…is hard. However, as my high school (University High School in West Los Angeles) mentor-teacher-coach, Mr. Anderson, used to say, “Hard is good.” I told him it would be “hard” for me to get enough A’s on my report card from that day forward to get into UCLA, where I could study Japanese and go to Japan during my junior year. This simple concept appealed to me. All of a sudden I realized that it was appropriate to feel the slight discomfort of… ahem… effort. I began to put more elbow grease onto my class work and homework assignments; I was always a good test taker. Miraculously, I got all A’s for the rest of my time in high school. I got into UCLA, studied abroad in Japan and became the person I am today: a driven, goal-oriented, go-getter.
When it comes to my professional life; I’m all of the above, but when it comes to personal relationships, I find it harder to expend the effort required to make my feelings understood. I tend to shy away from stating openly that I am mad as hell about things like: having a partner (dance, romantic or otherwise) stolen away from me, being treated unfairly (in a public or private setting), or being lied to, betrayed or any variation of ten commandment violations. I also get “broiges” (Yiddish for “holding a grudge” – see 7.3.15 Ruth’s Truths entry) if somebody treats a member of my nuclear, extended, or public family unfairly. Now, by “public family” I mean any student who ever came in contact with me as a teacher, mentor, tutor, advisor, or administrator.
The easiest way to deal with the anger of disappointment in others is to avoid confrontation. So, you get pissed off, maybe a few words or an e-mail is exchanged, and you slink off into your own corners, not to speak again until…whenever. Family, friends, coworkers, enemies, teachers, students, etc. are all people you may have to face. So, unless you’re fighting with a stranger, you’ll have to confront this “enemy” in the near future. In this situation, you may find yourself entering the uncomfortable world of, “what do I do when/if I ever have to run into that person?” You usually get through it with a bit of a cold shoulder. Eye contact is avoided at all costs; angry eye contact is a dagger, whereas friendly eye contact is the stuff of which “connections” are established.
Reconciliation usually comes about from one of three methods repentance, intervention and time.
The word “repentance” always sounds so biblical, and it is. In Judaism, we have the Hebrew word, Teshuva. According to jewishvirtuallibrary.org, Teshuva consists of four stages, “The sinner must recognize his sin, feel sincere remorse, undo any damage he has done and pacify the victim of his offense, and resolve never to commit the sin again” (1). During what we call the “High Holy Days” of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Jews often reflect on relationships gone asunder and apologize to each other for wrongdoings and/or miscommunication from the prior year. Last Yom Kippur, I reconciled with a friend I’d been on the outs with for several months when he reflected on the concept of repentance at synagogue, and asked me to put our difference behind us. He recognized that we’d had a miscommunication, and felt apologetic about it. We resumed our friendship. However, we skipped the review of why the breach of communication had occurred. A year later, we’re on the outs again. When you choose to forgive, but cannot forget, reconciliation can only be a temporary state.
Intervention seems to work best, in my opinion, because it is expedient. People who are inconvenienced by warring friends or relatives will sometimes step forward to act as mediators. I’ve reconciled with one close friend and one relative since writing my essay of July 3 specifically because people took the time and had the patience to create opportunities for the belligerent parties to meet, smile, make eye contact, and even talk. In both cases, I am happy to report that we can now be in both virtual contact and even hang out and spend a little time together; nobody has to be in constant contact all the time, but, we have the ability to even make plans together; that is big.
Finally, there is the adage that “time heals all wounds.” This goes to the “forgive and forget” piece. The easy part is forgiving. Forgetting is difficult, because one rarely forgets a transgression. Efforts can be made to understand why the transgression occurred, and comprehension allows the forgiveness. However, when somebody has hurt you physically or emotionally, you lose trust in them. Rebuilding trust through redemptive acts is possible, but time consuming. So, again, Time becomes the answer. If many “good” acts have occurred in between events, or if so much time has passed that you do actually forget – the way you numbly forget where you parked your car at the market – reconciliation can take place.
Reconciliation can be sweet, however. What you hope for is that a reconciled relationship has transformed into a deeper connection. Sharing adversity, confronting a challenge together, and ultimately learning from mistakes is what makes any pain incurred worthwhile. And after reconciliation, there are two more R’s: recognition, and, ultimately, respect. Reconciliation might just be the warmth of an estranged friend or relative back in your life, but it is best when it has further reaching, peaceful, consequences. Examples might be: the work that has been done by the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda over these past twenty years after the genocide, the recognition of Cuba, or of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the events of which are fresh in my mind after my trip earlier this year. Learning how to not necessarily forget, but to agree to leave the past behind and move forward is the answer to the mutual respect needed for personal, professional, and political relationships.