Saturday, August 4, 2012

Letting go of grudges

Editor's Note: Good Grief I've never opened up this much in a blog before. It's taken me a long time to get to this place, so enjoy.

My biggest character flaw is holding grudges.

Seven days after seeing someone throw a cigarette butt out of the car, I'm still furious with that idiot. For two years after I got fired from The Waldron News, I thought nothing but bitter thoughts about those people who ran the newspaper (while I don't seethe with anger, I still use that firing as motivation on other projects).

While those grudges aren't good things, the worst grudge I've held is over my best friend from high school, whom we'll call Max (not using his real name). Max and I were inseperable. We were in the same church youth group, we pulled all-nighters playing Goldeneye 007 and WCW vs. nWo, and we even filmed videos starring my G.I. Joe Collection (Warren's coming of age story and meeting the bird-man Mr. Goddard was a gem of a show). We even roomed together during the first year of college.

In high school, I loved Max more than any friend I could have ever had. He was a brother to me, and I knew we'd be each other's best man at our future weddings.

Max dated my sister in high school, and for reasons unknown to me at the time, they broke up. It was slightly awkward, but we still remained friends, and as they both moved on to different relationships, any questions on why they ended their relationship faded into obscurity.

Until my sophomore year of college. My sister, who had already given birth to her first son, had mentioned the real reason they broke up. I'm not going to reprint it here. Years later, I wonder if I misunderstood what my sister said (based on what she told me a few months ago, it's almost certain that I misunderstood what she said), or if I didn't get the whole story before making up my mind to be furious, but I was piping mad. So I called Max and told him that I knew what lousy thing he did and wanted an apology.

Max told me it wasn't true, and we ended that conversation with a broken friendship.

Our final years of college wrapped up without speaking to each other. He went on to become a missionary: I went on screwing up my personal life with rampant promiscuity and a blatant apathy for all things Christ for years until I started listening to The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM (which got me back into the faith by way of Catholicism and helped me meet my wife Allicia). Did I want to be his friend during college? No. The few times I saw him I managed to avoid speaking to him, going so far as to drop one of my P.E. classes so I wouldn't have to sit near him.

Then one night while I was sitting alone in my apartment in Pittsburgh, five years after our friendship ended, I thought, "I should call him." It was probably more loneliness than actual desire to forgive that drove me to that phone call, but I did. It was a pleasant phone call, but it was followed by two more years of silence. Then another phone call, which was followed by Max going off to China to be a missionary and me taking on a wonderful 9.25 per hour opportunity at the Waldron News.

I felt a little peace in my heart, but not really. I still despised him. When he came to speak at my parent's church about his mission journey, I chose not to go. No way I'm supporting him, I thought. He still never apologized, I told myself.

By now, you must be thinking I'm a screwed up individual. Right you are! How I'm raising a daughter, I have no idea. More on that in a moment.

Then one day, things collided. I found out from a friend named Sarah (someone I also held a grudge against but successfully let it go and rekindled a high school friendship) that Max was getting married. Her husband Chris told me that I needed to let go of my grudge and forgive the guy, since people grow and mature past the stupid high school things they did. I knew he was right, and thanked him for his wisdom, gritting my teeth at what I needed to do.

The next morning, I told my sister who revealed to me that the reason I ended our friendship wasn't QUITE what I thought eight years ago.

I felt foolish. I felt stupid. I felt ridiculous. I let a misunderstanding destroy a friendship. Even if what I thought was true, I let my unwillingness to forgive ruin a friendship.

Being best man at each other's weddings? That dream died a long time ago, and I was just now realizing it. My wedding came and went without even telling him, his wedding was planned with a best man who knew what it was like to be Max's best friend. Something I lost years ago.

I didn't have his number, so I reached out to Max to tell him congratulations on Facebook. The reply from him was same-old Max: thoughtful, caring and a hint of humor. He told me he'd try calling me this week, but the silly man probably didn't realize that the week before your wedding is REALLY busy, so I don't fault him for not calling.

When he does call, I plan to tell him everything you, dear reader, just read. Maybe he's forgiven me. Maybe he hasn't. Maybe we'll pick up that friendship right where it left off in high school. We can talk about How I Met Your Mother, wrestling and faith. We can talk about married life.

Or maybe we talk and another two years of silence goes by. I hope and pray that doesn't happen, but after the way I've behaved, I probably deserve it.

I may have lost out on being his best man, but with the grace of God guiding us, maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to call him a brother.

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