I wish I could say I always took the high road, but I’d be lying. When someone says something that I feel is an attack, or tries to make me feel less than, my impulse is to educate them (loudly) about all the ways they’re screwing up. Needless to say, they don’t hear me, and I don’t walk away feeling any better. Superior maybe, but not better.
In the other scenario, I make them right. I take everything they say to heart and believe, “It’s true. I am that awful.” The guilt lingers around me like a heavy fog, sometimes for days.
In either case, someone is being made wrong, less than, or not good enough. How can we ever hope to have peace when these are the guaranteed outcomes?
We either see the guilt in ourselves or see it in another. But no matter whom the arrows are being pointed, our own unworthiness is always pulling the string.
Recently, I was over my boyfriend’s late at night, and I was hungry. Having gone through an eating disorder in my life, there are times I become very self-conscious about being hungry when others are not. For the most part, these parts remain quiet, but sometimes, if triggered, they roar.
And so it was that night. We had gone out to dinner, but still hungry, I went into the kitchen for some cottage cheese. When my boyfriend climbed the stairs for bed, he asked what I was doing. I said, “Eating cottage cheese.”
He shouted down, “What?!” As if he couldn’t believe what I’d said.
I instantly recoiled and shouted back, “Shut up!” I couldn’t believe he was judging me! I felt my heart grow distant and headed up the stairs. With each step, I thought, Dawn, you have a choice. You can do what you’ve always done – be cold and distant, say nothing, and hold a grudge until they show remorse. Or, you can decide it’s not worth it to close your heart to this man and have an honest conversation about what he said and how it made you feel.
And deep down, I knew what he said or thought wouldn’t even matter if some part of me wasn’t afraid it was true.
As I crawled into bed, I took a deep breath, and without attacking him, I objectively repeated what was said, and how I felt ashamed for being so open about my needs.
He turned to me with a smile and said, “I said that because I thought you said you were ‘cutting the cheese’!” To which we both had good laugh.
Though, it was never about what he thought, it was about what I believed about myself.
When we judge someone else, we are seeing what they did as taking something from us- mainly love. When we judge ourselves, we decide if we are deserving of love. Either way, we are trying to earn, bargain, or buy love because we don’t believe we are loved.
A Course in Miracles reminds us that “sin” is perceiving with a lack of love. “Forgiveness” is asking to see past our distorted perceptual errors of inadequacy, weakness, or incompleteness. Sin is a mistake to be corrected, rather than an evil to be punished. Forgiveness is offered through our willingness, but completed by the One within us.
When feeling guilt or resentment, ask yourself sincerely:
- Why do I feel attacked? What am I believing their actions say about me?
- What kind of person would not feel attacked? Now, I pray, let me become that.
Dare we look at the guilt we hold within ourselves, or the resentments we hold against another, and forgive ourselves (or them) for not perceiving ourselves as worthy and loved?
Say to yourself:
“I can forgive myself and you because I love myself enough to say, ‘It’s okay. You’re still a worthy human being (and so are they). You are complete, safe, loved, and loving no matter what you or they did or said.’”
It may not change the situation, but it will change the pain you feel each time you think of the situation.
And as you stop pinning yourself against the wall in anger and remorse, you stop pinning them against a wall as well. Now you can both walk out of your prisons free – a little wiser, a little more compassionate, and a little humbler.
And now you become a lot more able to be a conduit of love in this world.
Need a little more?