He Done Me Wrong!

Getting a fresh start sometimes means letting go of a grudge. I recall watching a friend’s relationship with his daughter-in-law go bad. Of course I only heard one side of the story so I was spared the agony of arbitrating and allowed to focus on how my friend was coping with the situation.

At one point he admitted that several people suggested he should apologize in an attempt to diffuse the anger and tension. He said, “I can’t do that. It would be like the victim apologizing to the mugger.” In his opinion, he’d been tragically wronged and it just didn’t make sense to do anything except be hurt and angry.

His analogy of being mugged intrigued me since I was mugged at gunpoint a number of years ago. While it didn’t destroy me, the experience did exact a toll. For some time I was a bit paranoid in parking lots at night. If a car approached I instinctively tensed. And I carried around more hurt, fear and anger than I realized for a while.

Then it dawned on me that my own feelings about the incident made me more of a victim than the actual robbery. (In much the same way my friend’s feelings are making him the victim. It would appear the guilty party is not living in constant agony and hurt. If what my friend says is true, she’s actually quite happy to be rid of him and is probably taking great pleasure in his pain.)

In situations like these it pays to look at things with a certain lack of passion. Most people would say I had every right to feel the way I did—we do have laws against that sort of thing. But the fact remained that those feelings were getting me nowhere. They were actually limiting me and making me miserable.

I considered what I had contributed. I did provide an opportunity for him. Yes, rationally, one should be able to walk through a parking lot at night, but there are risks in doing so and I chose to take those risks. In that regard, I suppose I “shared the blame” for what happened. Simple physics: every criminal needs a victim. So while I don’t take all the responsibility for his choices and actions, I’m “sorry” for giving him a temptation he, in his weakness, couldn’t resist. (I’m not real sorry—just a little.)

My more important contribution came after the robbery. That’s when “I done me wrong.” I doubt that he intended to make me paranoid, angry, and fearful. He simply wanted my money. The rest of the stuff was, more accurately, “my fault.” In the long term, I was making myself the victim. His power and control over me only lasted for those few minutes he had the gun pointed my way. When he and his gun were gone, so was his influence. Once I realized that the effect of the incident and my thoughts about him changed dramatically.

I can’t honestly say that I’ve totally forgiven the guy. He was eventually caught after several more robberies and beating up an elderly couple. I was more than willing to go to court, but not to apologize to him. My fresh start was not about forgiveness and an apology. (Many times apologies are in order when incidents escalate and things are subsequently said and done in anger and frustration.) Most fresh starts are about what is controlling us.

A fresh start doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind and putting oneself in jeopardy. I can deal with this guy. I’d actually be willing to meet him again. But probably not in a dark parking lot.

Getting a fresh start does mean having a future focus and concentrating on what you can control. It doesn’t matter where you are. What matters is where you are going next. Life’s too short to be a victim of your own fear or grudge or anger.

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