My arrogance and other lousy character flaws

Every once in a while, I get kicked in the head when it comes to my arrogance of how other people “should” raise or treat their children.  I’m not referring to abuse.  That is a no-brainer and not part of this post.  I’m talking about what others buy for their children, what they do for them, and how they support them.  I am also talking about how they allow their children to treat them (again, not talking about any type of abuse).  Relationships of all kinds are so terribly convoluted that we on the outside can’t begin to imagine what has gone before to create relationships which others have.  It is hard enough to keep up with my own.  Why do I persist in trying to change the situations of others?

I make some kind of wrong turn in my head when I hear about situations that bother me and I begin to believe that they (my friends) want my ideas.  That they truly can’t wait to hear what I think and how much better their lives will be if they only listen to me.  I think that if I tell them honestly how I see the treatment (either of or by other people), they will of course see the error of their ways, and immediately correct their behavior.

Who the hell do I think I am?  I have had my own impossible situations when it comes to children, and certainly many people could tell me that many things which  I did were wrong.  Poor parenting.  Lousy choices.   Would that have helped me?  Would it help me now?  Would I agree with it?  Can I change it?  I love to discuss boundaries in my life.  I wonder what boundaries I see others as having.  Do they have the right to ask for my opinion before I so recklessly offer it?  Do they have the right to tell me to shut up if I’ve decided that my ideas are so profound that they must hear and adhere to what I have to say?  Yes to both.  I seek wisdom in my life.  But I must seek the wisdom to keep my mouth (and writing) shut until I am asked.

How does one place boundaries about this subject with their friends and family members?  Where is the proverbial line that must be drawn so that I don’t offend in the process of believing myself so arrogantly wise?  I’ve been thinking about this since I stomped on the toes of someone I love deeply without ever considering that she had toes.  Without ever considering she may not want my alleged experience.  Without ever considering that to be so arrogant and so public about my arrogance could damage not only our relationship, but her relationships with others.

I’ve come to this conclusion.  If I am not being asked directly for my opinion, it is just for me to participate in the conversation.  Draw them out.  Ask how they feel about it, but keep my danged mouth shut with my own thoughts.  If they are not seeking some kind of other way of acting for future course, I am to simply participate in the conversation.  If my friend, sister, brother, peer does not specifically ask what I think, I am to simply participate in the conversation.

This adds a dilemma to the situation.  I want to be honest about the things I see.  Perhaps the only place I can effectively do that is by private journal.  And I also must understand that my honesty is simply that.  Mine.  Not necessarily anyone else’s, particularly when it comes to parenting.

I am not in charge of how others raise their children.  Absent truly lousy treatment, I have to guard my arrogant ideas and to do more questioning of me when I have these ideas.  Sometimes we respond without knowing we did.  I have to get better at that.

I am deeply sorry that I caused pain to my friend.  I am deeply embarrassed that I consider myself so wise.  I am terribly chagrined that I did not think more deeply about my actions and was so insensitive to a difficult situation.  Sometimes I like to think that because I’m a writer, I am free to write whatever I want.  My Life and all its stuff includes the actions of others.  But does it?  Outside of my family, do I have the right to write whatever I know if I think it is worth writing about?  I guess this is where we get to the disclaimer, “If any of these characters resemble anyone, living or dead…”  Coincidence and all of that.  But I wasn’t writing a fiction novel.  Nor a short story.  Character flaws make us human and interesting and so very apologetic.  Friends are so much more important than opinions.



Forgiveness vs. Acceptance

Is the biggest reason we struggle with forgiveness because we fear it indicates approval?  Or we fear that if we forgive, that which was “done” to us will be “done” again?  What is the essence of forgiveness and how do we wrap our minds around a concept that may indicate to ourselves that we have not only allowed our perception of a bad thing to happen to us, we are almost encouraging it to happen again?

I was married young and divorced young.  The anger and pain which I held  for years did not allow me to consider forgiveness.  The ongoing financial trauma and lack of monetary support by my ex of our two sons kept the crappy feelings fed.  I knew nothing of forgiveness at that young age, nor did I want to forgive.  I was years away from forgiving my parents for my upbringing, along with many other perceived wrongs which I had experienced in my youthful life.  I had no concept of the understanding of forgiveness.

