I don’t have a whole lot of failed relationships in my life.  For the most part, I still keep in contact with friends I haven’t even seen in many years.  I like people.  And I like people even more these days now that I can chat with them over Facebook rather than go through the anxiety of meeting up with people face to face.

But like most people, I think, I do have my handful of relationships that have ended purposefully and permanently.  And I think Christmas is a time of year when we tend to look back on these relationships.

I remember thinking when I was really young that I never wanted to lose touch with anyone.  I didn’t understand why anyone would purposefully leave someone in their past.

Now I know.

And knowing doesn’t always make it easier.

I have my doubts about these failed relationships.  There are times when I second guess my decisions.  There are times when I feel guilt or shame.  There are times when I want to reach for the phone.

See forgiveness was never really an issue for me.  I tend to be quick to forgive.  That’s one thing that I like about myself.  I don’t hold grudges.  If I encounter honest repentance, I’m happy to forgive and forget.

It was never really about forgiveness in the first place.

But like many of us unfortunately learn, forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t the same things.  And just because the former is always beneficial doesn’t mean we can always reach for the latter.

I took my girls to see The Grinch at a theater about half an hour away today.  On the way home, I started to think about some of these relationships, and I started to feel the sadness at memories that will never be made.

But then all of a sudden, I felt a sense of freedom.  I felt joy and lightness and promise.  I finally felt the forgiveness that I had been withholding from myself for years.

Forgiving others might be easy, but forgiving ourselves can be a whole other issue.

For years, I have blamed myself for the failure of a relationship.  I have taken on all the fault myself.  I have battered my self-esteem and my confidence daily over this.  I would berate myself, asking why couldn’t I make it work if all these other people could.

And today the answer came to me.

I could have made it work.  I could have found a way to put a bandage on the situation.  I could have mended the broken ties.

But I didn’t want to.

Because, sad as it is, some relationships take more from us than they give, and even more sadly, sometimes that simply makes them damaging.

Some relationships tell us that we can’t be who we are.  They tell us that we cannot value what we value.  They take our principles and stomp on them.  They tell us we cannot grow, we cannot change, we cannot become who we are meant to become.

And so as I was contemplating the shame I felt all those years, I finally realized that maybe the shame shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  Maybe my decisions and the results of them stemmed from my principles rather than my weaknesses.

Perhaps I was protecting those who I love the most rather than failing them.

Broken relationships leave scars, and some of them are mighty deep.  But sometimes it’s better to live in a battered soul than in one that was never allowed to be free.  Sometimes maybe failed relationships aren’t failures after all.  And perhaps sometimes we have to love from a distance.

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