But before Yom Kippur, I decided to write my own apology to such a person. There were things I’d done wrong too, albeit unintentionally. One example is the words and ideas that I and others find positive and supportive. Yet due to her personal traumas, she experiences them as painful.
So even though she’d done something I found unforgivable, something that made me feel I could never trust that her again, I knew that it didn’t absolve me of where I went wrong, even though I wasn't nearly as wrong as she was.
She called me the day after she'd received the letter in the mail to assure me she hadn’t been offended by the things apologized for in the letter. Then she asked if there was something she’d done.
“There is, isn’t there,” she prodded gently.
I tried to brush her off. I felt like I needed to deal with it on my own, that it was my own lack of emuna that caused me to feel hurt in the first place and then made it so hard to let go of the hurt.
After all, Hashem wanted me to undergo the experience and she was just a shaliach for the experience.
But to her credit, she didn’t give up.
Then she told me about something hurtful she’d been told by a person who was trying to help, but hurt her instead. She said it took her years to let go of it. She tried giving the benefit of the doubt (the offender clearly meant no offense) and to brush it off…nothing helped. And she never told the person; she didn’t feel she could. But she said that if the person had asked her about it, she would’ve been able to tell them.
It was her way of telling me that she really understood me and wasn’t judging me as petty or weak because I couldn’t let go.
Then I started crying and explained that most of the times I let someone know they’d hurt me, whether I told them in a brief, straightforward manner or whether I told them very gently and letting them know how favorably I still viewed them, the response was usually bad.
There were denials, attacks, mocking…it didn’t happen often because I don’t do it unless the negative behavior is frequent or extreme. And how often does such behavior occur among friends?
She listened, then kept gently insisting that she really wanted to know what she’d done.
I almost refused, but then I suddenly decided to just say it.
And I said it gently too, without going into the details of how she’d behaved because the other person can feel a lot of shame when their problematic behavior is called out. So (especially when you’re dealing with an otherwise very decent person) it’s important to be tactful and considerate of the other’s feelings when letting that person know.
She couldn’t remember, but she reassured me that she believe my description of what had happened. Then she profusely apologized in a very sincere manner. She admitted she was indeed capable of such behavior, even if she didn’t specifically remember.
Certain personalities disassociate either during or right after an episode of inappropriate behavior. They truly don’t remember because in a sense, they weren’t really there when it happened.
And it meant so much to me that she was sincerely taking responsibility for her actions despite her inability to remember.
I also asked her if her behavior was triggered by my unintentionally hurting her. She had quite a traumatic upbringing and words that others find supportive and reassuring can have the opposite effect on her due to the warped and manipulative upbringing she endured.
She insisted that I’d never done anything to hurt her in any way, and stating that her treatment of me was completely unwarranted.
I didn’t and still don’t completely believe her about that because like I said, her reactions in normal conversation sometimes indicate hurt or shock. But at the same time, I knew she wasn’t lying; she believed what she was saying.
Again, this personality type disassociates easily both when the person herself behaves inappropriately and also when others behave in ways she finds uncomfortable or painful. This personality often finds it difficult to remember behavior they found discomfiting, whether it was their own or somebody else’s.
Anyway, it was very healing for me and her sincerity and willingness to be uncomfortable for the sake of doing teshuvah really touched me. And I was able to let go without any further effort.
And then I found myself thanking her. I felt profound gratitude for her willingness to care about my feelings to the extent that she was willing to pull it out of me. After all, we are talking about her wrongful behavior. Hearing how you’ve been wrong is excruciating uncomfortable.
So because of her sincerity, caring, and humility, I became a different person.
Before, I was the kind of person who could not imagine forgiving someone who knowingly and purposefully kicked me when I was already down—even if that person apologized. For me on my emuna-lacking level, this was an unforgivable act.
But now, it’s suddenly something that is forgivable (if the person is truly sorry; I’m still not on the level to forgive such behavior on my own).
She thought she needed my forgiveness.
But really, I was the one who needed the act of forgiving.