You know how it is, you don’t mean to, but tempers fray and a falling out happens.
The next day I got an email. A very strongly worded and emotional email. It was upsetting.
And for a moment I wanted to hit back, to shout and rage and scream, because of course what they said just wasn’t fair. I wanted to justify myself and point out where it was wrong and to generally shout down this email.
But… while it hurt deeply (and was of course not entirely justified, as words said in anger never are), I know that this wasn’t about me. Not really, this was someone in pain. And even if as far as they’re concerned I had caused that pain, being angry does neither of us any good and in fact does a lot of damage. It wouldn’t have helped the conversation and it wouldn’t have made either of us feel better.
So instead of anger, I sent a short note wishing them well and saying how sorry I was it had come to this. And that perhaps we can fix things in the future.
All well and good. After all, we never regret the nice things we say about people.
Don’t get even, get grateful
However, I woke up super early the next day and my mind was full of words to refute that email – reasons and arguments were running in my head. Anger was returning.
But here’s where I sat down and really thought it through. You see, there’s very strong proof that those of us who are truly grateful, have much stronger resilience in tough times. And right now I could do with being as resilient as possible – moving to a new country can be tough, running a startup can be tough and falling out with a pal is always tough.
So instead of writing an angry email, I did something new. I wrote a list of all the ways this person had helped me. In effect, I wrote a thank you note. I didn’t write it for them, I wrote it for me. It was an extreme and very effective gratitude practise, in minutes I’d changed the energy – my energy – round the feeling of that horrible email.
I know, I know, it sounds daft, and very hippy – but utterly deeply and completely from my heart, I thought of all the amazing things this friend had ever done for me. They’ve been kind and thoughtful so many times. I listed everything I could think of. And said thank you.
No bitterness, no recriminations, no justifications, nothing but thanks. And under those circumstances, if my friend needs some time not being friends – well ok then, but I know how much I valued their friendship.
And here’s the funny thing. As the list got longer and I got more and more thankful, all my own anger drained away. I wasn’t upset anymore, I was simply truly thankful for the joy this friend had shared with me for so long.
Sure, it’s sad that the friendship’s not there at the moment, but look what a shining gem I’d had for all these years. How kind, how thoughtful, how touching true friendship is and how lovely to have known that. My heart filled with gratitude.
And in half an hour as I wrote that list, it changed everything. Almost instantly the dark emotions fell away – my heart was full and the joy was tangible – here was someone angry and in pain, and if they need to step back, then of course they should do exactly that. And I wished them only well – because I am so thankful to have ever known their friendship.
10 years ago I’d never have been able to do this – to fill my heart with thanks and push out anger and justification. But I’ve done a lot of work in this area and for years now have had both a loving kindness and a gratitude practise daily. And I cannot tell you how beautiful it felt to sit there with nothing but love and gratitude in my heart. No anger, only gratitude.
As humans we are always given the choice on how we react to events. So why not feel happy and well?
You should try it, it’s changed everything for me. And remarkably quickly.
This isn’t the usual sort of post I share here – though I may share more of this in the future. If you’d like to read more typical posts, check these:
And of course, drop me a comment or ping me an email, I’d love to hear your thoughts on radical gratitude.