There was always a certain kind of person I despised. I considered them “bad” people, heartless people, selfish people, and so on. These were the folks who would take advantage of kind, giving humans; the folks who broke hearts without warning or explanation; those who made everything about them and flew the victim flag way up high; and those who would freak out in psychotic episodes that were adult versions of temper tantrums.
I remember I just couldn’t wrap my head around it when a heartbroken friend shared a story of what happened to them after their experience with one of these people. I was appalled. I mean, How can they sleep at night? How could they be so hurtful?
The more healing work I do, and the more layers I peel back, the more I realize the reason I was so disgusted by this; I was one of those people.
This is hard to swallow, like those giant magnesium malate supplements I take (and I take 3 a day, dang-it).
But, just like the supplements, it’s also healthy and nutritious to ingest. It’s healthy for me to recognize the truth of certain situations from my past. It’s nutritious to see that I was not the victim of most; I was often the perpetrator. I was the tornado that ransacked some people’s lives.
This isn’t said in a mean way. I’m not beating myself up. This is me stating newly recognized facts in a raw and jagged way. (I know in another month I’ll have an even more aware way of viewing and describing these situations. For now, this is the best I can do.)
So how did I sleep at night, being one of these people? Well, for years I utilized alcohol and pills and other numbing substances. But even early in my sobriety, I slept by viewing life through a victim mentality. That was my drug. Everything was happening to me; people should feel sorry for me; no one cared about or was helping me me me.
And I mean, I see now that this is a manifestation of an injured inner child. Times in my life where I actually was a victim were not yet healed, and so I was mindlessly recreating those experiences, switching between the familiar role of victim (attracting unhealthy situations in which I was stuck, objectified, taken advantage of) and, more frequently, the more empowering role of perpetrator.
This sucks to realize, honestly. I mean, it’s good and all… Because I know now that it’s in my awareness, I can try extra hard to cultivate the type of person I desire to be. But damn was it easier going through life cowering in a corner with my finger pointed outward. Taking responsibility is difficult, and oh-so-necessary.
And this is why I think every human would benefit from completing some kind of 12-step program. Step 8 is to make a list of everyone you’ve ever harmed. Step 9 is to make amends to those people, except when to do so would injure yourself or others. I’ve been working through my step 9 for a year or so. I make amends in chunks. A life lesson will integrate or I’ll be on the receiving or giving end of a shitty situation, and I’ll press the pause button to evaluate.
Taking this time for self-evaluation is important, but I’ve learned what’s even more helpful: forgiveness. The more I invite in forgiveness for any and all situations where I was hurt (by myself or others), something naturally shifts within me where I can see the other side and truth of situations past.
Taking responsibility, humbly admitting fault, and making amends is one of the most vulnerable and simultaneously rewarding things I’ve ever done. Some people respond well, taking responsibility for their side too. Others agree with what I’ve said, and desire to keep space. The rest don’t respond at all. It’s tough, of course, because I so badly want everyone to forgive me so we can sing kumbaya in a big circle while eating organic dark chocolate and sharing favorite life stories.
But, when it comes down to it, these people were put in my life for this lesson. On a soul level, we somehow planned out which lessons needed to be learned and which of our soul family would help us learn them. And, because we’re playing the part of these sometimes dense human beings, we knew we’d oftentimes have to learn lessons through pain.
And so… Here is what I challenge you to do. And what I ask of myself.
- Realize that hurt people hurt people. People who are mean or attacking or selfish are likely in a lot of pain. (This isn’t to excuse their actions; this is to say that, from their point of view, they likely have no idea they’re being one of ‘those people’. From their eyes, it’s quite possibly that they’re the victim, and they’re protecting themselves.)
- Look at the type of person or behavior(s) that most bother you. Try to remove the stink eye when thinking about it, and instead really sit with it. In what areas of your life are you this way? In what areas of your life may this manifest with you doing the behaviors? (Sometimes this realization happens immediately; other times it takes days, months, years.) In what ways can you avoid or retrain this behavior?~ For instance, I used to be so annoyed by people who didn’t communicate, or who were manipulative and controlling. Now I realize that I was one of those people. As a result, I now push myself to communicate, even/especially when it’s hard and uncomfortable, and to lovingly detach from situations.
- Do what you can to cultivate the type of person you want to be. Look at those you admire, and try to pinpoint what it is that you so adore. The good news is you have this attribute as well. Even if it’s a tiny spark; it exists within you. Add fuel (attention+action) to that fire.
- Make amends, for past stuff and for in-the-moment stuff. If you’re an asshat and you feel that inner sting of having crossed a line or been disrespectful or what-have-you, call yourself on your shit. Do it humbly. Don’t make excuses. Don’t ignore it or sweep it under the rug; that’s what makes us sick. Take full responsibility, apologize, and do what you can to make it right. We’re all messy, fucked up humans. Making mistakes and amends is a part of life.
- Allow people [who you’ve been asshats to] space to work through their feelings on the matter. Being in the starring role of YOU, it can be easy to be like “Welp, I realized what I did wrong and now I’m all better so EVERYONE SHOULD BE MY FRIEND.” Meanwhile, even/especially after an amends/apology, the people we [unwittingly] hurt may need time and space to process. Gift them this time and space.
- Don’t apologize or make amends with any kind of attached expectation. Do so knowing that their response may be a flaming bag of dog poop (I’ve yet to have this happen; it’s 5:30AM and my brain is quite creative), or a short + ouchy response, or no response at all. Their response also may be awesome, and forgiving, and the friendship may experience a rebirth. WE have no control over this. Make amends and clear your side of the street because it’s the right thing to do, and because you and they deserve it.
- Take it easy on yourself. Once we shift focus and see the ways we haven’t been a perfect angel-faced human, humble pie can be difficult to digest. Don’t use these realizations as another doorway to victimhood or feeling sorry for yourself; that’s the very behavior we’re working to move away from. Realize that you were doing the best from your level of awareness; even if that level was that of a gnat, you were still doing your best. Offer yourself grace.
I’m excited to report that I’m no longer the victim. I’m grateful to say that I now take full responsibility of my life. I’m amped to share that the above painful realizations have empowered me, not weakened me, and I’m ready to move forth in a healthy and even more authentic way.