Written by: Scott Allegrini
On a brutally cold February day; I was walking on the frozen lake at Olander Park. It was a surreal scene. On every side there were ice huts, with people ice fishing. I did not notice the cold because I was angry and hurt. That day it all surfaced, as I began yelling at the person on the other end of my phone.
How could my “friend” do this to me?
Most of the winter had been brutal, but this day I learned that the only thing more brutal than the weather was the attitude I displayed toward my friend on the phone.
In 2014, I ran an unprecedented; though ultimately unsuccessful bid to unseat Ohio State Rep. Barb Sears. Those that really know me understand that when I get passionate about something and invest my efforts in something, I go ALL IN. In typical fashion, I spent weeks, even months, preparing to run for office. Certainly, running for office is not easy and it requires something that most of us do not have a lot of…TIME. When I wasn’t working, I spent every day developing mailing lists, chasing down emails, asking for donations, knocking on doors, talking to strangers, working with amazing people to design campaign ideas and literature. I did all this with the hope of getting 50.1% of the vote.
People who know me also understand that I invest in my friendships. I value friendship and put my heart and soul into relationships as well. If I give my word, if I shake on something and if we have mutual respect even when we disagree, THAT relationship is important.
When I ran for office; a friend and one person that I thought would support me began to troll everything I wrote on my campaign pages. I had confronted him several times as to why he was doing this, but unfortunately it all came to a head on a frozen lake in late February. I Honestly don’t remember what the catalyst for my outburst was, other than a persistent challenge of the foundation of my political opinions. It had been building up for weeks and suddenly it all came out, in the negative fifteen wind-chill, I did not recognize me (or like me for that matter). That person walking and screaming at his friend on the phone was a stranger to me.
I am not sure what angered me more, that my friend challenged my beliefs in such a public and scathing way; or that my friend, who knew my heart as a friend, decided to take me to task for an opinion over which we disagreed? Regardless of the reason, when we get challenged logic gets tossed out the window in favor of anger and getting even and I was no different. I was so angry that I decided to hurt him by not giving him my business and going elsewhere to his competitors for service. Surely, getting even would make me feel better, right? I also stopped engaging his challenges online; to not give him any reason to challenge me…in short I just ignored him.
I carried that bitterness inside me for a long time, and convinced myself that it didn’t affect me. I may have lost the election, but I justified my losing a friend on my own terms, for my own pride. For the months following that angry phone call, I was less likely to be forgiving or charitable to others. I had no empathy for anyone, and my tolerance and lack of patience toward others was snowballing. A wall of anger and hate had built itself up and I was not even aware of it. While I did not think the anger had affected me, I was wrong.
Slowly thanks to my wife and others I love and trust, I became aware that the hate and anger I felt was not only affecting me, but also all who were witness to my new attitude. My hurt and anger at my friend not only affected me, it changed me. It was after that realization that I began to reflect on that changes I was experiencing in my heart. I realized I did not like the person I had become, after much prayer and by the Grace of God the scales were removed from my eyes, I was aware of what I had done and how it had affected me. Even still, I was not able to forgive and apologize because I was too stubborn and too prideful.
As the months passed, my emotions went from anger and hate to embarrassment and shame. How could I have acted that way? In hindsight, my friend’s challenges during my campaign were not that big of a deal, yet I overreacted in such a way that I was ashamed to even see or talk to him. How had I let this happen? I spent that rest of the year wrestling with what to do. How could I repair the damage I had done, not just to the friendship but to my soul. Each day the guilt I carried got heavier. My temper was shorter, my tolerance was low and my tongue was a razor.
One moment of out of control anger effected an entire year of my life and I was the only one who could change my heart. Last January I found myself on the frozen lake again, between ice fishing huts, thinking about my former friend. This time though, by the Grace of God, it wasn’t overwhelming anger that made me immune to the cold, rather, an overwhelming sense of needing to forgive. With phone in hand, I walked across the ice, typing an email to my friend, saying I was sorry for the way I acted. As tears welled slowly in my eyes, I told him I forgave him for the insults I perceived and that hurt me so much. I am not sure my apology will ever bring our friendship where it was before I ran for office, but at least I had the opportunity to act in a way worthy of my expectations of friendship; integrity, honesty and mutual respect.
If you are holding a grudge, I hope that you will look at the effect it may be having. From my own experience, I can honestly say that forgiveness sets the heart free.