Last year I had lunch with my friend Jamal and he changed my life. Our conversation made its way to life drama and eventually the turbulent history between my brother and me. Jamal asked me if I had apologized to my brother for things that I may have done to hurt him and I reacted defensively. After all, my brother was the jerk. Why should I apologize?
Jamal remained patient as my brain untied the knot of emotions and contradictions that constricted my thoughts. He reminded me that forgiveness doesn’t change the past, but it can shape the future.
It took some time, like almost a year, but I finally sent my brother a message telling him that I loved him and would love a relationship with my big brother. Naturally, because life mimics art, I got a text back saying I had the wrong number. Feeling slightly embarrassed, I thanked the person for letting me know. I could have taken that as a sign from the universe, but instead I opened Facebook and sent my brother a message.
Five days later my brother responded. It may have been the first time in over 30 years that we told each other that we loved one another. He finished his message saying he was proud of me, and I’ll admit that made me happy.
About a month after that a minor miracle happened. I was marching in one of the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd, and I received a message from my brother. “I know you’re on the right side and I’m proud of you, but please be safe Jesse.” He saw the protests on the news and wanted to make sure I was ok.
While we don’t talk all the time, we’ve talked more in the past 3 months than we probably have in the 10 years since I moved across the country. The future conversations that I have with my brother were made possible thanks to Jamal’s empathy.
We all have people that we’re upset with, but that continued negative emotional burden is unnecessary. If there is someone out there that you miss being a part of your life, why are you hesitating on initiating the conversation? One thing I do want to be clear about though is if that person is indeed a detriment to your health, then perhaps you choose to forgive and forget. You absolutely are not obligated to allow someone into your life, and if that’s the case then let them go. However, if you miss someone and would appreciate them being a part of your world, then reach out and let them in. The important thing is to set some boundaries and build a new healthy relationship.
Forgiveness doesn’t change the past, but it can shape the future.