By Lindsay Steele
I was sick to my stomach, filled with dread about what was to occur. My palms sweated as I rocked in my chair, trying to stay calm.
You’d think I was waiting for some high-risk medical procedure to begin, as nervous as I was, but no. I was simply waiting to apologize to someone with whom I was on bad terms.
I’ll backtrack — one of my goals for Lent was to let go of some of my long-standing grudges. I’ve realized lately that I’m not always an understanding person. I hold people to a high standard, and if they do something I don’t like, I’m not afraid to let them know about it. But, there is a right and a wrong way to deal with a grievance. I employ what I call the “Full House” method: like a young DJ Tanner, I become upset and then run to my room and slam the door, so to speak.
The problem? In the real world, Uncle Jesse isn’t going to come upstairs to help me sort out my feelings and teach me a valuable life lesson. It’s a lot easier to be mad at someone than to actually talk it out and resolve the issue.
For me, avoidance makes grudges grow. I don’t give the other person a chance to explain, change or apologize. They remain a villain in my story, and I continue to see myself as the victim, even when the blame should be shared.
Case in point: the person I speak of at the beginning of this column. Months ago, he said something that offended me and members of my family. I raised a big fuss about it and was afraid to talk to him after that; rather, I was afraid of him confronting me. So I just avoided him.
I knew I needed to be the one to break the ice, but doing so would put me in a vulnerable state. I’d have to acknowledge my own fault in the situation. I would be giving him a voice, and that voice might not tell me what I wanted to hear.
Certainly, that first conversation was hard. We were both hurting. But, it was constructive and we learned a lot about each other. We both left the room with a resolve to put aside our differences, focus on our commonalities and restart our friendship. For a few days afterward I felt a little overwhelmed, but then, I began to feel relief. The heavy burden of resentment had been lifted and in its place was something much more positive and worth holding on to.
Not every interaction will have a happy ending; I am aware of this. There are some grudges I hold against people who are no longer living. In other instances, the other person might have no recollection of the conflict or may not show any remorse. But that shouldn’t matter. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says of grudges, “Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.”
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)