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“A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults.” My best friend from childhood and I were once inseparable. From sleepovers and trips to Cedar Point to being a wingman at school dances and many big victories in CYO basketball, those years are defined by our friendship. I still look back on those days as some of the most enjoyable times of my life. Then we headed to high school and, for various reasons, began to go our separate ways. I continued with sports, he fell in with a different group of friends. Somewhere along the way, it became bitter and we weren’t just former best friends, we were enemies. We didn’t bother to speak to one another, but that didn’t stop us from our fair share of snarky comments about the other person. The high school years got the best of us both and before we knew it, those middle school days were a distant memory.
Many years later, my beloved grandfather became ill. He was the patriarch of our Italian family…kind of like The Godfather. Heck, his name actually was Vito! The final days at hospice were peaceful and allowed our family the time to prepare for losing him. We made funeral arrangements and publicized the calling hours, unsure what the attendance might be as my grandfather outlived most of his friends and family. I will never forget standing in the reception line and looking up at the doorway. In walked my best friend from childhood. He and my grandfather were very close, maybe closer than I was with grandpa. In an instant, a huge weight was seemingly lifted. I let go all of the ill will that had built up over the years. By the time he reached me, my emotions had moved me to tears. He was older, grayer…maybe I was too. We hugged, like brothers would, and exchanged pleasantries. He was the bigger man and I was sure to let him know I appreciated him taking that step and being there.
There’s something about funeral homes, right? The unexpected people who show up to pay their respects tend to lift you up and carry you through the difficulty of losing a loved one. This was never more true than on that day.
With the two of us having married, moved away and started families of our own, it’s never going to be the way it was. But it feels good to have my friend back in my life, even if it’s through an occasional email or sharing photos of the kids online. Gotta love Facebook! – Anonymous
Back during the summer entering my freshman year of college, I met a young lady named Lauren and we struck up a friendship. She was kind and beautiful. We were a couple of kids, sharing a moment in time. We attended a summer program, similar to a camp, where we got to know each other well, spending all of our down time together taking walks, going for ice cream and sharing deep conversations. It became clear that, for all intents and purposes, we were dating. She really liked me and I liked her too. As summer came to a close, and the new school year was upon us, so was an influx of new faces hailing from new places. Many of those faces were female and very attractive. I was young and dumb and just a few weeks into freshman year, I became less interested in spending time with my summer friend, and more interested in experiencing all that college had to offer (yes, including academics!). Without getting into details, I ended things with Lauren without much grace and she was hurt, if not heartbroken. I was disappointed in myself and felt terrible for her. From that day on, I rarely saw her, other than on occasion, in the parking lot, coming and going. We didn’t speak, she’d barely look at me. I carried with me the guilt of not handling things well and hurting another person who had cared about me. I carried that guilt for years.
Many years later, I had thankfully grown up and developed much more perspective on life, relationships, and conflict resolution. One day (a summer day, in fact), I found myself thinking about Lauren. Still holding those feelings inside, I decided to look her up. It sounds crazy, but I picked up the phone and called the number listed through a white pages search online. It was her parents’ number and I ended up speaking with her mother, someone I never met. After learning that Lauren was living on her own, as I expected she would be in her late 20’s, I felt like I needed to state my purpose. “I know this is really random,” I said. “But can you please give Lauren a message for me? Tell her Tony from freshman year of college called, and I’m sorry. She’ll know what I mean. I don’t expect anything in return, I just hope she’s doing well.” And that was the truth. No agenda, other than to right a wrong. The mother was taken aback but agreed to relay my message.
A few years later, I received a friend request on Facebook. It was from Lauren. She got my message and wanted to thank me. She, too, had grown up and moved on and, admitted, she held a grudge. But my act had changed all of that. She was now married with a baby, I was married and happy. To this day, we’re still friends who share a neat little story of forgiveness. – Anonymous
I attended Father Bukala’s Forgiveness Fellowship talk in January 2015, presented by the alumni office at John Carroll. As a graduate of JCU, I was more than excited to reunite with Father Casey. The man who attended that event with me is my ex-husband. He also knows Father Casey very well. That gathering represented one of many moments of healing and forgiveness between myself and my ex-husband.
Months later, my ex-husband was in a very serious automobile accident. I reached out to Father Casey, asking him to pray for him and our children. In addition, I asked Father to pray for the young man who was responsible for the accident; he has a heavy burden to carry and our prayers and forgiveness can help ease that burden for him. – Anonymous
It was just over six years ago when my friend and I didn’t agree on something. It was so insignificant and unimportant. But whatever it was, it drove us apart. We were both angry and hurt and couldn’t get past it. Recently I was telling my daughter, you need to accept people’s differences. Not everyone will handle things the way you do, or maybe not the way you would like them to – and that’s ok. You need to be accepting of them if they are truly your friends and try to work with them and not get so frustrated when you don’t agree with them. And sometimes you need to forgive when they hurt you.
After having that conversation with her, I realized what I had been doing over the past six years. I wasn’t forgiving. I was so disappointed in my friend and how she handled something, that I couldn’t get past it. I was being stubborn and holding her to a standard that I expected from her. And I wasn’t willing to forgive her. I decided that if I was telling my children how to react to challenges with their friends and to learn to forgive, I knew it was time to act on my words and set an example. So I took the leap, called my friend and invited her to go out to dinner. I wasn’t sure how that invitation would be received, but I believed it was worth a try.
And last night we went out. We sat and talked for over three hours never skipping a beat. We never discussed what drove our friendship apart. Instead, we spent the time catching up, laughing, and having a great time. When I dropped her off at the end of the evening, she gave me a hug and said “thank you, this was so great, let’s get together again soon”! It felt wonderful to begin to repair that friendship. While it may never go back to the way it was, it could still be great. I learned that I first had to forgive myself for the way I acted and take responsibility for my role in what drove us apart before I could forgive my friend and move on. I can honestly say it’s a great feeling when you can do that. In the words of Pope Francis, “Find ways to move forward after negative experiences. Don’t hold grudges. Forgiveness is the key. It frees. It refreshes. It heals wounds. Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves.” – Anonymous
Send a Forgiveness Message
Throughout the year, and especially during Lent, we are encouraged to reflect on our life, acknowledge our trespasses and ask for forgiveness. While the sacrament of reconciliation heals our relationship with Jesus, we must also ask forgiveness from those we have offended in order to fully heal.
We invite you to begin your own forgiveness journey today. Reach out to someone who deserves your apology. The sample message below is intended as a guide to help you initiate the difficult and humbling act of asking for forgiveness. Be prepared for the chance that you may not be forgiven. We often underestimate the level of hurt we have caused others. Regardless of the response you receive, or lack thereof, keep the door open. As Father Bukala tells us, forgiveness is “a gift that we give ourselves and then to the other.” Everyone’s journey will end in different ways. A successful journey is one that begins and ends with trust in God’s plan for our life.
Dear RECIPIENT NAME,
Hopefully this message finds you well. Although we have not spoken in a while, you have been in my thoughts. In fact, I recently discovered the Bukala Forgiveness Initiative website and after reading stories of forgiveness, I am writing to apologize for my hurtful behavior. I am sorry for (ENTER SPECIFICS).
Our relationship may never fully mend and things may not ever return to the way they were, but my intention is to acknowledge the wrong I have done and mend the hurt I have caused you.
I wish you peace and healing during this Lenten season. May Easter bring the hope of new beginnings.