THINGS LEFT UNSAID
We were nothing more than acquaintances in person, & had only really met face to face less than a handful of times. We would occasionally “Like” one another’s posts on social media, & once got into a small but quickly resolved debate over something he said to one of my posts. But we had not had a conversation via private message but a couple of times, & the previous one was quite some time ago, so I was most surprised to see his name pop up in my inbox out of the blue. However, I was more surprised by the content of his very last message to me.
I do try to stay off of the Gossip Train, which is why I sometimes miss out on important happenings even amongst my friends. It makes me sad if I miss offering condolences upon the loss of a family member when there has been a death, or the opportunity to lift someone up in prayer when they are discouraged, or when I do not go see them in the hospital because I do not know about these things taking place. I spend a lot of time online, but I am frequently multi-tasking, so I can overlook things by mistake in the news feed from my long list of friends. Additionally, & this I do not understand because I am not a technologically proficient person (although I do well enough to do my job & write in my blog), sometimes I get limited feed when I am on my tablet or phone which is typically where I check social media – while waiting on a client, a light to change, or at a doctor’s office. So I tell people that if there is something really important, please send me a text or a private message.
Even though I get more than my fair share of Spam, I do try to read & reply to every email (other than forwards & chain emails) & texts. So I was immediately curious as to what this man, whom had always conducted himself as the perfect gentleman towards me, was writing to me about. I was astounded by the content of his nice, sincere, & obviously heartfelt message to me. In it, he told me that while he is sometimes quiet, people do not usually consider him to be the shy type, except for when it came to ME! He said that he had been wanting to tell me something for a long, long time, but never had the courage to do so. He expressed concern that by doing so it might jeopardize our friendship. And then his confession came: He said that he had always longed to have just one evening to spend having dinner, a bottle of wine, & wonderful conversation with me. There was nothing at all sordid, sexual, or untoward in his proposal. He just wanted to go to dinner with me. I must say I was flattered, but I had no idea that he had been carrying around this inclination for so long.
Yet there are some things a woman “just knows” instinctively, & I knew when I first met this nice man that he was “not my type.” But I believe that it is impossible for a person to have too many friends, & I would have gladly had a dinner & conversation with him, had I known earlier, despite having heard some less than flattering things about him. I typically do not judge people by what others tell me about them, although I do take those things into account as regards my safety or that of my family. And the gossip that I had heard, (even though I had never asked to hear about his dirty laundry, you know how people love to talk), was really only as it pertained to his personal life, & nothing that was illegal, immoral or unethical.
I have many, many friends, both male & female. I am known for being “out there” in terms of being extroverted & being able to talk to most anybody, anytime, anywhere, & about anything. So I wondered why he felt so reserved about approaching me, as I am pretty approachable. Was it because he feared that I had heard gossip about him? I went back to our earlier private conversations, & with chagrin I noticed a message that he had sent to me where he complimented my appearance & said that he thought I had a lot of class. Now that is a very sweet comment, & one that I would not usually let pass without at least a simple “thank you.” But for some reason, I never replied. I wonder now if that hurt his feelings or kept him from further approaching me until now? I know that rejection, whether real or perceived, can cause a person to want to keep someone at arm’s length. So that made it all the more remarkable that he would reach out to me in this manner.
Therefore, I made it a point to immediately reply to this last message. I thanked him for his kind words, & also for the gift of his friendship. I assured him that we were still friends. I am so very glad that I did so, because 12 days later I was shocked & saddened to read that he had died on the operating table.
This has been heavy on my heart. I am glad that he was able to unburden his own heart & say what he had left unsaid for so long. I am glad, also, that he left this world with no doubts as to my friendship, & no regrets from not having, in his words “the courage” to tell me what he really felt.
And I began thinking about how too often many of us do just that – we leave things unsaid. Or we say things that we really do not mean, & never attempt to set the record straight due to fear, anxiety, or pride.
Personally, I have always tried to approach people with whom I have misunderstandings in an effort to resolve them. In a couple of instances, the issues were resolved, yet I found myself under repeated attacks by them to such an extent that it was necessary to cut ties altogether. I hate it when that happens, but that is life. In other instances, people who have felt that I have offended them in some way have not expressed that to me, & therefore I have had no way of knowing of the offense until I heard about it through someone else. And while I can get a little irritated when given poor service, can be pretty assertive when defending my clients in my business, &, like any Momma Bear, I can be downright aggressive in defending my cubs, I try never to intentionally offend anyone, even under these circumstances. And if it is brought to my attention that I have inadvertently done so, I am not too good to try to make amends.
