slighted or offended. I may still feel the burn but this lesson reined me in. Ah yes, sweet forgiveness. What a perfect example you have given about the freeing nature of forgiveness. I’m so glad you were able to achieve it.
Dear Kathy, thanks for your example “from the trenches,” so to speak. I have always know it’s better to forgive than to harbor grudges, but I am slowly learning the lesson you learned long ago. Thanks for weighing in with your own experience. 😉
Food for thought here, Marian. When I was younger, I took things more personally, for sure. And if someone (like for instance a guy I was dating) said, “don’t take this personally, but…” I’d cringe. If someone says that, of course you’re going to take it personally! 🙂
Nowadays, I’ve learned that each person has a weight they’re carrying. They’re too busy figuring out how to lighten their own load rather than find a reason to burden me. So even when someone is grumpy toward me, or unsmiling, or even rather cruel, my mind automatically goes to “whoa, they must be having a hard time with something.”
Your post is so beautiful, by being so honest. xo
There is wisdom in living through the bumps and bruises of life as we both have. Thanks for sharing yours and for the sweet compliment too, Pam. 🙂
Your story registered with me, Marian. This anecdote is the type of thing I enjoy writing about because I think we can learn a lot about about ourselves from our day-to-day experiences.
It’s human nature to sometimes hold onto negative thoughts. I taught elementary school for over three decades, and one observation I often made about children (especially in the early grades) is that they don’t hold grudges. They get angry, sometimes act without thinking, and occasionally make poor decisions. The one thing that kids often do better than adults is to let things go. By the next day, angry kids were children who wanted to be friends again. The idea of holding a grudge doesn’t seem to happen until children get older. It is a beautiful quality regarding the innocence of childhood. Yet, I know many adults who get so stubborn, that they don’t talk to another family member for years over some incident.
I’m quite certain that you felt better because you took the high road. Your example should be one for the rest of us to follow.
Pete, I’m sure you were an excellent teacher, observant and compassionate too. Thanks for sharing the example of innocent children pushing away grudges so easily, something we adults must often struggle to do.
Here’s to letting go – and always taking the high road. 🙂
Oh, for sure, this is a topic that everyone can relate to. I know very well the feeling of, “Well, I was annoyed with him/her, but I didn’t want THAT to happen.” Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, however it comes about.
Yes, Arlene, slights and offenses are a part of being human. They can’t be avoided, but we can adjust our attitude toward them even if it takes months – or years, even. Thanks for joining the conversation today!
So true – we humans are all too good at taking things personally when they are not meant that way.
Ah, yes! Thanks for echoing the sentiments here, Fiona! 🙂
Hi Marian – this is a good story because we all go through this. I think that most of the time, the slights are not personal. It’s just that we don’t know the whole situation. I am always happier when I let them roll off, especially when I later get the full story. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Barbara, I hear the voice of wisdom in your comment. Thanks for chiming in! 😉
I get it and thank you for being so forthright about the situation. I agree with Barbara. We all go through this. . My feelings were hurt by a close friend many years ago and I found it hard to relax around her and let it go. I practiced avoidance to avoid those feelings. We discussed what had happened a few times, but she was sure it was my fault and I was sure she had never loved me at all. She tried to befriend me in recent years, but I kept her at arms length and didn’t trust her warmth.
Recently, I had a dream of her, a loving dream including a long hug. I knew it was well past time to let my little girl, you-don’t-love-me feelings go. And they were gone. Just like that–and I learned a few things about myself I would rather have avoided. Whew!
Thank you for courageously sharing your experience, Elaine. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to reckon with the image in the mirror that doesn’t square with our best selves.
I believe every one of us could summon incidents like these. They remind me of the bumper cars in an amusement park. Or, maybe it’s the “teacups” ride, where riders try to avoid a collision. 😉