I knew this was a bad idea, I thought, as my boyfriend and I sauntered up to the table where a group of my friends held a birthday party in the restaurant of the very hotel in which we were staying.
“Hi everyone!” I said. “Surprise!”
“What are you doing here?” the host asked. “I thought you were away.”
“I am, just not where I thought.” I told him last week I’d be unable to attend the party because I was going to the mountains with my boyfriend. Clearly, I didn’t go.
“Join us!” he said.
“We can’t stay,” said my boyfriend, “we have reservations at Luce’s.”
And that’s when the shame hit. I stopped by to say hi, thinking it foolish to be in the exact same hotel and not see them. But now, it appeared as if I just blew them off for something “better”.
After briefly explaining how my boyfriend had surprised me by coming here instead of the mountains, we left the small party for our reservations.
But nothing felt light after that. Instead, the heaviness of shame sat like a stone in my gut. I was afraid they saw me as a selfish, uncaring friend and imagined them whispering as much after we walked out of the hotel.
I tried to tuck the feeling away or at least push it aside, only it kept peeking out at me with accusing eyes.
Finally, I texted my friend, apologizing again, assuring him that had I known we’d be at this hotel, I surely would have said yes to his invitation. He replied with a “No worries. It was good to see you.” I wasn’t sure I believed him.
So I did what I always do when I struggle to know the truth behind any situation. I turned to the wisdom of A Course of Love.
“The greatest fear of all is loss of love…Specialness keeps you separate. You who don’t know how to trade your separated state to that of union have done so when you have loved freely and without fear.”
To love freely and without fear is to trust another’s love for me, to trust in my own goodness, and not fear that will be taken away.
I realized no matter how my friends perceived me, I could do nothing to change their hurt, assuming they even were. At this point, that was only a story I told myself.
I had gone to them out of a desire to share, not hoping to gain anything.
“In this state, your memory returns to you of who you are, and you are innocent and joyous and one with love itself.” A Course of Love
To believe I was innocent, I had to let go of shame. I had to let go of feeling responsible for any hurts or feelings of being slighted. I cared about their feelings, but I could never cause them.
I knew this to be true because when I pictured the situation reversed, and I focused on the love I felt for my friends. I didn’t feel hurt, only happy they’d come to see me. They were good and I was good. When I knew this, the encounter became one of joyous surprise and caring, not judging.
When you are being over-responsible, you are allowing your own sense of unworthiness or shame to accuse you of causing someone else’s pain.
Certainly, we can act hurtful, but we can never cause another’s feelings of hurt. Not when we truly accept ourselves as innocent, joyous, and one with love itself.
If you could accept for a moment you are loved and loveable without arguing against yourself, you would see the innocence in yourself, as well as in them. That is union.
Realizing I made amends where I thought I should, and could do no more than that, I slept peacefully that night. I understood no matter what the outcome, I could let myself off the hook and choose to love myself rather than condemn.
Our responsibility is to extend love without strings. Their responsibility is to choose whether or not to receive it.