DEAR KELLY: I had a big fight with one of my best friends, and we haven’t really talked lately. The fight occurred more than a month ago and I can’t help but think that it is still my fault. I have apologized to her multiple times for whatever hurt I had caused, but she said, “I accept your apology but I don’t know if I forgive you.” Whenever I see her, it’s awkward, especially because we have the same group of friends. I can’t help but feel guilty for what had happened and feel that everything is my fault. I have tried talking to her, but she seems like she is trying to avoid me and seems as if she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. I want things to go back to how they were before and not lose a friendship over something that may not have been important. This has been on my mind for the past month, and I can’t help but think that I’m at fault. Should I feel guilty for ruining our friendship?
Losing A Friend
DEAR FRIEND: We all make mistakes. You are not perfect, and we learn as we go. You are not a bad person or defined by your mistakes. One month is a long time to suffer and struggle over whatever you did. Your inner critic has spoken loud and clear, and it’s time to seek peace.
Forgiving yourself, vs. waiting for her forgiveness, is far more challenging because you have to live with yourself and your thoughts. To be an emotionally healthy person who is at peace with herself, you have to learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes. Developing the capacity to do this is very important in the process of self-acceptance and self-preservation.
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I once heard someone say that not forgiving yourself is like picking at an open wound – you are only making a bad situation worse. The wound is already there, but you have to decide how you are going to treat it and react to it. You can make the choice to stop it from getting worse, but the more you pick at it, the more pain you will create for yourself. It all comes down to your choice.
Without even knowing what transpired between the two of you, you need to forgive yourself first before you seek your friend’s forgiveness. You have no control of her choices, but total control over how you respond to yourself.
Once you have forgiven yourself and cut yourself some grace for being human, look at the situation with your friend. Sometimes people don’t forgive us because they feel power in their anger and they aren’t willing to let go of that feeling. No matter what you say, it wouldn’t be enough because they relish the feeling of knowing you feel bad and perhaps it’s punishment for what happened or they feel your pain is justified because you hurt them.
Talk to your friend (notice I said talk and not text) one last time and ask her if there is anything you can do to repair the damage that has been done to the friendship. Express a heartfelt apology on what happened and how sad you are that things still feel awkward between you. Acknowledge that she was hurt and how sorry you are for that. Don’t defend what you did or try to explain why it happened; simply apologize for how you hurt her and the friendship. Listen to any suggestions she may have on repairing the friendship. If after all of that she still can’t accept your apology, then move on. There is nothing more you can do. Give the friendship space and she can decide if she wants to stay angry. You have no control over her feelings or choices and can only control yourself.
One side note: If your hope is that things will go back to the way they were before, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Healing takes time. When we get hurt, it’s hard to go back to the same place of trusting someone like we did before. It takes time to rebuild trust and get back to where you were before. Change your thought process from wanting things to be like they were to accepting things will be different for a while as you heal and move forward.
Forgive yourself. You are not perfect. Leave the guilt behind; it doesn’t serve you. Give yourself grace. You are learning and growing. Be patient. You are on a journey and healing takes time.