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I have always known that I have an Outside Observer in my mind, someone who looks at my life with a sense of curious detachment.
The Observer spoke up this week, as loud and clear as a narrator. ďI wonder,Ē he said, ďhow you would handle being raped.Ē
My first reaction was stark fear, as if just thinking of it might invite rape into my life very soon. As if I would want that! Not even for the sake of satisfying academic curiosity could I condone such a crazy horror!
But my second reaction was to agree: ďHmmm, I wonder ...Ē
Simply wondering about such a horrible thing astounds me. It's not my normal train of thought!
But once the seed was planted, the weed began to grow. How
I handle rape?
As if I am the protagonist in The Observerís story, and the author wants to explore my character by throwing me into a crisis and seeing how I come out the other side.
If it did happen, I realized, Iíd want the ability to put it behind me. To not let it rule the rest of my life.
... And that is exactly where the problem appears.
I have a tendency to become trapped in regret. There are things in my history I'm not proud of. Things I did which still haunt me. Oh, itís getting better, yes. There are days I can see God allowed me to make mistakes because I needed their lesson. But there are also days I regret hurting others because I chose wrongly. It can be a heavy burden at times.
What if one of the lessons God intends for me is also the ability to move on? To NOT be trapped in the past, but rather focus on the future?
Gary Chapman said, "I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday."
Tony Robbins said, "If you want to succeed in your life, remember this phrase. The past does not equal the future. Because you failed yesterday; or all day today, or a moment ago, or for the last six months; the last 16 years, or the last 50 years of life doesn't mean anything. All that matters is what are you going to do. Right Now.Ē
I found these quotes recently and they made me think. But how do I heal from past regrets?
How do I accept the mistakes I made? How do I move on?
I believe that all things in life have immeasurable worth if they bring forth
. If they move you closer to the light, to your higher self. If I learned nothing from my mistakes, then they remain tragic horrors. If I did learn, and through Godís grace, perhaps even taught others something of value, then the pain has been worthwhile.
It is an act of faith, hoping that others learn from my mistakes, too. Yet I find from my own learning that it must be true.
My teen years were marked by my momís intense unhappiness which ultimately led her into alcoholism. I remember those years with horror. Initially I found nothing good in the experience. Yet as I matured, I learned its worth.
It taught me that everything we do, we do with one goal: to live happily. My mom just wanted to be happy.
It also taught me that numbing the pain is never good. Pain and darkness need to be faced head-on.
And that is such a precious treasure I carry from those years, now I wouldnít have it differently.
You know it's true. The more we try to push down discomfort, the bigger the cause of it grows. Yet our survival instinct is so strong, our animal brains take the first protective action it can think of when discomfort appears: numbing the pain.
It takes considerable awareness and courage to notice that self-protecting action and stop it so you may deal with the cause. It might be hard work, and of course it takes more energy than simply numbing the pain with food, drink, drugs, activity or whatever. But the results always bring one closer to the light.
Often the numbing of pain happens so quickly that we hardly get an opportunity to realize weíre unhappy before the numbing starts. Thatís a pretty effective defence mechanism our inner beings have got going, you have to admit.
Just imagine if we could use that power to rather sort out our issues and move forward in our lives!
So I'm learning not to push away discomfort. I'm learning to ride the edge. And I have my momís former alcoholism to thank for that. It's a treasure thatís part of me and I'm proudly grateful for it.
So, if I own this treasure of being able to ride the edge, thanks to my momís mistakes, then I have to believe that my own mistakes grant my son life treasures, too. Necessary lessons he needs for his life now and in the future. Empowerment!
And what a big thought that is! Yes, it requires blind faith to believe this, accepting that we never see the full picture but that itís
, no matter how screwed-up it seems. And you are welcome to accuse me of rationalization. I donít care.
I know the truth.
But just because I know the truth now doesnít mean I sit easy with the mistakes I made. Thereís still that disappointment that I couldnít be more discerning, intelligent, compassionate. In short: more perfect.
So once again perfectionism bites me in the butt. I'm disappointed that I proved to myself I'm not better than anyone else. I am the same messed-up human as all the other humans walking this world. I am not special. I am not perfect. I am pathetically prone to getting it wrong.
It breeds humility and surely that is what I need.
Humble acceptance of my inherently flawed nature is important. As rehabilitating perfectionist I know.
