When we avoid too much we live in a void too much.
When our unforgiving mind is active we can easily build up aversions to particular people. This can cause us to avoid the places where these people go and can cause us to constrain or limit our work or social life. Of course, sometimes avoiding someone can be a wise thing to do as it gives us a chance to have some breathing space – or even stay out of danger. However, if we go too far, it can interfere too much with us doing what we need to. Also it could be getting in the way of us learning and growing in ways which could be good for us.
I asked a friend of mine, Robert, if he ever went to a local choir as I knew he was interested in singing. He said, “No I never go as Janet sometimes goes there and I want to avoid her”. I asked him why he avoided Janet and he told me the story. He said that he had been regarded her as a close friend, but when he really needed support just after his mother died, she went out of her way to avoid him. He felt very badly let down and did not want to even see her. It turned out that he had not told Janet how he felt. Janet did not even know why Robert was avoiding her and he was leaving her to work that out. He was doing things like passing her in the street without talking to her and so on in the hope that she would get the message.
The problem with Robert’s reaction is that throwing more mud into a pool does not make it any clearer. His attempts to ‘tell’ Janet how he felt by avoiding her and ignoring her simply muddied the pool. I knew Janet well enough to be able to see that she was not the kind of stable, solid person who could be relied on in times of crises. She was too easily caught up in her own feelings and liable to retreat into her own upset in reaction to the other person’s distress. Robert had the choice of accepting Janet the way she was and keeping the parts of the relationship which worked. However, he felt that her behaviour meant that she was not a friend as she did not do what he believed friends ‘should’ do. He went even further than deciding she was not a friend as he was trying to punish her by ignoring her in public. Robert’s behaviour probably hurt and confused Janet who simply did not really have the internal strength necessary to support someone else through a crisis.
Another problem with Robert’s reaction is that it was constraining his social life and causing him to miss something of value. He really wanted to join that choir, but could not let himself. This kind of pattern tends to feed on itself and we can accumulate an increasing number of places and events we cannot go to because we do not want to meet people who we have not forgiven. We can end up painting ourselves in to a corner because we ‘cannot’ go to the places and events we like because we do not want to see ‘certain people’ who go there too.
In a way, this makes it harder to forgive the other person as we convince ourselves that it is ‘their fault’ we cannot do what we want. If they did not go to the choir; we could go. If they were not likely to go to the party; we could go to the party, and so on. We can stack up resentment after resentment against them every time ‘they’ stop us doing something we want. Over time this can make it harder to forgive them rather than easier. Time is not healing the wound; it is adding to it.
Our aversions, people and situations we are avoiding, can be clouding our life and stopping us seeing clearly. Our aversions can be a major block to our capacity to forgive. Beginning to see what aversions we can safely let go off can be a very healthy step into the freedom of forgiveness.