I wrote recently about my journey through life being populated by people who are just not that nice.
It's important to tell you that at certain times, one of those people was me. It's not fair or true or authentic or brave to only tell you about being hurt, and leave out the part about being the one doing the hurting.
It's hard to talk about the version of yourself that you once were, who was capable of inflicting real damage. It's more than embarrassing...it's... I'm ashamed of that person.
I am not ashamed of who I am today, or the woman that I've become. I'm proud of who I am today - every anxious, depressed, weird bit of me. But without a doubt, I am ashamed of the girl I used to be, in those moments where I could not be bothered to care or didn't know how to care. I don't like her at all.
And because I so often share stories about overcoming hardship and what that process entails, I think it's really important to also tell you about the worst thing that the really not nice version of me did, and how I overcame this giant obstacle in my life... that was me.
I once had this really great friend. She was smart and funny and kind and she had a life that was really different (better?) than mine, but she never passed judgement on me. I mean - she had her shit together. I did not, in any way, shape, or form, have my shit together. But she wanted to be my friend, (despite all of my baggage), and I wanted to be her friend and so, we were friends.
We hung out a lot. And we had a lot of fun.
And then one night, I went out with some other friends.
My friend's boyfriend was also out that night. And you can probably guess what happened and this was a really long time ago but it doesn't take away the sting of the terrible thing that I did and I'm not going to not say it just to make it easier on myself...
I slept with her boyfriend.
I don't think I even thought twice about it. And another one of my really good friends tried to stop me and I didn't care. I just did it.
I woke up the next day and I didn't want to face anyone. I wanted to take it back. I wanted to be someone else. I couldn't even believe the person that I was.
I had done an awful thing and I was an awful person. There wasn't any pretending anything different.
And for 3 weeks, my friend did not know that this happened. For 3 weeks, I avoided her calls.
Until she left me this heartbroken message about how she missed me and that she didn't know what she had done wrong but she would fix it and would I please just call her back?
And of course, that's the moment that you can't run away from. Because I could try to pretend like I hadn't done what I had done, but I couldn't let her think that somehow I was staying away from her because of something that she had done.
And so I called her. And I told her. And in that moment, I knew I was the worst person in the world. I knew it. 100%. Without a doubt.
But she didn't think that.
She was hurt and she cried and she asked if she could come over because she just needed a friend and... I was appalled that she thought that I was her friend. Not because I didn't want to be her friend, but because I wasn't good enough to be her friend. I really did want her as a friend but I was a really, really bad person and she deserved friends who were far better than me.
She asked me why I did it and I couldn't tell her. I didn't know. My own marriage had fallen apart because of my ex-husband's infidelity. I knew exactly how terrible that was. How devastating. I could not understand or even begin to explain how I could turn around and do such a terrible thing to someone else, much less someone that I called a friend.
But... my friend forgave me. (To this day I don't really understand the heart of a person who can be confronted with that sort of betrayal and still offer almost immediate forgiveness...To see through all of the mess and recognize something besides the horrible person that I knew that I was. I don't know where that comes from, but I know that I want to be like that. I try really, really hard to be like that.)
Even though she forgave me, I didn't talk to her for a really long time. I was weighed down with the shame of what I had done. I still couldn't face her. And I wouldn't. And for a long time we didn't have a friendship.
I think a year passed. And I missed her and I still felt the weight of my actions. All of the time.
I reached out to her again to tell her how very, very sorry that I was. That she deserved better than a friend like me. That I didn't think that I liked myself very much at that point, and that at that time, I didn't think that I was capable of being a very good friend.
Looking back now, I know that I felt worthless. Any worth that I ever thought that I had, had always been tied up in my sexuality. I was recently divorced, I was drinking way too much, and sex made me feel worth something, so...I slept around. Without regard for myself or anyone else. I was selfish and destructive and I hurt people.
I hated what I had done SO MUCH. I carried that guilt with me all of the time. I could never even truly express how so very sorry I was for the hurt that I had caused my friend. And I felt guilty for bringing it up again, because maybe I was making it worse by not just letting it go...I had no idea what to do with all of this shame and guilt and sorrow. I just wanted my friend to know that I knew how bad it was. I knew that I was terrible and I knew that she had deserved better.
And she reminded me that she had already forgiven me. And that she meant it.
This time, I believed her. She forgave me long before I was able to forgive myself. (Remember I keep telling you how the lights keep coming? Even when I'm the reason for the darkness, here come the lights.)
There are still moments where I think of that time and I'm filled with a deep sense of shame. I have to remind myself that I'm forgiven. By my friend and by myself.
And by God.
I have to remind myself that I have not been that person in a very long time and that broken people do really fucked up things, and that those things don't have to define them for the rest of their lives.
We don't have to define other people by their brokenness.
I've spent a lot of time talking about a lot of hurt that was thrown my way in the past year. And sometimes I still get angry. I saw someone the other day who I hadn't seen in ages. Someone who had really hurt me and I remember angrily thinking that he owed me an apology. And then reminding myself...
...he doesn't. I'm not owed an apology. I'm not owed anything. Sometimes, people have to forgive themselves before they can accept forgiveness from you. And that might take a little more time than you're comfortable with. Sometimes they don't even know they hurt you and sometimes, even though it really sucks...they don't care. And we have to learn to be ok with that. We can still forgive them.
Today, I try my best to be decent to people, decent to myself, decent and kind to the world in general. But I have this history and I am broken and unraveled and stitched back together and tied in knots and patched up in weird ways and there have been moments in my life where this mess has been beautiful and there have been moments where it has been really ugly. Moments that meant that I was the one who was terrible. I was the one that someone had to recover from. I was the one that caused the tears and the heartache and the trust issues. I might be a good person today, but I have most certainly stumbled on my way here. Hard.
That moment in my life keeps me humble. This happened over 15 years ago and for me, it is still the defining moment of forgiveness. My friend is the example of forgiveness that I want to live up to.
I had to tell her that I was writing this. I wanted her to know, in case she stumbled on it by accident. I wanted to make sure she was ok with me putting it out there. Which...was hard. And she was just as gracious and kind as ever. We're still friends. It never fails to surprise me that in the face of such a horrible thing, she forgave me and she still accepts me as her friend. It's amazing. She is an amazing person.
I still wish more than anything that it hadn't happened. I would take it back in a heartbeat if I could. But I can't. It's a part of who I am. I have to accept that. And I think it's important to own these moments in my own life so that I can accept them in other people. So that I don't hate. So that I can be a little more compassionate. A little more forgiving. A little kinder when I'm in the path of someone who stumbles, because we have all stumbled. And we are all capable of getting back up and doing the right thing. We can change our course.
And we can be forgiven.