During the past year I have been directly responsible for a number of relational train wrecks involving myself and others. While each of these is a story unto itself, beginning with something that I did not precipitate, I either responded in a way that was less than clear, or I responded out of anger and frustration.
Who ever said, “Don’t shop at the grocery store when you’re hungry,” could have equally said, “Don’t write e-mails when you’re angry.”
Furthermore, if I examine the situations analytically, often the person or organization met by my vent or rant is not the person or organization that has caused me to have a bad day, a bad week or a bad month.
As someone who has come through periods of physical illness, I have also discovered, sad to say, that I am a mellower person when I am also dealing with something that has left me broken or humbled or aware of weakness. It’s when I’m feeling “good” that I sometimes through caution to the wind and say things I shouldn’t.
Yesterday, I spoke with a former pastor who described to me the feeling of not having to care what people might think about a particular course of action. While before some things might have mattered a great deal, now he simply doesn’t have to factor in the opinions of a church board, church staff, or church membership.
I can’t speak fully for him, but I know that lately I have simply “shut down” trying to build on interpersonal relationships. While in a couple of cases I have been the one to seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, in several other cases I have found myself simply no longer caring what people think of me. In fact, I think that lately some of my best “relationships” have been with people who don’t really know me at all; insofar as I have achieved a depth of mutual communication, empathy and understanding with people I’ve only met a short time before.
I want to “learn my lesson” in this department, but I have come to regard any relationship that I had over 90 days as just about to reach its “best before” date; I’ve come to almost expect that something will go wrong, relationally; and I’ve decided those relationships aren’t worth consideration because they’re probably minutes or hours from disintegration. And I fully acknowledge that — without specific intention — it has often been entirely my fault.
Twenty-four hours ago, I returned from a long day at work — eight hours without even so much as a restroom break (too much information, I know) — and found a business e-mail waiting for me containing information that was contrary to what I thought we had committed to. Because of past history with this company, I assumed this was just another in a long line of broken expectations. So I typed a short, angry, over-the-top e-mail figuring, “Maybe, just maybe, this will get their attention.”
What I didn’t factor in was that the person I sent it to may not have been responsible at all for what happened. I was simply building on the anger of some contact from previous in the week. In fact, without going into details, in my mind I was being the ‘good guy’ in the broader exchange, as I was going along with his assumption that I would enter into a certain venture that I had previously indicated I would not. So having jumped through their hoops, how could they possibly then mess it up on their end?
But I also didn’t factor in — though I was aware of it in our earlier e-mails at the start of the week — that this person has just come through a personal crisis dealing with the sudden loss of a family member. He didn’t need the stress of my letter.
So now, in more specific terms, I must write an apology. I’ll leave out the background analysis. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is hitting the “send” button before thinking it through more carefully. What matters is that other people have feelings, too. I’m sorry.