On relationships … and forgiveness

A couple of years ago, I wrote on a few occasions about a work associate who simply rubbed me the wrong way. She is someone I’ve worked with since I started my career with our company more than twelve years ago. I may have referred to her as “Babs” at one point.

Babs is a woman with a strong personality. She rarely exhibits any lack of confidence, and she loves to be in charge, whether or not her role formally requires it, and whether or not her knowledge and experience warrant it. A couple of years ago, I was working closely with Babs. We were peers … equals … and yet she seemed to always be hovering over me, checking my work, trying to boss me around. And she was putting me over the edge.

People sometimes tell me I’m “too nice.” I sometimes think, “If you could only hear some of the thoughts in my head…” And deep down, I recognize that my reluctance to engage in confrontation may contribute to the label of nice. My feelings toward Babs sometimes bordered on hatred, but I would never let it show. And I don’t regret that. I’ve never wanted to be that person. A coworker actually voiced similar feelings to someone who matters, and it didn’t do her any favors.

I remember writing about my frustrations with Babs. It was the only way I could find to relieve the pressure. I’m sure I wrote some things that were not very kind or fair. And while even at the time, I may have recognized that Babs’ behavior likely resulted from a sense of insecurity, I seemed unwilling to admit that my own reaction to her probably came from a similar place.

Fast-forward a couple of years. I got my wish. There was a reorganization in our division, and Babs was the only member of our small team to find herself in unfamiliar territory. The rest of us were quietly thrilled. Her physical location barely changed. Her desk was still located just a few feet and one cubicle wall away. But it was enough to take the pressure off. She may have still been “right there,” but she no longer had any stake in what we did or how we did it.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that inside, I felt a sense of pure GLEE over the relocation of Babs. She was in a new department, one composed of people who had valuable skills, but whom management wasn’t quite sure how to use just yet. I was fairly certain that Babs’ inability to “play nice” with others contributed to her move. She is smart and savvy, but she had created noticeable divisions in our department.

This new department seemed at first, a placeholder. The insecurity that I’d previously suspected in Babs visibly surfaced. She stopped by my desk on many occasions to lament her situation, saying she felt like she’d been outcast. She expressed that she was no longer sure of herself or how she fit in. She worried about her new role, and the fact that she had no idea what she was doing. She half-joked many times that she was sure someone would catch on and she would soon be fired. Any sense of pity I may have felt for her was quickly overshadowed by the idea that she somehow had this coming.

It’s been some time now since that reorganization. New business has found its way to Babs’ department, and the team is moving full steam ahead. Babs seems to have found her footing and she’s busy. So busy that days go by without a single word from her. I have a much greater sense of peace in my role ever since, and I know that I have flourished in the change.

Yesterday, Babs stopped by, not for business reasons, but to show me a photo she’d had printed on canvas. We both have an interest in photography and she knew I’d appreciate it. The canvas print was beautiful, and we marveled over it together. And a realization hit me like a frying pan to the head.

I was actually enjoying my conversation with Babs. I realized that although we may not mix well when working closely together, I might actually be able to  like her. Had our relationship started on another foot, who knows how different things might be today?

The whole thing taught me a bit about myself. That maybe people can change. Or that maybe I have to be willing to look at someone from another angle to appreciate who they really are and why they behave the way they do. I was so certain of who Babs was, but maybe she only looked the way she did to me, because of where I was standing. I considered that the things that bother me most about a person might just be a small reflection of the flaws I don’t want to admit to in my own self.

And maybe a whole lot of this is simply a willingness to set aside judgment and forgive a little.

This gives me hope for other relationships in my life that are less than what I’d like them to be. Maybe nothing changes today. Probably not tomorrow either. But someday. There is always hope.

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12 thoughts on “On relationships … and forgiveness

  1. This falls under the category of “The only constant thing in life is change.” I guess that can be a double-edged sword in that we don’t know if the change will be for the better of the worse!🤞

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true! Every single day, and the older I get, the more I realize that change is inevitable and you have to be willing to roll with it if you want to survive. And also … very little in life is simply black and white. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVED this post. Thank you for sharing it. This is my favorite sentence, “I considered that the things that bother me most about a person might just be a small reflection of the flaws I don’t want to admit to in my own self.” I always think of this when I have a relationship issue. I try to look at myself and see what it is the other person is reflecting back to me. My husband says sometimes I do it too much and blame myself where I shouldn’t. I wrote about a relationship issue in my life somewhat recently on my blog. I tried to remain vague in case anyone who knew his person read it. The person in question, never reads my writing, let alone my blog, Guess what…she read it this time and it caused a problem. That was not fun to deal with, but I got through it. If you get a chance, take a look.
    https://loreezlane.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/relationship-challenges/

    Anyway, this story is good because it does just what you ended with …. it gives hope. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lori!

