Two centuries ago, an English poet, painter, and etching illustrator named William Blake, largely unknown during his lifetime, wrote a work that was done in what he called: “visual artistry.” In one volume of poetry, where he portrayed the characters in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, “The Canterbury Tales,” we find these words: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”1 Mister Blake does not go on to explain, but a closer examination reveals the secret of this saying.
You see, enemies are those who tell lies in an effort to tear you down while friends are those who tell the truth in order to build you up. So, one may ask, what if a friend tells you a lie? It’s simple, then they are not really your friend, they are your enemy. By the same token, if an enemy tells you the truth, they thereby have become your friend.
Too often, our friends are described as those who like the same music we like, go to the same places we go, play the same games we play, read the same books we read, and enjoy doing the same things we do. But that does not necessarily make them our friends. Rather, they are best described as companions, good company, associates, and people we feel comfortable being with. But many times, it is exactly those people in our life who we find out have not been telling us the truth, and that’s hard to take. That’s why it is so hard to forgive them.
Lies can often be exposed and thereby make the teller out to be a liar. Lies can wound, and, if left untreated, can become infected and cause unnecessary pain and agony. However, the truth goes much deeper. At first, it can cause severe pain and grief, but when seen for what it is, truth can be a calming lotion that helps gets rid of the irritant causing real problems in our experience with situations.
Lies, for the most part, may put a dent in your character and reputation, but when reveal as untruth you still are a sound and resilient, individual. Thus, you are not required to make any significant changes in your personality. But truth is not meant to bounce off and make no lasting impression. Just like a high-pressure hose or a sand blaster, truth can remove stains, scum and scales that have grown on our personality over time. The purpose of truth is to make us look cleaner and brighter for others to admire. So it does require change. Sometimes minor changes, and at other times significant changes, but all for the better.
So the next time a friend tells you the truth, don’t treat them like an enemy. Don’t push them away and avoid any contact with them. If they weren’t a real friend they would have let you remain as you are. They are only trying to help, not hurt. When you realize that “forgiveness,” means the willingness to stop demanding punishment for the person who supposedly hurt you, and the fact they were telling the truth, then to forgive them is really not that hard to do. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1William Blake (1757-1827): Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, Printed by William Blake, South Molton Street, London, 1804, p. 91