About two years ago, a friend hurt my feelings.
This was not a close friend - since those friends and family whom we love are usually more sensitive to our sensitivities. Not that a loved one cannot hurt you, but I think it is rarer. Unless of course, they don't really love you at all. Then you need to reflect on why your closest companions would not be kind to you.
But I digress, as I usually do. Of course, my dearest friends indulge me in this. That's one reason why I love them so. They may roll their eyes of course, but that is permitted.
No, this was a person who I consider more than an acquaintance but less than a loved one. Many people fall into this category - they're the folks who know a bit about you and you about them - where they live, what they do for a living, perhaps the name of their spouse or their children, and especially about what you have in common that has made you a friend in the first place. But probably you've never actually been in their house or socialized beyond your common interest.
This person who hurt me was one of those. I don't believe she was being mean or that she deliberately intended to make me feel bad. I think it was one of those careless things. Thoughtless. Not cruel.
This woman made a critical remark about a physical flaw I have that I am sensitive and self-conscious about.
I can easily overlook inconsiderate comments from people who don't know better. Like someone who recently asked about my children, when I am unfortunately childless. That is not unkind, even though it may be painful to me. It's not unfeeling; just uninformed.
But this hurtful comment came from someone who knew about my flaw, and described it in a tactless way.
I felt bad. And I felt bad for quite a long time.
I could have ended our small friendship. It wouldn't have been hard. We see each other occasionally, but there are always plenty of other people around when we meet, and it would be easy to avoid her without shunning her. I could "unfriend" her online. That is a simple keystroke. After all, why would I be friends with someone who hurt my feelings?
But I didn't. I remained friends. Sometimes you just have to forgive people for their occasional lapses in good manners. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Perhaps she also felt bad after she said it. I know there has been a time or two (or a hundred) when I was sorry that unkind or insensitive words came out of my mouth. She hurt me but didn't mean to hurt me. That is not so hard to forgive, after all.
And last week, the most amazing thing happened.
This woman, whose words stung enough that I had shed a few tears - this same woman - did me a favor that she didn't need to do.
She helped me, just out of plain generosity.
If I had ended our friendship, I wouldn't have received the help I needed. I would have been a little stuck for a little longer.
Keeping her as a friend despite an unkind remark turned out to be a very good thing.
I got the help I needed.
And I got to change my opinion of her from unkind to kind.
She's nice and it's nice to know that again.
Forgiveness can be a very practical practice.
Read more from Nancy at her blog "Not Quite Old."