I Forgave the Wrong Person

Feb 18, 2023 | Virtues of the Heart

I have a friend who I have known for about 40 years.

Our relationship has endured over the years, from seeing each other regularly with our wives to sporadic phone calls to getting together for dinner maybe once a year. Our friendship was solid because we both cared about our relationship and valued it. Our conversations were always about our lives, family, and shared history. In retrospect, I realized we did not really delve into politics throughout those years other than a passing comment here and there, and I knew we were on different sides of the fence in this regard.

A few years ago, that changed dramatically.

Politics had become a very hot-button topic and became very polarizing. My friend started emailing me with politically biased stories, mimes, and commentary. He also sent jokes that were politically or socially biased. I never replied to any of them because I did not agree with them or see their humor. I ignored them. They continued until one of our get-togethers over dinner, where the conversation turned to politics. I listened intently until I reached a breaking point where I felt compelled to respond. My tone was sharp and cutting as I conveyed that I strongly believed that a significant portion of his perspective was not only short-sighted but also delusional. I was shocked to see this side of my friend and how far we were apart in our ideological worldviews. I felt like I was talking to someone I did not know. I left the dinner feeling lost, confused, shocked, angry, and deceived.

My friend followed up with some more emails in defense of his views. I did respond this time with some anger, judgment, and indignation. I defended my views and questioned his views. The tone of these emails was combative and adversarial. We had become separated by our political views. It did not feel good to me. I felt distant from him and did not want to engage with him. Our communications had become uncomfortable for us both.

The emails stopped.

I had no desire to contact him.

Many months went by.

I’m at peace…or so I thought

Throughout that time, I applied the six heart virtues to our relationship in my mind. I knew I had to let go of judgment, anger, disappointment, and guilt about our friendship. Instead, I wanted to view this differently, through the lens of the virtues. I wanted to understand him, have compassion for him, and forgive him for what I thought were his limited destructive views.

This helped for a while, and I actually thought I was complete in this episode of my life. I simply wanted it behind me, and I did not feel the need to communicate with him. We had become too different and had grown apart too much. I had no desire to call him.

But something was not right; the feelings of guilt and judgment persisted. I was not at peace with this and how I handled it. I thought I should call him and talk, but I would always talk myself out of it because I was not interested in talking.

The feelings were real; they were telling me something, reflecting something that needed to be looked at. My ego/mind wanted to justify my actions and how I handled the situation. It was vocal and persistent, and I listened to it for some time. But, my emotions were telling me something different; something was not right, and my heart was asserting itself through feelings.

Once I realized that the feelings were from my heart, I turned once again to the virtues; I allowed the feelings to talk to me. I asked for understanding; I asked for humility and valor to take me beyond any fear, shame, and judgment that was preventing me from truly finding peace in this situation.

My ego/mind tried again to assure me that I had done the right thing and nothing more was needed.

The feelings persisted, this time with a clear message, I had to call him. I could see something I did not see earlier. I had gone through the motions of forgiveness and compassion, in my mind, directed at my friend. I thought this was enough. However, I soon realized that my initial perception was incorrect. At that moment, I felt compelled to embody the virtues with every fiber of my being and express them directly to him in real time. By doing so, I fully harnessed the power of the When, Which, How Practice to convey the depth of the virtues. This felt right for me, even though my ego wanted to talk me out of it like it had done so many times before. This was different, and I knew it; I had to walk directly toward the discomfort I was feeling.

The phone call

I prepared myself for the call by surrounding myself with the six heart virtues, and I had one objective: to express the virtues in every thought, feeling, and word. I did not want to change him or defend myself in any way. My inner mantra was neutrality, presence, and allowance.

I called him, but he did not answer; I left him a warm message and asked him to call me back.

He returned my call quickly. 

We greeted each other warmly. 

I could sense the warmth and relief in his voice at hearing my voice. I said I wanted to check in with him to see how he was doing and ask him about what was going on in his life. We had a very good conversation like in old times. I simply engaged with my friend as we had done for many years. I had dropped my need for anything to be a certain way in our friendship. It was a pure genuine exchange between two old friends. We both acknowledged that it was good to finally connect and agreed to stay in touch.

In reflecting on this, it was an opportunity to raise the game of integrating my heart into any situation. I was conflicted because I was mostly in my mind and only concerned with myself. I was judgmental and self-righteous, and I was unwilling to see him as equal. This was a wonderful example of how my heart guided me to a better outcome. I had to listen to my feelings/emotions/intuition, which is the language of the heart and will lead me on a more intelligent path.

Gone were the judgments, intolerance, and any need to forgive. Who was I to forgive him? I had to forgive myself for the judgments I put on him.

Did the friendship change?

Yes, it did.

Will we remain friends? Yes, but with some limitations, and that’s ok.

The core of the friendship will go on. 

Did I need him to change or to have him even know what I was doing? No. I had the power to change the situation that affected both of us.

The universe will always be there to show me what I need to see and apply the virtues to at any given moment. But I have to listen to my heart. This is my practice! This is co-creating with the universe through the heart virtues to see a larger picture of what is. My ego/mind alone is not capable of seeing or solving these life experiences; the mind and heart need to work in alignment to see the wholeness and equality of the larger reality.

Peace.

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