A few years ago I was betrayed by a friend, a very good friend and fellow woman student affairs professional. The truth is, I am not over it yet. She really, really hurt me. She betrayed me in an underhanded way. It was behind-the-scenes and it impacted not just me, but my job, my family, and our living situation. After months of not speaking about it, she finally broke the ice and contacted me. We met in a public place. I could not trust myself to be alone with her. I needed the safety of other people. So I wouldn’t lash out at her, so I wouldn’t cry, and so I wouldn’t jump on the “it’s okay” bandwagon that women so easily do when they have been wronged by others. She apologized. Sort of. She made excuses. She said she didn’t really know why she did what she did. She hoped that I would forgive her. When I was ready, she would be there waiting for me and we could pick up where we left off. (That’s not a real apology, but that is a post for another time.)
That was four years ago. Four years that I have let this hurt eat away at me. I have let it have power over me. I have let it change me.
I know I need to forgive her. I’ve written about that before. (See here) I haven’t forgiven her. Not completely. The wounds that she created cut deep and the scars are still fresh. However, as a result of some positive experiences I have had this summer, I feel I am closer to forgiving her than I have ever been.
A colleague (whom I have never actually met in real life but whom I feel I know thanks to Twitter and Facebook!) created a summer reciprocity group. Basically, it is women from all over the country, getting together virtually (some IRL) and submitting pitches. Your pitch is a call to action, an “ask.” You submit your ask and then anyone within the reciprocity group can comment with suggestions, tips, names of people to contact, resources to share. It has been AWESOME. The pitches have ranged from “please help me with my website” to “I want a career change” and the level of time and care that has gone into the responses has been the same, regardless of the ask. In our “free time” women are helping other women get what they want. We are all helping each other get where we want to go. There is camaraderie and genuine interest. The level of advice has even gone beyond the week of your pitch. People are continually posting articles, video clips, helpful tips, and resources, myself included. All free of charge, only asking that when it is your turn, someone will do the same for you.
This summer reciprocity ring has been the exact opposite of what I experienced four summers ago at the hands of another woman who used to be my friend.
As part of the ring, we have “Thankful Tuesdays” and “Flaunt it Fridays.” These are opportunities to thank someone, whether in the group or not, and chances to brag about progress you have made. Yesterday someone posted that they were grateful for…
Me? Sarcastic, sassy, too loud, not put together, abrasive, aggressive, east-coast me?
Yes, that one.
See, this summer, I have gotten back to my roots. I used to really love helping people. Helping them be their best. It’s why I chose student affairs as a profession, why I learned MBTI, why I used to volunteer and do community service. I am constantly reading articles or watching videos about interviewing, coaching, etc. Somewhere in the last four years, I stopped sharing all of that and kept it to myself. As a result of my friend’s betrayal, I became bitter. I got a huge chip on my shoulder and decided that I would only help someone if: they helped me first, if there was something in it for me, if I got compensated in some way, if, if if.
I put a shell around myself to prevent further hurts. I put strings on my giving.
Being part of the reciprocity ring has helped me stop doing that. And, I am having an absolute blast! I have been sharing all kinds of stuff, not because I think it is so great. I have been sharing because that’s what you do. Help others. Help them be their best. Give them information that is relevant to what they are looking for. If they use it or not, that’s up to them. But, give it anyway.
I am realizing that by not forgiving my friend, I have hurt only myself because I closed myself off to the great joy that comes from selflessly helping others and letting them help you. This group has helped chip away at that exterior. Thank you, Amma for including me.
So much of this project has been about bravery. Being brave enough to believe that what we know can be helpful, brave enough to share where we feel we fall short. And I’ve so loved your bravery as you engage with others in the group. Knowing that it came with additional challenge makes it all the more impressive.
And so you know, I’m not an openly emotional person, but I read this post on the T and almost cried. Thank you for writing it 🙂 One of my favorite things about watching this group of women is seeing what they’ve done with the confidence and bravery its inspired. I hope you find it in you to forgive your friend, if only to show me that it’s possible- I too am a grudgeholder, and it’s something I need to let go.
Thank you for being you- no matter how “sarcastic, sassy, too loud, not put together, abrasive, aggressive, east-coast you” you may feel on any given day. That version of you is helping people.