Last holiday season I witnessed people deny responsibility for themselves, rage irrationally and act petty, jealous and egotistical. They were abusive to others, in denial about their behavior and experienced a total loss of control.
The total loss of control was mine actually. After witnessing all of this craziness, I really lost it.
I’m not only talking about losing my temper, which I definitely did, I’m talking about losing control. But guess what I forgot in the middle of all this madness? I don’t have any control. I lost something I never even had. What made me think I had power and influence over other people anyway?
One reason is because they are people I’ve known since birth (that gives me the right, doesn’t it?). I tend to be much less tolerant to the people I have a long history with. And I find myself playing out old patterns of behavior before my brain even registers what triggered it. Sometimes, all it takes is a look, a word, or a sigh from them and I’m off!
Another reason is because they were wrong.
In my opinion, they were hurting themselves and others because of their behavior. I felt it was my responsibility to teach this to them – to teach them the right way to be. Even though they wouldn’t listen, I was SURE if I said it again, or in a different way, or a little louder, I could convince them. I thought I could bully them into happiness, which would make everyone else happy too, including me. Well, especially me.
I heard someone say once, “if you think you’ve become so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” Yes, I can see how effective this test is. Clearly, I have work to do.
I know I could have observed all of the madness and not gotten involved. Maybe I could have even been unaffected by it! There was a voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re going to regret this. Stop now.” But I didn’t know how to stop the pattern from playing out, so I ignored it. What did I accomplish?
Well, for one thing, I alienated myself from them. Even though this felt easier at first, it didn’t actually feel good. But more importantly, I felt guilty after. I mentally beat myself up because I “knew better.” I berated myself for hurting people, whether or not they deserved it. I criticized myself because I was not acting like the person I choose to be today!
Then, I remembered something crucial. It’s the one thing we should never forget because it is so primary to our happiness and growth. Feeling guilty and punishing yourself for screwing up is a complete waste of precious time and accomplishes absolutely nothing! Of course, I’ve always known that forgiving myself is an essential aspect in loving myself. But sometimes we know things on an intellectual level only. It takes a long time for some lessons to get from our head to our heart.
There’s knowing. And then there’s KNOWING.
KNOWING goes deep into our Being. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Repetition is the only way to get into a state of Knowingness. It’s the only way to go beyond the intellectual.
This means we are going to make mistakes – and as long as we learn from them, we’re on the right road. I know the little voice in the back of my head wasn’t always there warning me to “stop” in the midst of my losing control. At first, it wasn’t there at all. Not before, during or after – because I wasn’t conscious that I was doing anything wrong! (There’s a great short poem about this on my blog: Click here to read).
Once we recognize that making mistakes is okay – not just okay, but necessary – you find yourself forgiving other people for they’re unconsciousness, too.
May you KNOW forgiveness today!