Sunday, April 15, 2012
Kindness and Forgiveness
I read a blog post the other day from a writer who was identifying 15 things that happy people do differently from unhappy people. The list included things like love vs. fear, trust vs. doubt, praising vs. criticizing, kindness vs. cruelty, and taking responsibility vs. blaming. One of the items on the list that struck me as interesting, though not necessarily surprising, was "forgiveness vs. unforgiveness" (I'm not sure that's actually a word). It got me thinking about the importance of both forgiving and asking for forgiveness, and prompted me to share the following story:
Almost 17 years ago, I met someone on an Outward Bound wilderness adventure in the mountains of Montana. The man lived in Minnesota and, when our trip was over, invited me to come visit he and his family if I were ever going to be in his part of the country. While many people say things like this, I knew that he meant it.
Sure enough, over the following 10 or more years, I had a number of occasions to be going through Minnesota and I stayed with this friend and got to know his family well. Our friendship blossomed and I always looked forward to the visits.
To make a long story short, something happened along the way to cause a break in that relationship and I've not seen or heard from him since. In all honesty, I have no idea what it was and to this day, it hurts me to think that I inadvertently did something to cause the break. I think of the family often and wish there were a way to repair whatever damage was done.
Well today, I decided to try. I wrote them a letter asking forgiveness for anything I may have done and for the chance to "clean up" whatever mess I/we may have made in the relationship. I thought carefully about how to strike the appropriate tone and hope that it's received in the right way. Time will tell, I suppose.
I imagine many of us have similar relationship "messes" we may have created or at least contributed to. Cleaning them up is likely to be as kind to the other people as it is to ourselves. I can readily understand why this made the list of 15 things happy people do differently from unhappy people. Wouldn't the world be a happier and kinder place if we could ask for and grant forgiveness to each other?