I’ve been feeling a bit like a restaurant lately, which is an uncomfortable thing to admit. I’m not used to comparing myself to buildings, much less ones that serve food, especially considering that I am a notoriously poor cook. Nonetheless, it dawned on me recently just how perfect this metaphor is to describe a phenomenon that I believe is fairly common among people in general, not just me. In fact, I bet you’ve felt like a restaurant plenty of times before; you just didn’t describe it in these terms.
People can be real jerks. They can be rude, condescending, insulting. They can be greedy, selfish, egotistical. They can be stubborn, narrow-minded, hard-headed, and sometimes just plain mean. You probably know a few people like this, people you avoid as much as possible, those sundry unpleasant sorts you’ve come to regard as, well, assholes. Chances are you’re not even the only one who thinks of these particular individuals in this way. A lot of folks likely consider them assholes too, probably for the exact same reasons you do. Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely if such people didn’t exist? Wouldn’t it be simply stupendous if the world we live in was suddenly completely free of assholes?
When we resent someone for something they did or said, we are holding onto something in the past, something we do not like, something we have not forgiven. Holding onto this thing is hurting us, just like holding onto a cactus. No matter how justified we may feel to be holding onto this perceived offense, doing so is causing us pain and solving nothing. So what if we are justified? It’s like proudly declaring, “I have a right to clench this cactus!”
Most people believe that an apology is a kind and considerate way to take responsibility for one’s past actions. It is common practice for individuals to seek apologies from those by whom they feel wronged, or to apologize when others feel wronged by them. This stems from the notion that apologies have a certain reparative effect, that they have the power to heal emotional wounds.
When people tell me that they no longer have a relationship with someone, I know this is untrue. No matter how great the gap that divides two people, no matter how vitriolic or rare their interactions, even if these interactions are basically non-existent, the truth is that the relationship persists. It may not be a great relationship or be particularly rewarding for either member, but it continues to be there, if only barely, nonetheless.