A few years ago, a woman attempted to cost me my job. She held a magnifying glass over my professional life and constantly pointed out all of my flaws, which were, and still are, many. She nitpicked at my inadequacies, pointing them out to my boss and to the people I worked with.  She repeatedly brought up the “sins of my past” and made me feel so small. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. My stomach churned. My heart ached and I grew bitter, at her, at those around me. Every time I saw her, I ached. I seethed with self-loathing. Why couldn’t I be good enough? My body was under control. I had sold myself to the cause, to the mission and had sacrificed a well-paying job to be where I was and now, on a daily basis, I was being raked over the coals for little things that didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things, but these little things were monstrous to her and pretty soon, I started to doubt my self-worth.  I have a tendency to look at the overall plot of life and I may not get hung up on the typos of life. She was the type of person who zeroed in on the typos of life and overlooked the plot or the effect that constantly pointing out the typos was having on the characters. In fact, to her, the typos of life were life itself. They mattered most or so it seemed to me.

She was puffed up with pride over my downfalls, or that’s what I thought. And though I apologized a million times, nothing I said redeemed me in her eyes. Then one day, during my vacation time, I was hoeing my vegetable garden, trying to pray, trying to find peace within myself, tears sliding down my cheeks. Why did it matter so much that this woman was condescending to me? Yet, I could not find the peace I sought. Then a knowing, like a whisper from a far shore, came to me, “Forgive her.”

“What?” I said. “Forgive her? She’s the one who has found flaws with me and she won’t forgive me for not being perfect. She will say that I’m forgiven because she wants to look spiritual, but in her mind I’m still not good enough. What she really wants is for me to be fired or to just be totally broken as a person.”

The soul-whisper came again, “You can’t make another person forgive you. You can’t make her like you,” came the knowing in my knower. “You can only release the pain that her unwillingness to accept you for who you are has caused you and you must forgive her for making you dislike who you are, for picking your life apart, for fault-finding, for trying to get you fired.” I dropped my hoe and held my hands up in surrender, speaking to my maker. “I forgive her,” I said. “I don’t understand her, but I do forgive her.” A sense of peace swept over me and I when I went back to work, she had no power over me. I was free from her hold and strangely enough, I think she knew it.

Not long after that I learned that the woman was severely OCD, that she had such strong perfectionistic tendencies that she drove even herself crazy and it had come because nothing she did had ever been good enough for her mother and suddenly, I felt sad for her, that she had lived her entire life, trying to perform, to work her way into God’s grace and into social acceptance. I was glad for my “freedom”, the freedom to be imperfect, the freedom to just be me. The truth about her was that she had low self-esteem and made herself feel better by belittling those she deemed as “less perfect” and by that I mean that she obsessed over which way the canned food labels were turned and that when any little thing was out of order, she became an emotional basket-case and barged into the supervisor’s office in tears, that she called the board and insisted on getting what she wanted. Within two years she was gone and I kept my job until I was ready to leave on good terms.

My point in telling this is that there will always be those people’s whose expectations we can’t live up to, but we aren’t meant to live up to someone else’s expectations. We aren’t meant to be molded into someone else’s idea of perfection, but we are meant to forgive and until we forgive, we are letting someone else control our lives. Unforgiveness will make a person bitter and sick.

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