Hanging onto resentment is like letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head. – Ester Lederer
I had a fascinating experience recently. I got an email from someone on the periphery of my life; one of those internet acquaintances that I’ve never met in person but someone that you know about their life through a variety of social networks (and they about yours). The email was extremely passionate in their feeling that I had done something wrong to them, that I had insulted them in a comment I had made to someone else and done them a great disservice.
In truth, I couldn’t remember anything about what the person was writing me about. If the situation had happened, I didn’t remember it. The individual didn’t help matters by writing, “You know what you did.” I genuinely had no idea what they were referring to.
But, since apologizing is free, I gamely apologized, wished the person well and put it out of my mind. But the emails kept coming. An apology was not enough. This person had built up this situation in their head so much that they couldn’t believe that I didn’t also have strong feelings about it. They wanted a fight. I just wanted out of the conversation.
It was like we were on a teeter totter and I was flat on the ground and they were sky high; we were way out of balance. The situation got me thinking about two things: (1) The interesting interactions we have with our online friends and the false intimacy that is built up with our better selves and (2) the waste of time, energy and resources that this person had spent working themselves up into a full lather over the perceived injustice. It had taken them a month to write me; they had stewed the entire time, spinning elaborate tales of persecution in their head.