32. Unpalatable cold dish

“You remember that I mentioned my Uncle Ted from a long time back? He was one of the better people to be in our lives back then. Well I had other older relatives of course, back when I was younger, and one on my mum’s side, my grandma’s younger sister, came down our way for a visit occasionally. Great aunt Esme was okay most of the time, but she had an occasional habit, or I suppose it was more of an irregular obsession, of raking over some bad incident from years or decades ago, sometimes from a time that seemed historical to me, where she’d been wronged somehow. It could be anything, maybe something a sister did (or maybe didn’t do), but she could sure hang on to a grudge, given that it could be an insult or something else that happened so long ago.

“Old Esme could be a bit of a whinger, and I remember my parents talking about that sometimes after one of her visits — and she made the occasional visit probably until my early 20s. I remember having the impression in later times that she must have been very good at hanging on to an insult, or whatever it was that irked her from the past. It seemed like it was the result of solid practice… in the way that everyone seems to be able to improve a skill by practicing it. Great aunt Esme had mulled over how she had been wronged so often that she had really become an expert at it, very proficient — dwelling on what hurt her feelings in the past made her get very good at dwelling on what hurt her feelings in the past.

“But later, when I looked back and thought about this part of her personality, all she was doing back then was keeping a negative feeling alive by feeding it through constant remembering. And in her case she could be still ticked off by something that went awry, in her mind, way back in time. And this was the more surprising thing about it all. It wasn’t that anyone thought an old lady, or a younger person as she would have been, could not be hurt by someone or some event… but those insults or grievances tend to fade over time, don’t they, or they’re meant to… unless they’re given regular resuscitation and are turned into solid-gold grudges.

“And that these grudges were kept alive for so long, in her case, meant that if there was someone she could have sorted it all out with, they would more than likely not be around any longer to be able to talk to. I remember mum said something like this, as one of the favourite gripes her aunt had was about a wedding and someone not being invited, or something like that… anyway, the point was that Esme had survived most of her generation, and now had no-one around who might have known the details to have it out with.

“It’s funny and sad that we can do that. We can hang on to a hurt, waiting I suppose for the chance to right that wrong. Or probably hoping we’d get an opportunity to get back at the person who was to blame. I can’t imagine waiting for years to do that, thinking all the time, even occasionally, that there’ll eventually be some vindication or ‘win’. Or thinking there’ll be a chance to spring one of those ‘ah hah, I knew it!’ justification moments on whoever wronged you somehow in the past, like you were waiting to ambush them with it. That just seemed useless to me now that I think about it.”

Yes, Benny nailed it. How much this would stay with him was yet to be proven, but for now this was the conclusion he’d drawn from relevancies and intuitions around him — that forgiveness isn’t letting the other person off the hook, it’s letting your own person off the hook, so that you’re able to be free of the grudge and walk around a little lighter in your step. Simply, let the hurt go.

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