Last night, my husband and I went back to a restaurant we had visited a few months ago, where we had a great meal and a nice waitress, but where we also had what seemed to be a rude encounter with the chef/owner as we were leaving. I wrote about it in my blog post, Be Nice, and some readers suggested that I needed to give the restaurant another try. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to, because I thought the owner had insulted my husband and I, and I wasn’t quite ready to forgive that. But some close friends were anxious to try the restaurant (its fairly new and getting great reviews), so we agreed to meet them there last night. And I’m so glad we did.
The restaurant was definitely more crowded than it was on our previous visit, but we had a reservation and were seated immediately. Once again, our waitress was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, and I did spot the chef/owner walking through the dining room a few times, scowling a bit. But as we were leaving after our meal, he approached my husband, asked how his meal was and thanked us for coming. My husband assured him the meal was fabulous and told him we would be back, and we will.
The thing was, he deserved a second chance. Because now I realize that maybe what I took for a scowl on our first visit could just be his natural expression. (I know when I get a sinus headache, as I frequently do during allergy season, I tend to walk around looking rather crabby.) And maybe when he walked by us on that first visit, rolled his eyes and muttered something unpleasant, he wasn’t directing it at us. I tend to take the actions of people around me personally, but maybe he had just burned someone’s dinner or spotted something near us that upset him. Because, although I have a hard time believing this, it’s not always about me. Go figure.
One of the good things about reaching middle age is the opportunity to look back on our lives and see some definite patterns. And one pattern I have noticed is that when I forgive someone who I think has insulted me or hurt my feelings, I am almost always glad I did. Honestly, I can’t think of a single person in my life who hasn’t said or done something that has caused me emotional pain at some point, and I’m quite sure every one of them could say the same thing about me. I think that’s just the nature of human relationships. We sometimes say or do the wrong thing and hurt the feelings of the people we know, even those we care about the most, and usually without even realizing we’ve done it.
Which means that we have a choice: we can either hang on to the hurt, nurse the grudge, and distance ourselves from the people who have hurt us, or we can choose to forgive them, and let our relationship with them grow and mature. Sometimes there are just too many emotionally painful instances to forgive, and then it probably is best to move on. But most often, when we are strong enough to forgive and give someone a second chance, we’re rewarded with the kind of deep, honest relationships that are real gifts in our lives. Or in the case of this particular restaurant and its owner, the chance to enjoy another great dinner……