61. Thank You, Kate

61. Thank You, Kate

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Thank You, Kate

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.

~Booker T. Washington

The front of the card showed a picture of Jesus standing in front of a rainbow with his arms outstretched and the words, “Jesus Loves You.” Instead of the expected note of encouragement, the ugly, sinister words inside frightened me. “Everyone else thinks you’re an a**h***.” No signature. No return address.

But I knew who’d sent it. The harassment for the past eight years had just reached a new low. This attack came at a vulnerable time for me. I was alone with our two children during the week while my husband worked a new job two hours away. All the other attacks had occurred within the workplace, but this had come to my home, crossing a line that made it feel as though my family were now also part of the vendetta against me.

For the first few years, Kate and I had worked together well. We believed in the mission of our company and the services we provided to our customers. The first inkling of trouble came when an out-of-state inspector made an appointment to review our practices. At Kate’s request, I put together a procedure manual in preparation for the visit.

The day arrived. We presented the manual to the inspector. She paged through it and said, “Good work. This is clear and concise.”

Before I could thank her, Kate jumped in. “Thank you,” she said. “I wanted to be sure anyone could come in, follow these directions, and produce the same results.”

I stood there with my mouth open, but said nothing. While I felt hurt and confused that she would take credit for my work, I chalked it up to the fact that she’d been extremely stressed over this evaluation.

But that incident became a turning point in our relationship. Kate began deflecting conversations, answering with abrupt, one-syllable answers. She neglected to tell me work-related information I needed in order to do my job. At one point, after our boss confronted me about “my” mistake, I discovered Kate had made a serious error and then blamed it on me.

Knowing Kate’s difficult home circumstances, I tried to be understanding. I reached out to her with notes, left samples of her favorite tea on her desk, and even wrote an apology for whatever I might have done to offend her. These efforts only seemed to make things worse.

Kate now spoke to me, but only when she wanted to criticize, deride, or humiliate me. One day, I was helping a customer, who Kate had worked with extensively, with some complicated paperwork. She walked by the desk where we sat. “Kate,” I said, “could you help this gentleman?”

She fixed me with an icy stare, and in front of the man said, “You should know how to do this,” turned on her heel, and marched away.

I began dreading work, which in turn filled me with anger and resentment. Since I’d been a child, this company, this job, had been my dream. Much as I tried to not let it bother me, Kate’s hatred slithered under my skin.

The increasingly hostile work environment took me to a breaking point. Quitting was not an option. At the time, my husband was in youth ministry. We were barely making it on both our salaries. But something had to give.

I confided in a friend who had dealt with a similar situation. “Remind yourself of how much Jesus loves Kate.”

My gut response spilled out of my mouth. “I don’t think I can do that.” Her advice ate at me until I realized I had to give it a try. The first time I saw Kate after I’d made this decision, I whispered to myself, “Jesus loves you.” At that moment, inexplicable love for her flowed through me. I left work that evening with a lightness I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Whenever I would see Kate, I reminded myself of Jesus’s love for her. My reward came as Kate mounted a new campaign to subtly undermine my performance and credibility. This covert harassment brought back the dread of going to work.

At times, I found myself fuming and gossiping about her actions for the rest of the work shift whenever an incident occurred. My growing animosity gnawed away inside me.

Once again, I turned to my friend for advice. “Have you prayed for her?” she asked.

I had not. “Okay, Lord,” I prayed when I got home. “You know how I feel about Kate, but I’m going to ask you to bless her.” I continued to pray this and discovered it’s hard to be angry with someone you ask God to bless.

Something inside me was still not right. That final step happened the day the Lord’s Prayer hit me like never before. “Forgive me as I forgive others.” In my mind and heart I heard the words, “You haven’t forgiven Kate for how she has hurt you.”

Stunned and whiny, I thought, “I don’t want to forgive her. Besides, she doesn’t want my forgiveness.”

And then the still, small, voice, said “That doesn’t matter. It’s what you need to do.” Much as I tried to ignore it, I realized if I wanted to be able to live with myself, I had to forgive Kate.

It didn’t come fast or easily. When I started saying, “Kate, I forgive you,” I felt like a liar. I persevered until one day, when I spoke those words, I knew without a doubt I had forgiven her.

At the end of our transition year, my office threw me a heartfelt going-away party. As I unwrapped the many thoughtful and loving gifts, read messages of well wishes, and laughed and reminisced with my coworkers, gratitude for the blessings of my fourteen years there overwhelmed me.

Yes, Kate was there. True to form, she spoke not one word to me, not even goodbye. It was okay. I now felt only sympathy and compassion for her, and hoped one day she would be able to free herself from hate.

I never saw Kate again. A few years ago, I learned she had passed away. I don’t know if she ever came to terms with what had happened between us—or if she even thought about me at all after I moved. But Kate never knew that she taught me one of the most important lessons of my life—how to love and forgive someone who hates you. That lesson has transformed all of my relationships, making me a better, more loving wife, mother, and friend.

Thank you, Kate.

~Elizabeth June Walters

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