Better to forgive and forget

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Illustration Courtesy of Pete Whalon FORGIVENESS: Even if the “wounds” prove more severe, Whalon says he tends to pardon the person after a short period of time passes.

I have always been extremely quick to forgive and forget inconsequential, irrelevant disagreements or perceived wrongs. Even if the “wounds” prove more severe, I tend to pardon the person after a short period of time passes. For me it simply never made sense to cling onto resentment and anger for an act or verbal slight committed by a friend or family member. Basically, what’s the point? I ask myself. Answer–there is no point except for soothing your damaged ego. So I humbly offer to you this advice; don’t hold grudges, get over it and move on!

I’ve witnessed in my life, as I’m sure most of you have, others destroying friendships or family ties over pointless arguments or spoken bursts blurted out in a momentary fit of uncontrolled anger. Often these confrontations occur when one person is enraged enough to unleash on another person a deep personal attack designed to cause pain, shame or divulge a secret shared by both. We’ve all done it and usually regret it soon afterwards. Unfortunately it’s often too late to heal the wound. And when the aggrieved party decides to fire back, anything can happen. Mix in a physical confrontation and the ramifications can prove devastating for years or even a lifetime. Remember the Hatfields and McCoys?

About 12 ago I attended the wedding of a close friend. The groom and his best man had been close friends since grade school and were inseparable. Unfortunately the perfect storm began simmering sometime shortly after the wedding ceremony and boiled over into the next day with disastrous consequences. The wedding was a well-attended lavish affair with all the trimmings. Shawn’s (the best man) mother was invited and had confirmed she would be attending but was a no-show. At some point after the reception, Jimmy’s (the groom) irritation turned to anger and overtook his common sense. Still fuming at Shawn’s mother’s unreported absence from the wedding the next morning, he placed a fateful, ill-advised phone call directly to the mother. I am unaware of what was said; however, it terribly upset Shawn’s mom bringing her to tears. She in turn quickly placed a frantic call to Shawn to relay the details. Next a furious Shawn called Jimmy and that was the last time they ever spoke to each other.

Over the course of the next few months, I attempted to coax each of my friends to call the other and patch this mess up. Although I believe Jimmy would have been receptive, Shawn was emphatic—their friendship was over. “Nobody treats my mother like that,” he sternly informed me. I also firmly believe that if Jimmy had only called Shawn directly about the incident involving his mom, they would still be friends today. However, it was the fact that the phone call was to his mother, and Jimmy had made her cry–unforgivable!

The melting of this friendship had ripple effects far beyond the two combatants. Shawn and Jimmy, who did everything together, could no longer attend the same functions. Consequently, as is often the case with divorcing couples, mutual friends were often forced to “choose sides” when socializing with one or the other. Although I remain friends with both, I’ve lost the enjoyable opportunities of attending gatherings as a group. Although I do understand the deeply emotional feelings involved when your mother is reduced to tears, your initial instinct is to protect her from harm. However, in reality, if handled correctly, I believe this incident would have been resolved long ago.

There’s an excellent new television series called “The Slap” that airs on Thursday nights on NBC, Channel 4. It’s a riveting drama that demonstrates the potential, unintended ramifications involving a singular volatile event. At a large family and close friends’ barbeque, an angered adult slaps the young kid of another couple. In future episodes family members choose sides, friendships are tested, and a lawsuit entangles all who attended the party. It is exceptionally well done and illustrates the extremes some people will go to on both sides to get revenge, with little regard for the destruction of a tight knit loving family.

One of the first and most valuable lessons I learned from my drill sergeant in Army basic training as he screamed in my face was, “Whalon, don’t sweat the small sh- -!” And my friends, most disagreements are just that, which is why my best advice to you when finding yourself in a similar situation is…let it go!

Better to forgive and forget