People may forget what you said or what you did but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Have you heard this quote before? Does it resonate with you? I have seen this quote from time to time. I’ve thought about, pondered on it and then moved on. I put it out of my mind. I didn’t give it much thought.
Then I started living out this quote. Living it out in a sense of experiencing it and not purposefully.
I ran into this woman months ago. I don’t remember her name. I don’t remember where I know her from. I don’t remember the back story or the circumstances but I remembered how she made me feel. Terrible. Humiliated. Defensive.
How ironic, I thought to myself. I can’t remember exactly what our run in had been. I don’t recall the exact details but I knew that I knew her and I knew we had had our run in and that she had made me feel badly. How could I forget, you might ask. I too asked myself this same question. I do believe that in some instances we encounter opposition and deal with it as it comes. If this individual has no direct or indirect correlation with our lives then life goes on, time passes by and memories fade. Seeing that we are called to forgive I clearly forgave her as I couldn’t remember her offense against me. She was of no significance in my life. She had no interactions with me or my children or my church or job or family or friends and therefore she was not directly or indirectly connected in some kind of social or familial circle of mine’s. She simply was of no importance.
But the emotions that arose in me when I encountered her the one, two, three times that I’ve run into her in the nearby specialty boutique or pharmacy or supermarket told me differently. While she was and is not of importance, my body, my soul and my spirit could remember whatever affliction she caused on me even if my memories could not. It was a remembrance of “don’t be around her, do not engage, don’t trust her, don’t even give a friendly smile”. The first time I experienced this I froze. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time, years and years and years I suppose and yet I knew that I did not like her. I knew internally that she had done something wrong to me. I remembered that she was cruel and demeaning and disrespectful. I knew that what I was experiencing internally was factual. It wasn’t just a fabrication of my imagination. My soul knew the harm she had caused me at one point in time.
A part of me wanted to go up to her and say “do you remember me?” “Do you remember how you treated me?” “I know we had an issue, do you remember what it was?”. Clearly I did not go up to her and begin questioning her. I can only image how crazy I would seem had I done so. Yet still , this kept stirring an unresolved dilema within me. I pondered on it and forgot about it. I went about my life as always. Then I saw her again at the pharmacy. Again, my spirit spoke to me “stay away from her, she is rude and vindictive and mean spirited.” As before I wondered what these emotions being stirred were.
As of most recent we locked eyes at a speciality shop. It was a Tuesday afternoon. I had picked up my son from his after school program and was gathering materials for the volcano we would be creating for his science project. I stood in the baking aisle looking for cream of tartar that we would need for our own homemade clay that would become the base of the volcano. As I glanced to the left of the aisle in the direction that my son was entering I locked eyes with this woman for a brief moment.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Do I respond with the courtesy smile that I give most individuals that I encounter in public or do I not. My gaze met her gaze and I reciprocated the stone faced expression she gave off. In the gathering of my materials I made my way to the register only to stand behind her in line. I stood there thinking to myself “I don’t remember what she did or what she said but I do remember how she made me feel”. She made me feel terrible. Whatever the specifics of that one experience my spirit knew enough to not trust this person and to not engage with her.
I’m sure I’ve forgiven her as I am called to and if I never did then I say I choose to forgive her now.
However in choosing to forgive our bodies and minds don’t choose to forget. We don’t forget. I guess even for those small yet impactful conflicts we don’t forget. Though we may forget from our memories we don’t forget from our bodies.
I’ve thought about this lately and how I make people feel. Having someone compliment me by stating that I’ve been most helpful or so pleasant or so endearing truly means a lot to me. I’ve sat with clients going through some of their most challenging moments and I’ve tried to treat each client as if I would run into them again, as if they were my grandmother or my child or as if they were me. The way I’d want my family, my children or myself to be treated is the way I try to conduct business and how I try to regard others in life. Surely I am not perfect. I’m sure I’ve upset a person or two in life. I’m sure I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s alright. My contentment comes in running into someone after engaging with them and being told how much they appreciate me or how much I’ve helped them or assisted or aided them through their difficulty.
One of my joys is having a client see me months if not years after seeing other social workers and remembering me and reminding me how much help I provided them with and how pleasant I was to work with. Selfish of me? Perhaps. I however, do believe that receiving positive recognition is outstanding and heart warming for us all. And so I try to live my days as such as best as I can so that I may bring a little joy to someone’s life. And when I do good for someone I truly dislike or someone who is a challenge to either care for or love I tell God I’m doing it for Him and not necessarily the person.
We can all do a little more to make life pleasant for each other. We can share a smile, a coffee, an uplifting word, a good deed. We can forgive and start over. We can forgive and close the door. While I may never recall exactly what this person did or said to me I simply will never forget how she made me feel. Regardless of how minute it may have been it was enough to have impacted me in such a way. I do believe that most negative encounters may be as such.
In some cases we will forgive but we will recall every word, action and behavior by the one(s) who have hurt us. In other cases we will forgive and we will forget the details but remember the emotions. In both cases I believe it’s equally important to forgive and also to practice self care.
People may forget what you said, they may forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel. Let’s leave them feeling so amazing for having known our presence and so regretful for not appreciating how amazing our presence actually is 😉. Let’s leave people feeling blessed to know us and yearning for more. Let’s leave people loved in whatever humanly way possible. Let’s just do our part. Let’s just be kind and if we can’t do such then let’s just be civil.