      I felt like I had to write about this because at least a couple of times, I wrote about this person with my hair on fire, so to speak. And I’ve always just had such a hard time with people who act so selfishly and make no apologies for it. The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have to let anyone else make me feel inferior. When I do, it’s because I’ve allowed it. And I realize that in other areas of her life, Babs is a wife, a mother, a friend … and someone who is loved by others. It just wasn’t possible that she was only the selfish, arrogant person that I was seeing. Perspective… so much is about perspective.

      I hopped over and read your blog post, and I can COMPLETELY relate! I’m so sorry that person happened to read what you wrote and it caused tensions. My fear of that happening is a big reason why I shut down my last blog and recreated myself a bit more anonymously here. After a few difficult years and family tensions, I’d written WAY too much about my frustrations and hurt with some others.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for reading that post, Tee. I wasn’t even so frustrated with that person as I was with myself for not figuring out a way to get along better. I get snapped at all the time by that person and I don’t know why. I’m assuming I’m not liked very much. Not that I care, but it’s difficult to deal with when gathering with family. Oh well. It is what it is.

        You made some wonderful points about Babs here in your comment as well. I think that it might be better to be friends with someone like that than to work with them. Sounds like the new working arrangement was a Divine gift.

        Have a nice Sunday. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story, Tee. As I was reading, I was thinking that you were still being too nice to her by making excuses for her behavior. But now it seems like maybe she’s learned from the consequences!

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    • Thanks, Abby!

      I think she is who she is, and the part of her that was such a problem for me is never going to fully change. The lesson for me was that one part of her personality does not completely define her. I think my really harsh feelings stemmed from the fact that I was intimidated by her. I let her get under my skin and I was willing to write her off because of it. Being able to have a little distance from her has allowed me to see that we can actually enjoy each other. I’m not going out of my way to make anything more of it than the peaceful coexistence we’ve found, though. 🙂 And through this, I realize that I often give others way too much power over my emotions. I allow them to make me feel sad, angry, hurt and frustrated, when all I really have to do is choose not to let them.

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    • It’s rather amazing, isn’t it? This experience was so eye-opening for me because for so long, all I could see in Babs were the qualities that were so offensive to me. Yet at the same time, I sometimes noticed that other people in the office I respected seemed to be able to appreciate her. It took me a long time to realize that a big part of my problem was simply me and how I allowed myself to react to her. Getting some space from her allowed me to see she was more than what I used to see.

      I’m not kidding myself though. I still wouldn’t choose to work closely with her again. 🙂 But if I had to, I think I could deal with it much better.

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  4. I think it’s true that we never should give up on others … or ourselves. People change over time. Some become kinder; others don’t. Regardless, your post shows we can find ways to get along with even the most difficult. And perhaps the distance helped a bit, huh?!!

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  5. People DO change. I can vouch for that as I’ve done it myself. Sometimes I can’t believe how different I am. My biggest change is what you seem to be experiencing now. Not letting people and events affect my emotions and feelings.
    I’m glad you’re able to get along with your co-worker. Makes such a difference in the work place. I’ve learned you don’t have to be best friends, but it certainly helps to be able to stand each other. 🙂

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  6. I can relate to this so much and am glad you are in a better place with her – when my former boss was finally ousted from the company after about 4 years of loafing, lying and stealing other’s accomplishments, I did a dance of joy because he deserved every bit of it. Then later – I found myself feeling bad for him, not because he didn’t deserve it, but because he is such a selfish, calculating and miserable person.

    He displayed a joyful persona to others and a wretched one to me – over time I came to realize that my experience with him wasn’t universal and that there were few others who would ever understood why I felt what I did. It took me time not to physically wince or rant when his name was brought up. Guess what – the only one this was harmful to was ME. He contacted me a few months after he left, wanting to get together for lunch (and get Intel on company doings, I’m sure) – I politely but firmly said that I wished him well but had no interest in a relationship with him. ** Crickets **

    You can wish her well & hope she does but you’re not responsible for her nor do her failings or successes impact your world anymore -why? She has no power over you -to affect you or to impact you. Wish her well and send her on her way – and maybe now enjoy a sporadic but pleasant rapport. soooooooo freeing! ~ MJ

    Liked by 1 person

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