In the past, I’ve caught some heat — and more than my share of confused expressions — by my refusal to go scorched earth on people who have wronged me in some major way.
Granted, I have sought out a change in status when it made sense to — moving out, breaking up, reassessing the closeness and investment level of any given friendship, but left to my own devices I’ve never been one to pick a large public fight, online block them everywhere, insult them a shit ton, and then proceed to warn all past, present, and future acquaintances of their behaviors. On the rare occasions I’ve had a scorched earth level falling out with someone, it’s been either initiated by them or something insisted upon by friends concerned about the safety of continued association (I get what they’re talking about since I know it’s easy to overestimate one’s ability to protect oneself).
Part of my rationale is a commitment to giving people the space to do better. Over the years, I have witnessed a few radical transformations of people who at first acted like absolute shitstains but who went on to become decent people — for what it’s worth, I consider myself one (I can produce an itemized list of my greatest sins of demand). And for me, one of the most CRUCIAL aspects was having people in my life who loved and supported me and either didn’t know of my largest mistakes or didn’t hold them over my head if they did.
This is not to say that I want to be besties with someone who has routinely or dramatically been a shitstain to me. I categorically don’t. But I’m okay with them getting a shot at a mostly clear reputation, especially if what has happened with me is an isolated incident or specialized in scope.
Now, if someone comes to me reeling from a similiar experience, that’s another matter altogether. I’ll freely speak of what happened with me. And I think in this way, by comparing notes, people who run into the occasional hiccups are sorted out from the repeat offenders, those who are unlikely to have the motivation or means to change. It also really depends on how they act when they’re called out on bad acting, too.
But this desire to give people space to do better, to in essence pay back by paying forward the gift I was given, well, it’s only one reason.
The other is quite selfish. It’s miserable to resent people. All that New Age crap about forgiveness? Not actually bullshit.
Holding a grudge IS like letting someone live rent-free in your head.
Resentment IS like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.
Anyway, it’s a tough balance, between being a watchdog and taking the 100% laissez-faire approach. And the whole matter is far more ethically nuanced than any one gut feel will allow.
Miss Manners doesn’t know fuck-all about this.