Friday, May 30, 2014

In Which ChutzpahGrrl Fucks Up

A few times, I have had the opportunity to listen to other's stories of having committed some form of abuse, often sexual in nature.  Sometimes these people have been partners of mine and sometimes those same partners have been the best supports to me in my path since being raped.

Sometimes the stories are told in blame for the other person, sometimes they are told dispassionately, and sometimes they are told with guilt or shame or regret.  It all depends on where we are since the story occurred.  The act of sharing these things is vulnerable; and I honor those who choose to share, regardless of how I feel hearing the story.

It is important to remember that none of us are born with an innate understanding of how to function in society.  We are taught many things we later need to unlearn.  Sometimes the coping mechanisms we develop in childhood and adolescence are a detriment when we become adults.  We are not always given the tools to understand how to decide what path to take.  And sometimes, even when we know what the correct path for us is, we still fuck it up.  Thus, in honor of those who share with me, I am sharing with you my latest story of how I fucked up.

A few months ago I started volunteering as a facilitator for a youth group.  In my initiatory sessions I became enthralled with these young people.  They are brilliant, creative, understandable, funny, commendable and full of exciting potential.  They made it easy for me to feel useful in a way I have not felt in years, and I am grateful for it. 

There is a line between being approachable because you are seen as understanding someone's perspective and interacting like one of the crowd.  Now, I will never be one of the crowd in a crowd of youth, nor do I want to be, however, I noticed that sometimes I responded to them less as a facilitator and more as a community member.  Sometimes that was not a good choice, and I realized I had to be more careful.

A few weeks ago a youth came to the group who I had not met before.  We were having a group discussion in which that person said something to me about wildness related to me, to which I responded "Oh honey, you have no idea."

I didn't mean for it to sound the way it sounded, but as you can see, it sounds completely suggestive and this young person totally called me out on it.  As if that was not stupid enough of me, I was embarrassed and so verbally dismissed the discomfort of that person.

That is some shit right there that I have to work on!  It is not as if I do not know the right way to respond to someone who tells you you have done something that hurt them.  You hold your own feelings and focus on theirs, acknowledge their feelings, apologize and without being defensive (which I was) you may acknowledge not meaning to be an ass.

That is what I plan to do next time I see this person.*  It is important for youth to have appropriate behavior modeled, and if I could not do it at that moment, at least I can acknowledge for that person that I fucked up and I am willing to do the right thing now.

Still, I have a harsh judgment of myself that I have not ingrained the appropriate responses into myself.  When someone tells me a story in which they have regret or shame or guilt, I tend to counsel a lot of self-compassion.  And I recognize that I too should counsel this for myself.  One can not guarantee the compassion of others, and we need compassion for our mistakes when we already know we did wrong.

I believe a lot of the reason we beat ourselves up so much is because we have grown such a fear of other's disapproval.  We are capable of hurting ourselves so much more than others, and we get to be in control.  Somehow, psychologically this feels better to a lot of us.

The problem with that much hurt, is that we undercut our ability to become better at what resulted in the mistake.  It is still appropriate to have humility, an understanding of our mistake and how it adversely affected others and ourselves; but feeling bad is only useful in telling us where we need to grow. Energy spent on continuing to make ourselves feel bad, takes energy away from improving ourselves and can set up a self fulfilling prophecy where we make the mistake again because we are so focused on it and on ourselves as bad.  Not to mention the tendency some of us have to then seek assistance from others (sometimes the ones we have wronged) to help us feel better.

So I tell myself as I tell all of us, "make this as right as possible, and you will be more careful in the future."

*There are times when it is inappropriate to go back even to apologize.  It has to do with the amount of abuse one sustained on another.  I do not think this is one of those times.