I thought they had stopped. When I received the last letter five months ago I thought there would be nothing left to say. Another anonymous letter showed up in my home mailbox yesterday, just two days before Christmas. Interestingly, the first in this series of letters arrived four days before my divorce was final in 2008. In between, I’ve received more than a handful - sent to me, friends, and even students and faculty from my graduate school class. I’m including bits and pieces of the letters in the book I’m writing and this blog because they speak volumes about broken relationships.
It is more than obvious; I have hurt someone. It takes time and emotion to type a single-spaced, one-page letter. It appears the contents of the letters were designed to hurt me, possibly to seek retribution and revenge of some sort.
“I am not God, but it seems to me that the issues you are having are because you did not uphold your marriage vows and I think God might hold you accountable for this and not let you find another relationship, or if you do, he will let your new partner eventually turn the tables on you for what you have done in the past.”
“Maybe if you had stayed with one of your husbands you would be having Thanksgiving with family and not a UN meeting.”
“…and I think God is punishing you for your past decisions.”
I share this with you today, not so that you will feel be sorry for me. Instead, I view these letters as lessons on how we deal with relationships. And how important it is to have supportive people in your life who surround you with love when adversity strikes.
How did I react, opening the letter yesterday, two days before Christmas? I texted two people in my Circle of Twelve, who love and support me. They returned my calls immediately. “Are you okay?” “Remember, God loves you, a lot.” “That is not how God calls us to behave in our relationships- through anonymous letters.” “Do not let someone who does not know the face of God influence you or harm you. We love you and support you.” “Pray.”
A third friend from my Circle of Twelve shared coffee with me the next morning. As he read the letter, he surmised whom the author might be. “This is a product of today’s culture where relationships are broken, and we don’t deal face to face with our hurts. We are so independent and self-centered we can’t admit when we hurt. We don’t reveal our brokenness to others or even God. Instead we try and pretend the hurt will go away by burying it, or inflicting pain on others.” My friend’s advice was rock solid: “Don’t let this distract you from your relationship with God and your healthy relationships with others, those of us who love you.”
Learning from my new friends and the book, SAFE PEOPLE (How to find relationships that are good for you and avoid those that aren’t), I suspect that the writer of the letter was not a SAFE PERSON in my life. The letter writer exhibits a few of the personal traits of someone who could be considered “unsafe” in our lives: religious instead of spiritual, self-righteous instead of humble, avoids working on their problems instead of dealing with them, blames others instead of taking responsibility, condemns instead of forgiving, and is a negative instead of a positive influence.
Do you have anonymous letters in your heart that you just haven’t mailed? Are you holding a grudge for a hurt in the past? Reach out today, personally, in reconciliation and forgiveness so that your relationship can be repaired. But be a SAFE PERSON in the other person’s life: do not be judgmental, speak the truth with love and make plenty of room for grace and forgiveness.
Blessings for you to have SAFE and healthy relationships in your life,
I've re-read your comment a number of times. It's very helpful and speaks of how we can blow things out of proportion. But there was one phrase that caught my eye: In sum, what Agatha did originally may have been small and seemingly insignificant so do not be too hard on your self.
You're right: I am too hard on myself. Not just with the anonymous letter-writer, but in other things as well. I started to make out my New Year's Resolutions yesterday and thought about all my failures of the past year, and all the stupid things I did. "By golly, in 2011, by sure will-power alone, I'm not going to repeat all those past mistakes!"
How mis-guided I am. I feel guilty because I wasn't a good enough friend to a lot of people. One girl moved when I couldn't help her find a job and I miss her. Why didn't I make more phone calls, or help more? Or the time I got angry because I asked another friend for a place to stay for a few days and she couldn't help me. Why was I angry at her? And, I didn't exercise enough. Or all the times that I didn't listen to a friend in need; I talk too much. I can beat myself up over and over again for past sins of things I've done and things I've failed to do.
So--NO New Year's Resolutions! I've written down all my failures and the stupid things I've done in 2010 in a letter to myself. But at the end is only one closing salutation, "I forgive you." I forgive myself.
In 2011, I only have one resolve-I want to act more like Jesus, acting out of love. I know that I will fail because I am human, but God forgives me, not just once per year, but every day.
Thanks, Randi for pointing out that we are our own biggest critic. We are forgiven.