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The Most Important Email I Wrote This Year

2018 September 13

It took me 20 years to write it. And only one minute to hit send.

Close to 20 years ago, I wronged a good friend. He was always a good friend. I really liked him, I respected him, he was a great companion. He was a good guy.

And then he started dating my best friend.

Looking back now, my loyalty to her was misguided at times. And this was one of them. When things turned sour in their relationship, I only listened to one side of the story and shut him (and his side) down blindingly. I turned my back on him, I called him out, and I refused to listen when he tried to explain his version of their events.

We were young. Drama was at its peak. And I got caught up on the wrong side of it.

Their relationship ended soon after. Years later, my friendship with her would fade away for its own reasons. He and I never spoke again. And I mean never. Not on Facebook, not at the hometown bar on a night before Christmas when everyone piles in from their respective new lives and reminisces on days gone by. Never spoke again.

But even after many years, he was always in the back of my mind. Not just for the friendship I had missed out on, but for the guilt behind my own actions. I knew I had been rash and immature in the way I had treated him and it always gnawed at me, even as years and miles passed us by.

He probably hadn’t given it much thought. We were young, after all. Volatile, dramatic, jumping from one relationship to the next. But I had given it a lot of thought and I knew it was time for an apology.

So I sent it.

I ate crow (is that the expression??) and asked his sister (who I did have as a Facebook connection) for his email address and I sent a heartfelt apology his way. I apologized for being a jerk. For undervaluing all the years he had been nothing but a great friend to me. For being so mistakenly loyal to one friend that it cost me another one. And for letting 20 years go by before I acknowledged it to him.

His reply came within the hour. I know he wasn’t waiting for a note from me, in fact he expressed his utter shock at having received it. But he welcomed it. He virtually chuckled a little at the idea that I had held it close to my heart all these years. He, of course, had not. Those years were a memory to him now, happily married, three kids at home, a beautiful life built around him. But he welcomed my words. He accepted my apology. He agreed that we had a great little friendship back then and that he didn’t fault me for making a stupid choice that ended it. He wished me well and I did the same in return and told him I hoped to see him some day. In the hometown bar. On the night before Christmas.

I am admittedly not much of a forgiver. It is a big character flaw that I try to acknowledge and work on, but the reality is that when you do me wrong, it is very hard for me to forget it. I hold grudges. I rarely forgive if I feel hurt. I hold onto those emotions and build a wall of them around me. But this lesson taught me that being an apologizer is also half of that equation. Owning up to your mistakes. Putting those thoughts into actual words and acknowledging someone else’s feelings and your role in impacting them. It made me realize that while I haven’t forgiven every person who hurt me in my life, few (if any) of them have ever apologized. Have never felt the need to right their wrong, or to understand my perspective or to realize that sometimes, eating a little crow is worth it to save a friendship or a relationship or a partnership.

So the lesson is this: apologize more. It will lead to more forgiveness.

Hit send on that email that is drafted in your head or your heart. Even if it’s been there for 20 years.

Don’t undervalue good friends. New and old.

And if you do, buy them a drink at Christmas.

It will be one of the most important things you do all year.


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