That is a message that has been hitting me right in the face on numerous levels lately, so I am thinking that the Universe is trying to tell me something: Forgiveness is a necessary thing. In order to live a life of peace one must seek both to forgive & to be forgiven. I confess my sins to God regularly. I wish I had none, but yes, that irritation at the customer service representative whose competency is lacking, or the salesperson who proffers a poor attitude, or the serviceperson who fails to show up at the appointed time is not listed as one of the virtues in my Bible, where it says that we are to be slow to take offense. So I talk to God daily & try to make sure that my slate is clean with Him. And He forgives me & offers me that clean slate each & every single time that I ask Him to do so. But He is a good listener, easy to talk to, & it does not take mustering a lot of courage to do so. People who walk the earth in the flesh are a little different matter.
I most admire those whose character & backbone are strong enough that they can not only recognize their deficiencies, but who have enough gumption to make actual apologies. Within the past few months I have had two individuals offer unexpected apologies to me out of the blue – one for something that took place many years ago, & the other for something that happened within the past couple of years. The exact situations are between them, me & God, but I will say that I applaud them for being people who have the courage to speak what is on their hearts & try to make things right. Though they had no way of knowing it, I had forgiven each of them for what they were asking forgiveness for almost immediately after the incidents took place. And my too soft heart had actually prayed about each circumstance right after it happened, that God would make things right. He took His time in doing so, but He did answer each of those prayers! Reflecting upon those issues & hearing the parties involved in the two totally unrelated happenings state that they had wanted to say something sooner but were afraid to do so made me really stop & think.
I have, many times, apologized for my own misconduct to people. But how many times have I ever extended my hand first to let them know that I have forgiven them, even though they have not indicated that they wanted forgiveness? The truth is that I have done this quite a few times & have been met with both resounding successes as well as disappointing rebuttals. It is the results of the latter of the two that have left me reeling & made it difficult for me to trust my heart when God speaks to it telling me to be the first to reach out. Therefore, the answer as to how many times have I been the first to reach out when I was the one who was wronged is that not enough times have I done so!
God HAS been speaking to me a LOT about forgiveness & not leaving things unsaid until it is too late through a variety of channels over the past few months: the death of this man which prompted me to write this; the two apologies I have mentioned; a business associate who recently said to me “Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology.”: multiple preachers whose sermons had forgiveness as their centerpieces; and several books that I have read in the past few months have all made me stop & take a long hard look at where I need to make an effort to bridge the gaps & say those things that have been left unsaid. After all, does it really matter who begins the dialogue, so long as the door gets opened?
And, should the door get slammed in my face, as it has with one particular individual who, for whatever reason, just refuses to listen to or accept me efforts at reconciliation, then I can rest easily & be at peace with my God that I have done my best by making a sincere attempt to make amends. One book said that the people that you forgive do not even have to know that you have forgiven them. I concur with this in theory. However, could they be like the gentleman who just passed away, wishing that we could talk, but not having the courage to start the conversation? He is also one that I applaud, not so much because I do not wish to speak ill of the dead (which I do not care to do – any rumors that may still live on board that Gossip Train about him need to just go right on past my station, as they will not be allowed to de-board here), but because he DID muster the courage to unburden his heart. I wonder if he knew that his time was near? No matter – he did it, & I was given an opportunity to reply to his kind words to me where I had not done so before. When he passed, he was still my friend, & the slate was clean between us, & that is a great feeling to have.
Now, I know some readers will have, like myself, circumstances that are contrary to these, where things were left unsaid & there is now no way to go back & say them. I have been there. The thing to do in that case is tell it to God. He is ultimately the one that needs to forgive you anyway, for all sins are against Him. And once He has forgiven you, that bag is to be left at that station, never to be picked up again. He will carry it the rest of the way for you, if you will only let Him. And the people who refuse to accept your efforts of reconciliation, or those who continue to attack you despite your best attempts? Well, that is on them, not on you. Give that bag to God, as well. He has infinite strength to carry them all.
Meanwhile, focus on the things you can try to change. Is there someone out there you need to reach out to in some fashion? There are, & will always be throughout your lifetime, people with whom it makes no sense for you to try to sustain a relationship: they are the narcissists, the psychopaths, the sociopaths, & those who are just too cruel to contend with unnecessarily. We do not have to resume relationships with everyone that we forgive. But we are called upon to forgive everyone with whom there is an offense. There is a huge difference. Two wrongs do not make a right, but neither do zero rights make a right. Make the right choice: say those unsaid words that offer or request forgiveness as soon as possible – you never know which breath will be your last one here on earth.
~ Lou Lehman Sams
Postscript: If any readers figure out the identity of the deceased in this story – please leave those words unsaid, so that he may Rest In Peace. God bless …