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It was all Mr Blogg’s fault

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Apparently, he was pretty upset about what my stupid dog had done to his stupid dog.

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There was an old man (I will call him Mr Blogg) who lived a few streets away from us when I was growing up. Every day I had to pass his house on the way to and from the shops when I used to go and buy bread.

I used to pass the old man’s home at least twice a day, and there was always a polite wave, or a friendly “good afternoon Mr Blogg”. Or if I didn’t see him, he’d call out a greeting to me. Sometimes he’d even make a random, silly comment, and he could be really silly at times.

However, one day – it was that time of the year when the neighbourhood dogs would go courting – our dog and Mr Blogg’s dog got into a fight over a “lady”; and, from judging the condition of the two opponents after the fight, it was obvious that our dog won.

The next day I was on my bread expedition and I walked past Mr Blogg’s house. “Good morning Mr Blogg,” I said when I saw him in the garden, but apparently he was busy and he never replied. On my way back from the shops, with a warm loaf resting on my arm, I saw him again. This time I waved and again called out, “Hi there, Mr Blogg!”

He looked up, glared at me for a moment, and turned his back.

Apparently, he was pretty upset about what my stupid dog had done to his stupid dog.

To say that I was upset would be an understatement. I was (to put it mildly) enraged, fuming, livid, incensed, infuriated – in fact, I was so angry that only an Afrikaans phrase can accurately describe how I felt. How rude, how disrespectful, how utterly (oops I almost used Afrikaans again).

As far as I was concerned, that was it. The polite friendship we had shared was over. From this point forward Mr Blogg was my enemy and it was all his fault.

Over the next three years, I continued to walk to the shop past Mr Blogg’s home twice a day on average. That’s in the region of 700 trips past his house during that time; but to me Mr Blogg – the rude Mr Blogg who didn’t greet me that one time – was now no longer my friend.

I would walk past his house looking straight ahead, even ignoring him when I heard him call, “Hi there, laddy.”

He had started this, as far as I was concerned, and he had chosen the wrong enemy. And he deserved the full force of my ire.

Mr Blogg passed away some time later, and at the time I secretly celebrated his demise after all, he was rude to me that one time.

I told myself that I had shown him not to mess with me I won! My celebrations lasted for a few weeks, and then the remorse set in, and today, decades later, that “victory” is completely hollow.

I often think of the late Mr Blogg and wonder what he must have thought of that young boy who apparently didn’t have a bone of forgiveness in his body.

Just lately I have been thinking of what forgiveness actually means. Does it mean sweeping all bad feelings under a rug, hoping that as you walk on the rug the bulge will just go away?

Or does forgiveness mean actually doing the hard thing? Would real forgiveness have meant me having to go up to Mr Blogg and telling him that I was hurt when he ignored me, giving him a chance to speak about how he felt?

I don’t have a definitive answer, but a while back I came across an interesting take on what forgiveness means, and even though it’s too late to help me reconcile with Mr Blogg, allow me to paraphrase.

True forgiveness is not merely a formal act by which someone is released from contempt. It is not only pardon for an offence but respectfully connecting with that person in such a way that they see the error of their ways and, out of renewed respect for you, decide never to do something like that again. It should be your offer of reconciliation – once the pain of the offence has been properly dealt with – that helps to transform the heart of the offender.

What I also realised is that there can be no reconciliation unless there is forgiveness offered by one party, and repentance offered by the other.