Thursday, January 12, 2017

Adventures in Unemployment: Forgiveness

For my beautiful, amazing daughter, who has more to offer the world than she realizes... 

We're all pretty familiar with those well-worn "stages of grief." You know the ones: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and, finally, Acceptance. If you've followed along with this blog, you've most likely seen me going through most of these steps since my loss of employment.

But the problem is, it doesn't really end with acceptance. Because when you're dealing with grief, you're dealing with people. In a situation like this one, you're dealing with other people. There's a sixth stage, one that, while it isn't as automatic as the other Five, is just as -- probably more -- important.

See, I ultimately did come accept my firing. To realize that, maybe, even if it wasn't ideal, I can make this work and possibly even turn it into something better.

What that handy 5-stage list doesn't tell you, though, is that even when acceptance happens, the anger is still there. It may be suppressed, but it exists. I talked about some of the anger back in October. I didn't go into everything then. Partially because, while I had by then started to work out my forgiveness of the organization over the firing itself, I still hadn't dealt with the human aspects of the situation.

The person who fired me was someone I considered a friend. My direct supervisor, who wasn't there when they let me go, was a friend. I had a lot of friends there. People I could talk to, and who could talk to me. People whose company I legitimately enjoyed.

When I was let go, some of my former co-workers reached out to me. I appreciated this more than I can say. Through calls, messages, letters, and even just popping by, these individuals let me know I meant something to them, that I was more than a coworker, and that I'd be missed. They still check in, and I'm grateful.

A few never reached out. Didn't respond when I did. That hurt. Possibly more than the firing, the silence of my friends stung.

Forgiveness took some time. But ultimately, I had to. Because, forgiveness isn't about the other person. It's about me. It's about you. Not the person who needs forgiveness, but the one who was hurt.

A pastor once explained it to me this way: refusing to forgive is drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. My grudge didn't hurt my former co-workers -- they didn't even know anything about it. But it did hurt me. It affected my ability to find closure. It damaged my ability to move on. It stuck in my mind like a thorn and infected my spirit.

But I am learning how to forgive. I don't know why I was fired. I don't know why my friends never reached out and contacted me. I may never know those things -- but it doesn't matter. Because it's about me. Not them. No, they didn't respond to my firing the way I would have if situations were reversed -- the way, in fact, I have responded under such circumstances. But they aren't me. The truth is, they were put in a hard (and awkward) situation. I don't know exactly what they thought or are thinking. But I'm choosing to forgive.

Maybe I'll be able to tell them so one day, and maybe not. It doesn't matter, because it's not about them. They had reasons for exiting my life, and it's up to them to decide whether they'd like to be a part of it again. But I've done what I can. Should the time come that they decide they want to reach out, I'm here, and I'm ready to accept them back into my life. And if not, I mourn the loss of those friendships.

It's easy to say. As a Christian, forgiveness is not only marginally easier, but is a requirement of faith. I am forgiven and so I forgive. It doesn't always come naturally, but it must come.

And if you're in my situation, the best advice I can give is that it must come for you, too. Because it's not about your former employer. They may or may not care whether you forgive them for firing you (and let's face it: they probably don't). It's about you.

And because it's about you, there's one more thing you need to do. One more thing I needed to do as well. And it has to happen before that whole "acceptance" thing can really happen: you have to forgive yourself, too. Even -- maybe especially -- if you don't know why.

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