Just recently, I received a question from a reader on my Facebook page. She wanted my advice regarding a hurtful situation that came up for her. Immediately below is her question and then my response. If I may suggest; please form your own response before you read mine. Then, after you read mine, I want to begin a discussion that might or might not take us in several directions.
“Dear Bob, what do I do about a person who is angry with me because I sent her a card and gift for Christmas and who thinks that by doing that I’m trying to buy her friendship? That is absolutely untrue and I can’t understand her attitude. When I give a gift I do it to make that person happy. But since this happened I wonder if I should stop giving. I want to be at peace with people. This kind of thing has ruined our friendship for I have no desire to visit this person anymore, but I have forgiven her, for that is very important.”
Thank you for writing. I’m so sorry you are going through an uncomfortable situation such as this. Not knowing the context, history and personalities of the two of you, I have no basis upon which to form an intelligent opinion to know why she responded the way she did or the appropriateness or inappropriateness of her response. Typically, things like this don’t happen in a vacuum; either in terms of cause or in terms of one’s response.
While I understand that you’d like to know why, the fact is … I don’t know. If you read the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz you’ll see there are most likely a great number of assumptions at play within this one transaction. None of which I am privy to.
Regarding your question, “Should I stop giving?” that depends upon the reason why you gave in the first place. Again, for me to assume anything would be out of line on my part, as I simply don’t know you well enough to know. If your giving was totally pure and she – based on nothing more than her own personal belief systems – came to a false conclusion, then the answer would be, “no, don’t stop giving in the way you are giving.” Again, it is not for me to assume either way.
Would there be anything in the past history of your friendship that would cause her to think, for any reason, that the gift had an agenda attached? Again I simply do not know, so any definitive answer that I provide would be based on an assumption on my part.
While you say you have forgiven her, I feel the need to ask if that is really so. Based on what could simply be my own assumptions, I sense that might not be totally the case. Might you perhaps be saying that you forgive her because you believe it is correct to forgive her (as you said, “that is very important”) and that you’d like to think you’ve forgiven her? If you were to re-read right before saying you’ve forgiven her, you wrote, “…has ruined our friendship for I have no desire to visit this person anymore.”
With that said, please know that, if you haven’t “truly” forgiven her, that is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s called being human. And, it’s probably healthier for you to be aware that you are still working through the forgiveness process and have actually not yet forgiven her (or, forgiven yourself for whatever part you might or might not unconsciously feel you have played in this).
I hope this has provided some insight in terms of questions you can ask yourself and is of ultimate assistance both in this and in further dealings with others.
So often, when someone asks for advice or an opinion, we base our response on how WE view the world (our own assumptions caused by/based on our own belief systems). If we are in a coaching or mentoring situation, this can manifest itself as a reflection of the coach or mentor and not about the person or person’s involved in the transaction. My feeling is that – before we can helpfully respond, we must first ask helpful questions; these with the primary purpose of exposing all assumptions that will get in the way of truth.
Now, you may have noticed that this wasn’t a coaching session. I didn’t ask direct questions as I don’t feel this is the proper forum. My point was that it is easy to fall into the trap of answering questions when we simply don’t have enough information to go on.
I’d love your feedback and opinions and – as alluded to earlier in this post – if it takes us in another a continuing direction, or even in another direction, that’s fine, too.
One additional thought: I can personally (and, I’d imagine you can, too) come up with numerous reasons and scenarios for what happened between these two people, and not one of them might be correct. Or, one or more might be. But, isn’t that the point; there is no way to know for sure without further exploration.