When this month’s Peace Challenge was first announced, a few of us froze a bit. After all, it is a difficult task to forgive, let alone “love thy enemy”. I had two sets of enemies in mind, but neither one I am quite ready to love. One raped me, and the other destroyed something I worked hard to build. Then, the solution hit me like a speeding train.
For quite some time, my family and I have been in conflict. This happens in spurts, but it seems to happen constantly. Inexplicably, these quarrels seem to occur more frequently during the holidays. A lot of times, it’s directed at me. Sometimes, it’s not – but I always get pulled in somehow.
Just a few days ago, one of these conflicts arose. My grandfather and I got into a heated argument over the phone. I can assure you I was not in the wrong. In fact, I called just to vent about something (which I often do) and it was taken as if I pleaded for advice. We’ve always had trouble with miscommunication in the past. For a second, I felt like the 5 year old me on the other end of the phone. He threw a lot of hurtful words my way. As the conversation ended…I felt my eyes welling up and in a broken voice, said goodbye.
Later, I called back with the intention of making peace. Even though I knew I wasn’t in the wrong, I know all too well that life is too short to stay angry forever. The phone rang and rang, but there was no answer. After feeling depressed about the whole thing for most of the day, my feelings slowly turned into anger. Anger about being mistreated, anger about past hurt, anger about the piercing insults that were so easily thrown my way, and anger that I let this get to me.
The next day, I cancelled the plans for Thanksgiving in my head. I cancelled the plans for our weekend visits and I cancelled the daily phone calls to see how each other were fairing. Somehow, in the haze of anger, I had a revelation. Even though there was so much animosity toward me through childhood and beyond, I need to let it go. Not only did I need to forgive this minor incident but I need to let go of any bitterness I was holding onto. What Kozo described in the Monthly Peace Challenge for November flashed through my head. So did many other things Kozo has said to me throughout the course of our friendship and I knew this would be perfect.
I need to let go. I need to just let the past be the past and truly love what I thought was my first enemy. My own immediate family, the one I had before the one I helped to create. They may be guilty of much damage to my psychological health, but I’m an adult now. I’m responsible for mending those wounds, not them. I need to love them for who they are regardless of anything that has happened or will happen. Especially because, there are not many of them left. I’m reminded of this every time I set flowers on a grave. Every time I see the empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table, a part of me aches. We need to let go of so much to get by in this life and yet, some things are worth holding on to. Family, no matter how broken, is worth trying to fix. I’ve seen this proven time and time again. So yes, Kozo…I will love my enemy, even when it’s hard, and even when it hurts. I know now because it stings more to see those empty chairs.
Other Brave Souls