Just think of the freedom such an attitude brings! Knowing that even with my best intentions, I might not get life 100% right, it means I am free to try. Trying receives lots of bad rap from self-help writers (and Yoda: ďThere is no trying, there is only doing.Ē)
But itís a lot better simply throwing yourself into life, even with the risk of screwing up, than hanging back, living a half-life because youíre afraid you wonít do it perfectly.
Iíve been living a half-life. And harbouring regrets because I made some bold choices, occasionally not hanging back, will only foster more half-living.
To be honest, I look at the person I was before I made those choices, and even if I didnít take that road, I would still have made mistakes. I would still have screwed up. Just in a different way.
As God-lover I have to accept that, yes, I take responsibility for my direction, my choices, my deeds, and their outcomes. But ultimately, the good of it all is in His hands.
He would not have allowed my mistakes if He hadnít had a specific purpose with them. I had to learn better. And boy, I learned!
So again: If whatever happens brings GOOD, then itís worthy. If my mistakes teach me to do better, then they're worthy. If they teach my child to choose better, then they're worthy.
And then it is stupid to keep lamenting the shame of my past. Living in regret does not reflect my belief that God brings good out of sin. Living in regret only shows self-absorbance in something which lies behind me.
Living in such self-absorbance with things long past basically says: ďI will always chastise myself for not knowing better because I am not worthy of moving on. Even if Your plan allowed for it.Ē
That's short-sighted and ungrateful.
And a little bit sick, like refusing to flush the toilet because you need to always look at what you dumped there. A graphic image? Yes, but perhaps it's time I viewed my regret for what it is: a trick by the evil one to keep me from walking into the light, as imperfectly and beautifully human as I am.
So, here it is: the moment of truth.
I can admit I made mistakes. I didnít know any better. But my mistakes taught me to know better and therefore do better, living a brighter life.
Will I be perfect from now on? Nope. I am guaranteed to make more mistakes along the line and screw up royally before the end of this life.
But at the end I can say, ďI have lived
Finally I hold freedom in my hands.
Only one more thing is necessary. For me to say:
ďPippa, I forgive you for being perfectly human.Ē
Thatís just it, innit? Being perfectly human means making mistakes. It means being imperfect. I am 100% qualified!
Besides, isnít that why I chose to come to Earth? To
And I've been berating myself for actually learning? How silly!
I need a deep breath.
Because this is BIG.
This is life-changing
Learning means attempting things, making mistakes, trying again, and just keeping on growing.
Learning means screw-ups will happen.
This is key: What a waste it would be if I stopped learning because I got caught up in the regret over one learning experience.
To stop learning because I'm trapped in regret would mean Iím not fulfilling my mission to Earth. If I came here to learn, to take wisdom and experience back to Heaven as a more rounded spirit, then that's what I need to do.
Not stall in the place where I made a mistake, never to move on again.
How terrible it would be to go back to Heaven (and who knows how soon that may be?) and sheepishly admit that I missed the whole point. Mistakes arenít failures. They are simply learning experiences. So letís use them!
The big learning experiences in my past taught me much I am applying to my life nowadays. Even if I lost friends through the choices I made, and the respect of some people, I accept that. Consequences are inevitable, and though they may be sad, I can take the responsibility of dealing with them. I can accept them as school fees for the privilege of gaining wisdom and maturity, becoming a more rounded spirit.
And strangely, I know God doesnít judge me. He knows I needed to learn this. We probably agreed beforehand on the necessity of these experiences.
So perhaps He asked in the beginning already: ďI wonder how you would handle making a big, life-changing mistake.Ē
And I said, ďHmm, I wonder, too. I know with You by my side, Beloved, I can handle the severity of the learning curve. Let us make me susceptible to that error, so we may find out.Ē
It has been five years since that life-changing learning curve. And though I have grown somewhat in forgiving myself and moving on, it is only now that I am finally ready to release the guilt and regret.
I'm finally looking forward again.
But theory is still far removed from practice. Though I have known with my mind for some time now that I can move on, that
itís all good
and that living means learning through mistakes, I find that my heart struggles to absorb the knowledge.
I'm so tired of living with regret, of wanting to make up for where I failed. I am so tired of the constant inner criticism I have to put up with day after day. It truly and utterly exhausts me. What needs to change so I may really live what I know?