For my experience of offering forgiveness, it has ebbed and flowed.  I have offered it, I thought, only to have it pull back a bit.  I believe I have finally reached the point where I have forgiven my ex, but I don’t have the need to tell him so.  Perhaps that is only the tip of forgiving, and perhaps it is the essence.  Forgiving really doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be a rug again.  No need to lie down and get stepped all over.  So forgiveness comes hand in hand with awareness.  And good judgment.

A  young man has stepped forward from over a decade ago who wants forgiveness.  From me.  He did nothing to me, or in this case, to my son.  The choices he made for which he has been punished were poor choices and involved illegal actions.  But he didn’t attempt to bring my family into these bad decisions.  Still, he has asked for forgiveness from me.  I hesitate.  Is it because I fear acceptance of him and offering of this to him will somehow implicate me in approval?  What if I find out later that I was mistaken to go there, and want my forgiveness back?  I just don’t believe it works that way.  I think forgiveness is a one way street, and you can’t turn around and head in the other direction.

There are many things for which I hope I am forgiven.  If this was withheld from me from the important people in my life, I would be lost.  The things which I have on occasion done to hurt people aren’t illegal, but I establish my punishment.

This is one I shall have to offer to my own higher being.  I need direction and comfort.  I want to offer comfort.  But I want to be sure.  However, I think it’s a lot like being in love – if you haven’t felt it, you can’t know what it is by explanation.  For now, I’ll work on acceptance.  For tomorrow, I’ll think about forgiveness.

How does forgiveness work?

This has been a difficult year in the life of our family.  Some serious surgical issues, a severely depressed son who has challenged all of our family connections and resources.  Along with those, business downturns, which in retrospect haven’t been as challenging as the family issues, but have provided its own problems.  Tearfull layoffs of employees because of these downturns.  My own particular issues with discipline in writing my master’s thesis.  Along with that, some trust issues in my own marriage.  And yet life goes on.

Some of this has prompted my focus on forgiveness, which may be the lesson I take from these difficulties.  How well can I forgive?  I found I haven’t been too good at it.  I had the proverbial lousy and emotionally abusive first marriage and I’ve learned (no big surprise here) I had never forgiven my ex for his immaturity (mine too), his undependability, and his inability to meet my needs nor connect to his two incredible sons in almost any capacity.  In the process of dealing with my son’s depression and the problems encountered in my own life, I have thoght much about forgiveness.

I wrote a letter to my ex – of course not one to be mailed.  Just for me.  Forgiving my ex.  Spelling out in written terms what I needed to forgive him for, and why.  While I was writing it, I felt so fake.  I didn’t feel it, believe it, want to do it, accept it.  But I found – afterwards – that it slowly began to come true.  I very slowly, inch-by-half inch, began to believe it.  This doesn’t (and hasn’t) changed his behavior at all.  Of course not.  Writing the letter wasn’t about him.  It was a gift to me, to let go of these darkly poisonous emotions that can and have pushed me down too many times.  But I’m beginning to believe it.  I’m beginning to let go of things I don’t need anymore.   I don’t think I’m completely there yet, and I backtrack on occasion, then I remember that this is a gift to me.  To let go, after decades, of hating this man, of wishing him ill, of regular anger because of his continuing unwillingness to be a father (yet hating him when he shows up for the good times).  This was for me.  This really was for me.  And for my sons.  They don’t need my poisoned emotions.

In the process, I’ve also learned that I must forgive me.  This is likely the most important lesson.  Forgive me for not being the perfect mother, for having my own sometimes life-changing needs, for being angry at my own parents…for not being perfect.  And so much more.  

This from a woman who claims not to enjoy perfection.  I find beauty in the imperfection of life.  Today I will work on the letter to me.  To forgive me.  I will go back to the postcard to my younger self (here on Vibrant Nation), and write more.  What a lovely idea.  I wish I could have sent it to me from years ahead – not to worry so much about perfection.  Ask for forgiveness from others, but more importantly, offer it to myself. 

Perhaps my experiences this year is important in my evolution so that I can learn better how to forgive. I’m working on it.