Self Exploration, Spiritual Discovery

People Behaving Badly

I effed up bad, you guys.

I should preface this by saying that there was once a time when I ran on drama and gossip like America runs on Dunkin’. Things have changed dramatically since then, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stir up a situation every now and then (or weekly). As for gossip, well, let’s put it this way: if it’s with your best friend, it doesn’t count.

That said, I do make a conscious effort to live with balance and mindfulness and to keep what’s meant to be quiet to myself. Overall, I believe I am a trustworthy person – except for the random times when my brain shuts off and my mouth takes over and suddenly I’ve said something I can’t take back. I did just that this week, and it ended up hurting someone I love more than my emerald green velvet sofa.

It was an honest mistake, I swear. No harm intended. I made a stupid assumption and before I knew it, the words were out. It was a classic Rea palm-to-forehead moment.

When I told the person whose cover I’d blown what I’d done, their eyes clouded over with anger and hurt. It damn near killed me; if there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s other people being upset by something I’ve done. It’s the dark underside of people-pleasing; when it goes the wrong way, it hurts to stay in my skin. I go into automatic “dancing monkey” mode, trying to entertain their anger away so they’ll like me again. My husband knows this trick well, and tells me I “don’t get to deflect with humor.” I tell him he can shove his imaginary P.H.D. where the sun don’t shine.

My tap dancing didn’t work this time, though. They stayed angry. It was scary, because it was the first time they’d ever been angry at me. They assured me that we would be okay, but it would take a little time. And I had to sit with that, like a steaming coal in my chest.

My sponsor reminded me that this is part of relationships – real ones, anyway. People make mistakes, other people get angry, and you work it out. She told me not to be too hard on myself, because I was just doing the best I could, like every other human out there.

“Yeah, but I’m the worst,” I said.

“No offense, Rea,” she said, “but you’re not that special.”

So now I’m mad at her.

Interestingly, a handful of stories have come my way this week of other people screwing up royally. Some have hurt each other, sometimes purposefully. Others have made really, really bad mistakes. Some have lied, stolen. One or two have said things that burn for a long time afterward, or have betrayed someone in an unspeakable way. Some families I know stand on the brink of falling apart because of a choice one member made without thinking.

Turns out I’m not the only one who’s effing up.

People behave badly a lot of the time. We just do. Since the beginning of recorded history, we hear of brother killing brother out of jealousy and pride. Today, you can watch the Kardashians do the same thing. We’ve screwed up so many times, for so long, it’s a wonder how God doesn’t just hit control-z and pretend this whole “human” thing never happened.

People will give us a million reasons, every single day, to lose our faith in humanity. It’s easy to condemn them for their horrible mistakes. It’s easy to condemn ourselves for the same reason. It’s why the world is filled with bitter people; we’ve been disappointed too many times by the fellow occupants of this planet, so we give up on finding any good in them.

I’ve been tempted to go there more times than I care to admit – but my husband hooks me back to the bright side. “People are horrible,” he reminds me, “but they’re also amazing.”

And he’s right.

We all make mistakes, sometimes vicious ones, but even the worst of us are capable of good. It’s that tug-of-war between our light and dark sides that make us both horrible and amazing, and which makes the human drama so compelling. Thomas Jefferson never acknowledged the children he fathered with his slave, Sally Hemings, but he also wrote the Constitution and helped build this country. Ghengis Khan killed thousands in his conquests, but also promoted religious freedom. Stalin – yes, that Stalin – wrote poetry. Even Hitler passed laws to protect animals and tried to ban smoking. Their atrocities were unthinkable, but it’s still possible to forgive. Because forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning the pain people have caused. It’s simply choosing not to live in bitterness because of it.

I know the person I love more than my sofa will forgive me. And, I’m sure, eventually, I’ll forgive myself. And when I hear stories of people who screw up like I did and probably will do again, I pray that I’ll have compassion and choose to look for the good in them.

I hope they’ll do the same for me.


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