I quail at the thought of living like this for the rest of my life: trapped in regretful self-condemnation for one desperate deed, for becoming involved in an affair. I didnít want to hurt anybody. I merely wanted to be happy, and I was so blinded by my own unhappiness that I fell headlong into a relationship which, in the end, didnít work out anyway. It taught me a lot: that everything we do is for the sake of finding joy, that I had become real good at suppressing my unhappiness, that I didnít know myself.
Honestly, if this were someone elseís story, I would have been a whole lot more understanding. And forgiving. I would have encouraged her to accept that she had needs she hadnít been aware of, and that the affair served to show her this. That it takes two to tango, and what she walked out of had already been broken by that time, in spite of her stellar suppressing of the truth. That she needed this change to finally become aware and independent and strong.
But this is my story. And I find that I'm my own worst judge.
Of course the thought occurs to me that God wants me to learn to be softer with myself. I have always been very ruthless towards myself. Too harsh. Too demanding. Too unforgiving. There is little place for grace in my attitude towards Pippa. If He delegated judgement to us at the end of times, I wouldnít stand a chance. Iíd be damned for eternity.
I may not know much, but Iím pretty sure that such severity is not what He wants me to take home from this journey. He gave me this life for a different purpose.
Know how I know? Because not once in my life have I ever experienced judgement from Him. When I am flagellating myself for screwing up, His is the soothing voice that asks me to consider the extenuating circumstances. His acceptance of me, warts and all, have brought me to tears many times. In fact, such love always inspires me to try better next time. Such encouragement makes me want to live up to His view of me.
So how is it that He can accept me with such open, loving arms, but I can not? Am I higher than God?
Here He gave me this life in stewardship. A precious, beautiful life created by Him! A handful of gold talents to take care of in this world until He returns for me. I've used these resources He has given me, invested some of them, gambled with some of them, and lost some.
And now I am so focused on what I threw away, that I miss the point completely. Instead of punishing myself, I should rather be encouraging and accepting. Shit happens. Move on! Try something else and use what Iíve learned to make better investment choices next time!
At this point it is easy to see how I would have answered that original question by The Observer, how I would handle being raped. If it was simply done to me, Iíd be able to deal with it and move on. I would get it out of my system.
But if I had any fault in it, there is a good chance I might struggle with guilt for the rest of my life. If I had forgotten my pepper spray, or left for home a little too late at night, I would be co-responsible. And therefore guilty.
But we carry responsibility for
we bring into our lives, whether we feel we have control over it or not. Because
own our lives. We are the stewards of the treasure. And we own how we respond to life. Response-ability. If I am going to experience guilt or regret over every single thing I show response-ability for, I'm damned in any case because it would include every life experience between birth and death. Guilty every time. And that is a misuse of my stewardship, a waste of energy.
I could use this life so much better.
Of course I donít want to trivialize rape. It remains a violent, ugly and degrading act. It has the potential to destroy lives. But only if we allow it to.
What I'm doing, condemning myself for falling when I tried to reach for hope and happiness, not knowing any better, well, thatís not any less despicable. It's as violent and ugly and degrading as any of the many sins perpetrated against human beings.
Worse: I am not allowing myself any reprieve from the experience. I am my own victim and my own perpetrator.
I am daily raping myself.
I never thought of it like that before.
The greater test is not how I would handle being raped, or losing everything in an earthquake, or a myriad other equally horrendous possibilities. Those are things which enter my life from the
No, the greater question is how I would handle the things which originate from the
, my own learning curves, perspectives, attitudes ... and most of all:
What a sobering realization that I havenít been making much of a success of it so far. It is time for a different pattern, a new inner life.
I deeply admire people who survive disaster shining with beauty and light, inspiring others, making something truly precious and worthwhile out of their experiences. Showing us that life can be a thing of wonder and beauty, regardless of what hand it deals us, and often
what hand it deals us.
we choose to spin gold out of straw. Whether that straw comes to us through outside forces or our own inner failings hardly matters.
What matters is only what we make of it.
What we choose to create out of the raw material God gives us.
The Observer asked a thought-provoking question at the beginning of the month. The answers to it led me deeper inside myself than I thought possible. I donít want to squander my life on guilt and self-condemnation. I want to learn to be gracious to myself. Giving grace to other people is easy. It's to myself that it's such a challenge.
I'm rising to that challenge, casting off old patterns, weaving new ones. I'm committing to accepting myself more, to being gentle and loving and encouraging. Every day.
Iím finally learning what I came here to learn.
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