Wow. That was kind of amazing. Shocking but amazing. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
Someone posted something on Facebook, there were some comments. I responded with what I thought was a witticism, maybe seven or eight words. And the next thing I know I was being attacked bitterly and personally by someone I knew 20, 25 years ago for something he thought I had said or done. “You know what you did,” etc. Except no, I had no idea. Didn’t know what he was talking about, didn’t even know he had been mad at me. I was completely blindsided.
I was shocked. This was a person who had been in our theater community and had been nursing this grudge for more than two decades – and I had no idea what it was, not the slightest recollection. Yeah, I knew the guy, but the incident that had been so important to him, so personal, if it actually happened at all, was completely unrecallable. Not only had I not thought about whatever it was, I had no IDEA what it was. In fact, I hadn’t thought about him at all in years.
Yet he had been holding onto this perceived slight all this time.
I took a step back. First, I’m going to admit that, though I have always tried to be an honorable person, a nice guy, I know that in my life and times I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of. Occasionally I’ll recall a stupid comment or a mean joke I’ve made and cringe. But I had absolutely no idea what this was about, or if it even happened at all. Actually, I still don’t.
But it was obviously important to him.
So I apologized. I didn’t think it would really do any good, but I told him that I wished whatever this was about had been brought up at the time so we could have resolved it. I didn’t know anything about it now, but if I had said or done anything that had bothered him that much for that long, I was sorry. I put him in the position where he could forgive me, even though I made it clear I had no idea what it was I was asking forgiveness for.
And – whoa! It worked. His reply was courteous, he accepted my apology, recalled the good times we had when we were both part of that community, and moved on.
I don’t have a new best bud. For one thing, the original post was about politics and we’re on VERY different sides. But at least maybe he can let go of whatever had bothered him all that time, and I’ve leaned something about the power of forgiveness. For the life of me I have no idea what if anything I was forgiven for, but that’s not the point.
An Interesting Epilogue
As I said, the whole thing was rather shocking to me, so I sent out some emails over the weekend to old friends from the theater. Did anyone know why this person (name withheld) thought I had “smeared” him all those years ago. Most replies were, “Good to hear from you, when are you coming back? No, I have no idea what that could be about.”
And then last night I got the answer. A person wrote back and said, “YOU didn’t ‘smear’ him. I DID, if by ‘smear’ you mean reporting him to the board and getting his keys to the theater taken away.” Apparently there had been an issue, this person reported it to the board (not the play reading committee,) and after consideration the board decided there was enough reason to act on it. The email concluded, “You’re a better person than I am. I wouldn’t have apologized. I’d have told him to fuck off.”
I agreed not to share that person’s identity, and as far as I’m concerned that ends it. I feel better about myself – and a little relieved that I’m not suffering some kind of massive memory failure. I’m not going to bother recontacting the person in question because this is over. There’s nothing to be gained by revisiting that particular part of the past.
I was and am struck by how letting the guy forgive me for something it turned out I didn’t do seemed to take all the bitterness out of the guy, at least for that moment and that issue. I’m good with that.