Written by Davina Myers-Hoyte
‘A man is known by the company he keeps.’
My friendship circle is relatively small in comparison to the vast amount of people I actually know. Mum would regularly quote Aesop or I’d hear those words every now and then on Sunday in church. Forgiveness being the foundation of my faith, growing up Christian, week after week, this prayer was recited, 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.'.
I knew it was expected of me, but what did it really mean to forgive?
Finally after many years of heartache and disappointment, it all makes perfect sense.
As painful as the lessons have been, only life's experiences qualify me to truly forgive someone, being totally aware of my role in the act of forgiveness. It is acting on the decision to forgive that releases me from bitterness.
In January 2016, a new member was introduced into our friendship group. I was a little apprehensive as the original group had all been close since primary school making it a 30+ year friendship - no arguments, certainly no physical fights, just a year after year of love, respect, laughter and simply the greatest memories any child could ask for.
Now, into my late 30s, I was introduced to a new addition. It felt like a blind date. I was so nervous. I wanted to take things slow because with age and wisdom came caution. I was apprehensive of such a big change, unlike teenaged me who was carefree and welcomed everyone with open arms. I didn't know her personally, so I wanted to get a feel of things.
Shanetta was from out of town and the one person she knew in the group lived 30 miles away.
She had a young family and things were quite complex for her at home. I understood that a fresh start in a new town must be daunting. We grew close quite quickly, almost like we had known each other for years and from early on, Shanetta became extremely dependent on me. The visits and phone calls were a daily occurrence. Before I knew it, we were like a family, our children included.
Shanetta had opened up about her troubled life early on. She knew a considerable amount of detail about my life too, but, as the weeks and months went by, I started to see a side of Shanetta that I didn't like. There were a few instances where I felt her tone and manner towards me were a little off. I found Shanetta somewhat arrogant and rather loose of tongue. She would apologise, I'd forgive her, we'd move on. During an honest moment, she confessed that her abruptness was a weakness and a characteristic she herself did not like and was trying to change. This was something I had never experienced with a close friend before. Not one, in over 30 years. Our main issue was an important one to me: we didn't see eye to eye on the upbringing of our children. This resulted in Shanetta calling me late one night, hurling a tirade of insults at me down the phone. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was angry. This was new territory for me.
The friendship started to feel one-sided. It began to feel like a burden rather than a blessing. She knew way too much and threw it all back in my face regularly. It started to feel like Groundhog Day. I was feeling bad about myself. I was spiritually and emotionally drained. I needed to move on. My motivation for doing that? My children. What example was I setting for them if I allowed myself to be treated this way? That phone call had to be the last time.
Aesop's quote was ringing true to me. This friendship had run its course. Friends who love you don't continuously hurt your feelings. My friendships over the past 30 years had proven that. Enough was enough. I still loved her and knew I would miss the fun times, but the friendship had expired. Forgiveness was in my heart, but it did not mean reconciliation. Not this time. I made peace with my decision, which gave me the freedom to heal, learn and grow.
I am not bitter and I wish her no ill. In fact, we bumped into each other in the grocery store after two years. I was able to greet her with a big hug because... I am free. I no longer have low self esteem. The words she said no longer affect me. Our time apart made room for some very positive changes in my life. I have learned to be strong enough to set boundaries and not to feel guilty for ending relationships that compromise my morals and values.
Use wisdom. If someone shows you their true colours, believe what you see and trust how it makes you feel. You can't build relationships with everyone you forgive, because not everyone is deserving of your time.
Choosing to walk away from a toxic relationship doesn't mean you haven't forgiven them. It just means you love yourself enough to take care of you. Not every person who apologises is