I have learned something these past two weeks, and I wanted to share it with you. Actually I have learned a lot, but let’s take one thing at a time okay? A few days ago, on FB, I told of a brutal verbal attack I weathered at the hands of one of my husband’s friends. It has caused me great sadness, shaken my confidence, and caused me to go into hiding for a wee bit. But this incident also provided opportunity for personal spiritual growth through meditation, alone time, and prayer. There has been lots of praying going on. Thankfully, after a week, the abuser came and apologized. His wife, however, tried to lecture me on love and forgiveness and said she was “using” the words of my book “Dolores, Like the River” which was all about love and forgiveness. I held my tongue and just looked at her instead of saying, “You seriously do not get it, darlin.”
I told her that I have had a history with her and some others in her circle who have always made me feel like an outsider. She responded with a comment that parroted a philosophy I too have had up until this time. She sat straight up, looked at me, down at me really as she is about a foot taller than me, and stated, “I have no control over how you feel.” To her, this was the definitive statement that exonerated her and indicted me. What had happened over the years was somehow my fault because my injuries were merely a personal perception, period. And the history confirming injury was somehow of no concern.
Certainly I could have cited example after example of her actions over the years and even the few days I spent with her recently. But I did not. I just sat there thinking how I agreed with her in that it was my perception causing me pain. It was my fault.
Then a few days later (middle of the night it was) I awoke to a new epiphany and I wanted to say, “Baloney. That is total nonsense.” Where did we get this attitude? When did we decide our right to say whatever comes into our brains, to or about someone else, outweighs our obligation to first consider if we are hurting or helping? When did we decide to abandon this consideration altogether? So rather than criticize the person who offended me here, I want to focus on how I can keep from doing the same to others. However, let me state up front that sometimes we have to stand up to abusers and take our own dignity back. Actually folks, that is what “Dolores, Like the River”, is all about.
It has become a popular posture in our society to think we have a right to say what we want and have adopted an attitude that lets us off the hook because how the hearer takes something is up to them. They have to find a way to let go of hurtful statements or actions because it really is “their problem” right?
Well, no. This old adage is not right. I am not trying to tell others how to think or perceive situations. I am only saying I had the realization that what I have hidden behind, in order to not feel guilty, and what I have championed as my God-given autonomy, may need a little revising here. Please know that I understand we all have feelings that may be a result of personal history and baggage, irrelevant to current issues or exchanges. That truly is a different issue. And that is not at all what I refer to here.
Think about it this way. If I doubled up my fist and connected with the end of your nose, would you be at fault for the injury incurred? It is not probable you would look at your nose and say, “It is your choice to hurt nose.” Would it fall at all into the realm of logic to assign blame to the assaulted part or person while acquitting myself of any wrong doing? This is ridiculous isn’t it? Then why am I so quick to sidestep my responsibility when I injure the tender soul or heart (also known as feelings) of another? (This counts for unintentional wounding too, friends. We all do that, no?). Worse yet, how can I, in good conscience, make sure they know I really don’t care how they feel because I certainly had nothing to do with it? And how can I accept that posture from others?
I believe it is true that I can do nothing about the behavior of others, and I can choose to do whatever I want with hurtful behavior directed toward me. I also can and in some cases must remove the toxic people from my life. More importantly I have the choice to learn (in this case from a very hard emotional poke in the nose), and to HONESTLY reflect upon, reassess my own behavior and call myself into accountability for the way I treat or speak to others. Truly if any good has come from this situation, this is it.
You see, here’s the deal. In the end, we all belong to each other. And that makes me accountable for my actions, and words, toward another. At the end of the day friends, injury is injury. We are all injured, some more than others and some more at some times than others. If I walk in a world remembering that fact, I am much less likely to fall into the category of the one inflicting injury. No doubt that has and will continue to happen. But thanks to the actions of others, I walk in a new awareness and now know that I often do have control over how others feel or how I can make them feel. I want to remember that. I am asking God to help me remember I have responsibility and am accountable. Perhaps that attitude as opposed to the flip, “I have no control over what you think or feel,” can bring me into a place where I continue to heal and be a healer in a world that hurts and needs us to be tender with, and care about, each other now more than ever. I pray this new philosophy will call me to walk into a posture that is readied to offer amends when needed instead of defensively refusing to admit blame, even when I have unintentionally created harm. And I recommit myself to extricating those from my life who cannot understand their responsibility to me or others. I encourage you to do the same. Speak your truth, move on.
As always, I love to hear your feedback. Please be safe out there and help others feel safe too. I pray daily I will have new awakenings (hopefully not in the middle of the night) and put to rest the old saying, “Old dogs cannot learn new tricks.”
Copyright September 29, 2014
Laura L. Padgett