To quote Lauryn Hill (who was quoting Bob Marley), “I got so much things to say right now.” I think I have about 15 blog posts in drafts at this moment, with headlines and maybe a sentence or two, and so much things left to say. The topics are all connected somehow, but if I put them all in a single post, it will go on forever and I may not ever have anything more to say when it’s done (the 5 of you who know me in real life know there’s a fat chance of THAT ever happening, but I’m permitting myself some artistic license here).
My issue du jour, or more accurately of the week, is unintentionally hurting the people I care about. My instinct/distortion is/was that people who love each other, aren’t supposed to hurt each other. Ever. Intentionally or not. And the internet is apparently packed with people who agree; it took all of 10 seconds to find a dozen statements like these:
I am terrified that these statements are true. That you can never go back. That people will never forget or forgive the pain you caused and will love you less or forget they ever loved you in the first place. But more than that, I’m afraid of causing harm. If I can’t keep myself from hurting people, maybe it would be safer for them not to get close to me in the first place. Before this all gets too cerebral, let me back up a little…
As far back as I can remember, I have been motivated by the desire, the need, to be liked. I figured out pretty quickly that being funny/making jokes is, or at least seemed to be, fairly reliable in accomplishing that goal. As I got older and more cynical, I also got more snarky and sarcastic, which people seemed to respond to even better. However, when you mix that kind of knee jerk sarcasm and snark with an unhealthy lack of impulse control (as determined by a doctor), this sometimes results in severe foot in mouth disease and saying stupid things that hurt people’s feelings.
I thought I had done this after group a couple of months ago, because something thoughtless had slipped out of my mouth on my way out the door and when I thought about the reaction I would have had and how the other person might have felt, I barely managed to forgive myself enough to go back to group the next day. I wanted to get as far away as possible from having to face what I felt I had done. I did go back the next day and it turned out that I was the only one who had thought twice about my words. I learned about not being responsible for other peoples’ feelings and the safety of being part of a group that has a baseline of love, care and understanding.
I’m not sure if I got a false sense of security from that situation, but I certainly didn’t apply the lesson my future actions. I didn’t learn to think before I speak, nor did I learn to not take responsibility for the feelings/reactions of others or to forgive myself… for anything, really. So, this week, when I once again said something without considering the consequences, I immediately defaulted back to distortions: “I say shitty things, therefore I am a shitty person” and “I can’t be trusted not to hurt people” and “good/kind people don’t say insensitive, hurtful things.” We talked about it immediately in group and I was able to explain the innocent intentions behind my words. We left in a really good place, but I simply couldn’t let go of the shame, guilt, disappointment in myself and panic that it would still affect the relationship with that person. Did she really believe I hadn’t meant to be hurtful? How could she trust me not to hurt her again?
Let me be totally clear. The other group member did not give me any reason to believe this would be the case. It is still a loving, caring, understanding environment and we truly left with the best possible feelings (benefit of the lessons we’d learned as a group and being in a mutual state of having to get everything out on the table), but my own thoughts are so unforgiving. I’d like to believe that I am a good person, but I just find it so hard to accept that genuine kindness can coexist with thoughtless hurtfulness in this way.
This was all an extremely long set up for what I learned in individual therapy a few days later. And when I say “learned” I mean “heard and am deciding whether it can/should be believed.” My therapist (let’s call her CZ) said that it is completely impossible to be in a human relationship and never hurt the other person. The important part is not whether you hurt someone (because you will, because it’s part of being human), but what you do afterwards. She said that repairing the relationship after these experiences makes them stronger, deepens intimacy, and ultimately makes them more valuable.
She tried using fights within a marriage as an example, but it just so happens that my husband and I have never fought. About anything. Because of my possibly unrealistic belief that if you really care about someone, nothing is so important that it is worth hurting them. If you truly love and care for them, you should be able to respectfully discuss and compromise without fighting. Incidentally, I recognize as I am writing this, that our group discussion (before my comment) contrasted with this theory of mine. I gained a whole new perspective. I realized for the first time ever that somebody who loves me might be hurt by my bad treatment/care of myself. This is probably a post for another time.
The bottom line is that making mistakes is human. I don’t generally like to believe this, but it seems to be a well established and accepted fact among wiser men than me. So as much as I feel like I should have learned from all the previous hurts of my life and should be able to avoid causing pain, I need to accept that I am only human. It seems silly to say that I need to forgive myself for being human, but I was raised to believe that I should be able to do better than merely human, so letting this go is actually a big deal for me. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I need to trust the relationships I have developed and the kind and forgiving hearts of the people I care about.