89. Finding Honesty

89. Finding Honesty

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Finding Honesty

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.

~Thomas Jefferson

I had a friend. We were like sisters. Given that we are both only children, that’s saying a lot. We were together so much that people thought we actually were sisters. We knew each other’s hopes, dreams, secrets, good traits, bad traits, and accepted each other no matter what. One truly amazing thing about our friendship was that we could talk about anything, including when we had a problem with each other. We definitely had our fair share of fights, but we always solved them, whether it was through talking, yelling, or writing notes back and forth because we were too angry to speak. We always made up, always fell right back into our comfortable sisterhood, our four-hour phone conversations resuming as if nothing had happened.

When we each chose different universities to attend after high school, our goodbye was physically painful. My chest and gut ached with having to leave our everyday friendship behind and face an entire new world without her. We visited each other as often as we could, e-mailed daily, and ran down our cell phone plan minutes in record time.

And then the inevitable happened. We grew apart. Made new friends. Chose different life paths. Things that shouldn’t have mattered but that seemed so important in our twenties. And we stopped doing the most important thing that we had always done, that made our friendship unique from others: we stopped being honest with each other. Rather than allowing the friendship to change with us, we tried to fit our new selves into our old friendship. Square pegs, round hole. It just didn’t work.

One sunny, spring afternoon, we met for lunch. A life changing moment. I had written what I thought was a private e-mail to a mutual friend. An e-mail about my now-former best friend. Containing my very strong opinions and doubts about the man she had chosen to date and wanted to marry. In the past, I would have gone straight to her to talk about it, but I no longer felt comfortable doing that. So of course, as these things go, she found out. So did many other people. Without intending to, I hurt her more deeply than either of us thought possible, and irreparably wounded our relationship. She didn’t understand why I spoke to anyone but her about something so personal, and I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see the reasons why I couldn’t.

We didn’t speak for six years. We tried to talk about what happened right after, but the trust was gone… completely lost. I missed her wedding; she missed the births of my children. We missed out on everything. Because of something I did. Or was it?

I blamed myself for so many years for what happened. I was sick to my stomach over the loss of my wonderful friend, and weighed down with the knowledge that it was my fault. But after many years, and putting it into perspective with everything else we both went through during those lost years, I stopped beating myself up for it. The truth is, our friendship, in its previous capacity, ended long before the e-mail. Yes, I made a mistake and should not have betrayed our old trust. But that wasn’t the only reason the friendship died. With that realization, I forgave myself, and found peace.

Many years later, I reached out to my friend. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do that if I hadn’t first forgiven myself and then realized that perhaps our friendship deserved another chance. To my surprise and joy, she had forgiven me and also wanted to contact me. Almost like old times, we were able to talk about what had happened, forgive each other, and move forward with a new friendship. When we finally spoke on the phone, we cried at the familiarity of each other’s voices. Is our friendship just as it used to be? No, absolutely not. Life is not a fairy tale. It is a new friendship, and it is slowly growing. And it is, most importantly, a forgiving friendship. And I am okay with that.

~Sara Springfield Schmit

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