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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finally Letting Go of Grudges: Our Bitterness Hurts Us, Too.

There aren't many things to talk about at work for me, as I'm finding I don't have a whole lot in common with my co-workers. Mostly, talk about high school, smoking, and PlayStation and Xbox, when I'm more of an "oh-my-Lord, thank you for giving me lungs" and "oh look, Nintendo!" kinda gal. So when a topic floats up that I can relate to, like bizarre customer behavior, I go all in. But their attitudes were little different than mine.
I don't need to talk; my finger tells you I'm angry
It took a while for me to catch it, since the stories and reactions were all the same: We all laughed, we all thought we'd met the genuine article of a manic-customer-let-loose at some point, and we all swore that the minds of other people were just incomprehensible. But where I was laughing because unusual misunderstandings, special requests, and strange complaints were a mysterious part of life that we'll all encounter, they were scornful.

To them, there was something wrong with the people who messed up their own order six times, or who couldn't understand what a 'combo meal' was. The impatient man who I described from an old job who tried to flip me the bird, but actually used his index finger? They concluded something was wrong with him. Man loitering at another restaurant for their wi-fi that our former front-counter girl once worked at? Must be messed up.

There is a woman, she comes at least weekly, who climbs out of her car in the middle of the drive thru in order to retrieve the dessert drinks she always orders. Which, of course, always must be placed in paper sandwich bags instead of normal drink tray. I'm always excited when I hear her voice over the headset! Sure, her requests are weird, but I know them by heart. I laugh every time, because those weird normals feel like life. The others shake their heads, with an "oh, it's her again."

The conversation shifted, gradually, from weird customers to ones they would rather not deal with, to of course, people they 'shouldn't have to deal with.' This was even more sour. I was a little surprised by how many people the people around me claimed to dislike. At a loss for words, I just tried to count on my fingers, to see if there actually was anyone like that for me.

I can remember a time, not too long ago, when I was at odds with a friend who had, I believe, tried to press me in a very wrong direction in a very serious matter. It had devastated our relationship, and I was soured towards him for a long time after. It was impossible to feel charitable towards him, and yet I became meticulous in being polite to him, smiling at him, listening to him, and tried to be conscious and considerate of the other things he said. Yet, outside of a sour family relationship, I don't think I'd struggled with anyone so profoundly.

For a long time, I felt I'd forgiven him, and acted like it, too. In other words, I went through the motions. Meanwhile, I'd felt internally so cynically towards him that being near this friend made me quietly angry, or depressed, or confused or anxious by turns, and cordiality became increasingly more weighty a task in light of these feelings. I still couldn't find it in me to like or be comfortable with this person. It was stuck in my heart that there was something wrong with this man.

When the 'list' conversation ended, I went about my work in a normal way, except my tasks were done one-handed, or operating smoothly around three stubborn fingers on my right hand. I could not, for the life of me, think of many people who truly got under my skin in more than a temporary way. Finally, in a lull, my manager burst out "Three what!? Three? Did you burn your hand? What are you doing with your three fingers?"

Jesus' gesture understood:
Somebody better look out!
I answered "I'm still counting" to her question, and "counting people I dislike" to the confused look it elicited from her. Confusion melted into laughter, and the whole kitchen clamored to tell me that "this list will get longer when you grow up." I tried to explain that I really just wasn't the type of person to hate or dislike others, and I really couldn't think of-- "Oh, no, wait, four people." They laughed at the irony of my forth finger joining the party in the middle of that insistent, tolerant sentence. I'd remembered, suddenly, the man who'd gotten me fired from my last job. The exercise wasn't fun anymore, and I really wasn't laughing.

I'm realizing that this exercise represented something more than an instance of being rubbed the wrong way. Those "dislikes" were from people who had hurt me. Each of those three (and eventually four) fingers were proof that I was broken by someone, somehow. And that I'd let them dig barbs into my heart. Surprisingly my friend who'd led me wrong wasn't one of those four. In fact, I share'd the story of this friend precisely because of my shock and delight afterwards that he never came negatively to mind!

With these people, I had known that I'd been wounded. What I didn't let myself know, for the longest, was that I had equally wounded myself. For almost a year I prayed for tolerance and strength, And, of course, for the bad effects of real or perceived betrayal to be overcome. But that wasn't all that I needed.

With the friend who'd pushed me the wrong way, there was plenty unresolved. Before I'd let myself pray for strength, before I'd resolved to respect and re-befriend him, I'd been really, truly angry. That anger was like a double-edged spear that hurt myself as much as my relationship with him. I just didn't notice it among his 'wrongs' that I was stabbing myself, too. Putting down the spear wasn't enough.

I'd stopped fighting, I'd made amends, I'd forgiven him. Finally, I let God mend me. A month ago that finally I prayed for healing. Immediately, the Lord reached in and plucked out my anger, destroying the grudge that I'd sworn to myself I'd let go of already. Although I had let go of begrudging actions, which was necessary, half can never be enough for healing. The rebellion that aggravated my feelings of grievance had remained until the whole of my hurt was given over to God.

The idea that the list would 'get longer' as I 'grow up' still seems absurd to me, although I understand how it will be harder to beat down as life goes on. Thinking over this past year, I'd say that learning to forgive and heal from busted relationships was 'growing up.' It makes me realize that I still have growing up to do, and that I'm still quite stunted by grudges I hold, even if the list doesn't span Rhode Island.

 I was fired from that old job in March, and yet I'm still upset at a man I met once in my life. I'm trying to be charitable, but for the life of me I would love to give him a piece of my mind, or perhaps of my shoe-- smartly placed-- right now. My mind can't even comprehend the things he did and got away with as anything but absurd; I'm still in "indignant victim" mode.

But even if I can't feel it among the phantom wounds of how he hurt me way back, this anger is hurting me now. Its time I let Christ have this hurt, and the other three as well. if I can, I'd go through all the steps of forgiving like before. I can't exactly make amends, but its time to forgive. Now I hope God will forgive, and mend, me.

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