When’s the last time someone ripped you off? Acted like a jerk? Treated you like dirt? Have you been betrayed or cheated by someone you trusted?
A Bermuda Triangle
I had “all of the above” happen to me recently. Call it a Bermuda Triangle of Collective Flaky-it-is:
Someone I trusted dropped the ball on me*. A client stiffed me. A long-time friend and associate failed to follow-through on a commitment. Again.
In the first instance, someone who shall remain nameless agreed to do an informal photo shoot. We agreed on a time and day. I cleared my calendar. Reconned suitable outdoor sites. Spiffed up the ‘ole wardrobe. Sent a reminder. They were a no-show.
I was a wee bit miffed.
In the second instance, I agreed to take on a writing project for a friend who came highly recommended by long-time friends in California. I completed the initial interviewing, research and writing per our agreement. Spent six months working up a first draft. When it came time to pay up for work completed, the dude balked. In fact, after sending out an itemized invoice, I never heard from him again. Nor did I see a penny. (Note to self: Always get payment up front, at least a partial.)
I was a wee bit miffed.
I completed a marketing research project for a friend who owns his own business. Sent him an invoice per our agreement. Yada, yada, yada.
Guess what? Yeah. Haven’t heard from him since.
I was a wee bit… oh, never mind.
What Do You Do?
So. What do you do when you get jerked around or stiffed by someone who should know better? Who you trusted?
Well. I’ll tell you what I did.
I moped around Miffedville for awhile. But it didn’t do me or my family any good. I realized I had to make a choice: Was I going to let these experiences control my life, turn me bitter, or otherwise inside out? If I wasn’t going to let these Big Disappointment/Seriously Miffed episodes run me ragged, then what?
I finally decided that I’m not responsible for jerks. Their actions or decisions. I’m only responsible for myself. My actions and responses.
I also decided I wasn’t going to make a bad situation worse by wallowing in bitterness. The battery acid of bitterness corrodes a soul like nobody’s business. In the end, that route wouldn’t bring in my fee, outstanding payments, or re-schedule my photo shoot. And it would only hurt me.
At this point I kinda figured I’d been thwacked upside the head enough for one decade, thank you very much. So I decided to let go. Move on.
How did I do this? It wasn’t easy. It took awhile. But I was able to do it with lots of help and encouragement from a supportive husband and fam. I also:
- Deliberately shifted gears
- Launched other writing projects
- Made new friends
- Took long walks with Kimber the Magnificent
- Took long soaks in a hot tub with lavender and chamomile bubbles
- Did I mention raspberry white chocolate cheesecake?
I also decided to forgive.
Choosing to Forgive
By “forgive,” I don’t mean letting someone who hurt or cheated me back in to my life for an encore. I don’t mean condoning or excusing an offender. Or letting a jerk continue to act like a jerk.
I also don’t mean “reconciliation,” because while I’m open to that if the offending party evidences genuine remorse and turns over a new leaf, reconciliation is a separate process. (A crime victim has no obligation to become friends with the criminal. We leave it to the courts and to God to judge them.)
By “forgiveness,” I mean choosing to release the other person from blame, leaving them and the event in God’s hands, and moving on. In the final analysis, holding onto bitterness not only doesn’t solve anything, but it only hurts one person: Me. (I could write an entire treatise on this. This is the Cliff’s Notes version.)
The key to escaping the prison of bitterness? Forgiveness.
In his book, “Forgive and Forget“, Lewis Smedes wrote these profound words about forgiveness:
“When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself.”
Have you set yourself free?
* Not Snuggle Bunny. In case you’re wondering.