By Liz Hazell
I was in a car accident recently.
A young man in a red pickup was texting while driving, and rear-ended me while I was sitting at a stoplight. I was driving my nearly-new minivan; the one I’ve only made six payments on.
And then he took off.
That’s right, he hit me and ran—tore across the intersection we were stopped at and kept going. So naturally, I chased after him.He turned into a neighborhood and I called 911. I gave the operator the license plate number and the description of the truck, and followed him turn by turn telling her exactly where he was. We came to a spot in the neighborhood where there were children playing, and he blew through a stop sign.
That’s when I pulled over and stopped. To paraphrase a Simon & Garfunkel song, “Hello Ego, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.” Why was I chasing him? What did I hope to accomplish? What was going to happen if he pulled over? Did I plan to give him a stern talking-to?
Seriously, if the young man is so scared of the police that he’s running from the scene of an accident and willing to risk running over children, what on earth did I think I was going to do? I was mad he hit my car, and I was going to make sure he didn’t get away with it.
That’s the problem with ego.
The police did catch up to him within a few seconds after I stopped, and he spent the night in jail. He had a couple of warrants out for his arrest; the police officer who took my report said that he has been arrested a lot—she knew him personally. His parents are good people, but he got involved in drugs and just cannot seem to turn his life around. He’s been given chance after chance and continues to fail.
I understand addiction, and felt connected to him. My van has fairly extensive, fixable damage. The truck belonged to his mother and she has insurance. Everything will be just fine. We will probably have it back in time for our family vacation later this summer. It’s an inconvenience, but at least no one was seriously injured. My neck and back are sore, but I’ve been in worse collisions with more serious physical injury.
Then this question hit me:
Why is it so easy to forgive strangers and not friends and lovers?
I had a terrible disagreement with a friend of mine last week and we are no longer speaking. My ego tells me that it is obviously all his fault. I had nothing to do with any of it. I’ve given him chance after chance to be honest with me and he keeps telling lies. He’s just a horrible person who hurts people he cares about. Or is he? Why is it that I’m willing to give the kid who hit me another chance, but not a friend I’ve known for years?
Does simply knowing me and my insecurities and my hot buttons exclude him from forgiveness?
It shouldn’t, but I have struggled with it. Forgiveness is hard when you feel like you’ve been wronged. Our ego clings to the idea that we deserve better. We didn’t deserve the treatment we got. The wrong needs to be righted, and until it is, I’m going to stand over here with my arms crossed and my lips pursed and I’m going to glare at you and say nasty things until you apologize. And if the apology never comes, or if I don’t think it’s good enough, then we aren’t going to be friends anymore. Ever.
This attitude serves no one—least of all, me.
In Buddhism, there’s something called non-duality. Essentially it means that everything and everyone is interconnected. It behooves us to forgive. It is better that we humble ourselves and put our ego aside and apologize—even if we feel that we aren’t wrong. Even if we feel that the person in question is a big jerk. Even if we have no intention of repairing the relationship, we need to let the anger, hurt, and frustration go. If we do not, we are hurting ourselves. My ex-friend is going about his life perfectly happy and not thinking about me at all while I sit and stew and plot.
Who is the one suffering in this scenario? Me.
Forgiveness is an act of love towards others, but more importantly, toward ourselves. Is there someone in your life who you’ve failed to forgive? Take time today to forgive them, if only by looking in a mirror and releasing that anger and hurt to no one but your reflection.
And then forgive yourself, and move on.
Liz Hazell is a labor doula and certified breastfeeding educator. The mother of two children and caretaker of all. She reads, writes, knits, meditates, feeds stray cats, and grows vegetables and flowers. She laughs too loud, cares too much, is loyal to a fault, and hopes that the world will be peaceful someday. You can read more from her at her blog, Dharma Sister.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak