In my last post, I wrote about forgiveness. How it’s good for the soul. How we need to let go of all that anger, hurt and bitterness for our own sake. But it’s easy to say that you forgive someone and sometimes not so easy to put our words into practice. Two decades ago, I was really struggling to forgive someone and then I heard the best sermon in church that I’ve ever heard….and it made all the difference.
In my first full-time job, a colleague treated me badly. She talked about me behind my back. She made up lies about me that turned other people against me. She ensured I was left out of social gatherings and I felt miserable and ostracized for a very long six months.
One day at church, there was a sermon that seemed it was meant just for me. I can’t do it justice. I can’t remember much of the details. But although it’s twenty years ago, I do remember the key message. If you’re struggling to forgive someone, act as if you forgive them. Your heart will eventually follow your actions and you will truly forgive them.
I wasn’t quite sure this would work. But next day, when I arrived at work and passed that difficult corridor on the stairs, I said hello. The next day I managed good morning. And a few days later, I managed to smile as I said it.
I never got any reaction from her but I continued to act as if I’d forgiven her. I hadn’t. I hated her. She had made my life miserable. I’d been so lonely. I felt like everyone hated me. But somehow, I found the strength to smile and greet her every day.
Then I started joining in conversations in breaks and lunchtimes. Instead of sitting in silence whilst she held court in the staffroom, I began to chip in. She continued to ignore me, but other colleagues responded. I felt less ostracized.
It was someone’s birthday. To my surprise, I was included on the guest list and I went out for dinner with my colleagues. The difficult one sat at one end of the table. I sat at the other. The birthday girl came to sit next to me. The boss sat opposite me.
Everything changed that night. Suddenly people saw things from my point of view. With a bit of Dutch courage inside me, I explained to my boss and the birthday girl how awful I’d been feeling and how I couldn’t understand why I’d been treated so badly. I was never left out at work again.
Recently I googled her name and found her. She has a high-powered job in a prestigious company. I emailed her and asked how she was. She replied. I’d like to go on and say we became best friends after all but we didn’t. All I know is that I feel no anger or bitterness towards her now so I know I have truly forgiven her. Painful though that time was, I learnt a lot from the whole experience. How to cope with loneliness, for example, and most of all, how to forgive.