As life goes along, people, even the closest people, get in and out of sync. Things are said, or not done, or forgotten, and feelings are hurt. Wounds fester. Old hurts metastasize.
And now, this: COVID-19 is a lot of things, most of them bad. But as with all bad things, there are opportunities embedded, if one is willing to take the chance, to risk more hurt in hopes of putting old hurts aside.
My first inkling of this was in the early weeks of shelter-in-place in Sacramento, when I got a text from an old friend with whom I had fallen out. Things had been said, assumptions made, feelings hurt. Same as it ever was. It had been a few years, and I didn’t expect her to see the error (as I saw it) of her ways. But I wasn’t going to be mistreated and badmouthed for things I didn’t do. Boundaries are good.
Then, out of the blue it came: An apology. A real one, not couched. An act of bravery, an act of humility. An act of love. An explanation, briefly, of what I already knew. Suddenly, the old story didn’t matter.
Some space opened up in my heart. I responded with instant forgiveness, not just via text, but from my heart. It was automatic. Effortless. Because she made it so.
Being “right” always feels good, in the moment, but it’s a drug, that good feeling expires, and ultimately, it’s an illusion. Who’s right? How much does it matter? I said this once to someone who loved me almost as much as he loved being right: You can be right all day long, but if we’re not connected, if there’s no love, it doesn’t work.
Needless to say, that relationship didn’t work. What’s more, I hardly remember all the ways in which I was right in that relationship, or all the ways he was wrong.
But it should be easier with friends, shouldn’t it? Less loaded? But somehow, it isn’t. And family can be the worst: The closer they are, the deeper they (or you) can plunge the knife – even without trying. Usually, without trying. (I am, for the record, enormously blessed in this area.)
I spoke at length today with a friend who’s in the hospital with some pretty horrible stuff, nothing to do with COVID-19. He said he’s reconnected with a close friend whose path strayed from their original path, and they put some effort into talking it through – usually an extra challenge for men. The result is a stronger friendship, and hearts that are more full and healthy. My friend will get better, and that will probably be because of that healing – at least in part.
But one has to be willing. Hiding won’t do. Ignoring the problem is just another form of denial, of putting off a reckoning that will come, at some point, like a law of physics. Now, with death looming in front of us, that reckoning could be missed, and the wounds frozen, unchanging, for eternity.
We are all taking wounds, all the time, but now feels especially dangerous. There is fear in the air, and fear makes people do, and say, some pretty sad, if not downright horrific, things.
Feeling wronged is, for some of us, an attractive option. We get to be right. But that’s not the answer. Love is the answer, love is the cure, and love doesn’t need to be right. Love needs to be humble. Real love doesn’t nurse its wounds, hoping to store up ammunition for future imaginary victories. There is no winning in love.
Seize the opportunities you see in this crisis, especially the ones you’ve been avoiding. Reach out and mend a heart you hurt. Reach out to those who hurt you. Let go of being right. Let go of winning.
And thanks to my friend for reaching out to me in humility and strength. Thank you for letting go of being tough and right, and showing me your tender heart. Thank you for being my teacher. We are both the better for it.