Before I dive into this, I want to alert my readers that this piece is different from my usual commentary. It’s not a political comparison. It’s not an examination of issues or candidates or COVID. Instead, it could be considered something of an editorial. It’s an existential examination and an open letter to everyone I’ve ever met, known or will ever know amidst the craziness of life. I am sorry.
First, a backstory — today I learned, to my shock and horror, that something I wrote in the past, something I intended and personally viewed as completely innocuous, was hurtful to someone I’ve known nearly all my life. The words I used, words I don’t even remember because to me they seemed insignificant, have stuck with him for months and I had no idea. Of course, I have since reached out personally to apologize, but it may be too late… only time will tell.
I thought about this experience all morning, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t low-key become somewhat defensive when confronted with this news. I did, because it’s easy to assume that a lack of clarity in OUR OWN intent is somehow the OTHER PERSON’S fault. I allowed myself a brief stent in “victim” land. I allowed myself to think, “it’s not my fault he misinterpreted my intent,” but as the day wore on, I was forced to shift my thinking.
Perception and perspective are what shape our individual realities. Psychologically, much of perception is a choice. Unless we’re really trying, we see things the way we want to, or more often, the way we’ve come to expect them to be… and our perspective on those things ultimately makes up who we are and how we do life. That led me to wonder, what about me, historically, might create a negative expectation in someone else? What about me is sending a message I don’t want to send? What about me is a poor representative of the person I want to be? Am I blind to my own “crappiness?”
The effort to step outside “self” for a while and look at the world with others in mind doesn’t come naturally. It’s an exercise in patience — patience with oneself. Given that we live in a world of “text communication,” social media, drama, conflict, assumption and presumption, our respective responsibilities to effective communication are all the more important. Even as a professional writer, it’s often hard to inject “tone” when communicating in text format. Things end up coming across completely differently than intended. It’s one of the great challenges of our digital age… and given the current climate, it’s no wonder we’ve seen so much turmoil on the interwebs and on the news of late, as “tweets” and “posts” have become the pinnacle of modern communication.
I have strong opinions, I have deep views, I have thoughts and concerns and faults and flaws and, well, I just don’t know. I don’t know so much… just like everyone else. And in the middle of all the noise, it takes extra effort to stand firm on the fact that I’m a Christian first, before anything else. I am a Christian before I’m a woman, before I’m white, before I’m a voter, an advocate, a wife, a mom, a professional, a friend, sister, daughter or neighbor. And it doesn’t matter what other people say or do, if I’m not navigating my life through the lens of my faith before anything else, and living accordingly, then I’m wrong, BECAUSE I’m a Christian FIRST. That’s not always popular to say out loud, but it’s who I am.
My faith teaches me to love others as myself, to live at peace with everyone as much as it depends on me, to be willing to admit my own faults, to speak in ways that edify, to avoid foolish strife and quarrel, to both seek forgiveness and readily forgive, to be patient with people, kind and long suffering… I could go on and on… The more I thought about this, the more self-aware I became — despite my greatest efforts. While I’ve long admitted to making mistakes and being imperfect, when confronted with the glaring reality of just how imperfect, it becomes hard to remain inactive.
Which brings me to the letter:
I am an eternal optimist, but even I will admit that the world is a messed up place. I have yet to talk to a single person who isn’t totally rattled right now. Mental exhaustion is the new black.
Politics is overwhelming. Hard stop.
Trying to examine both sides is like trying to drink from a fire hose.
It all feels like too much. Even the people who know all the things don’t know all the things. Emotions are running high, opinions are super charged, hyper-criticism has become the lifeblood of social media. Covid has turned life upside down.
Stress and fatigue can turn even the most brilliant person into a cowardly fool, and it seems like people everywhere are feeling the squeeze.
But regardless of our differing opinions, our polarizing views, our political perspectives, or the issues we find important, one thing remains true for us all: We’re all in this thing called life together and none of us are getting out of it alive. I have yet to meet a single person who is HAPPY about the chaos in the US, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, which is why we must embrace that the power to invoke peace lies within each of US.
I try to do all the right things, to have the right heart. I want to be the kind of person who walks the walk she talks. So today, after a long period of introspection, I asked myself, “what am I going to do about it?”
Well, I guess I can start with “I’m sorry.” I am sorry if, in my pride, I neglected to show you love when you needed it.
I am sorry if, in my ignorance, I said or did something that left you feeling less-than, hurt or belittled, or waiting for an apology that would never come.
I am sorry if, in my self-indulgence, I failed to live out the faith that I so boldly profess.
I am sorry if, in my carelessness, I have hurt you and never even knew about it or didn’t hear you when you needed to be heard.
I am sorry for all the times I failed to be the person I’m called to be — the person I WANT to be.
I am sorry for the times I’ve had an ugly heart and for the times I have said or done the wrong thing, for all the times I wasn’t a light.
I cannot promise that I’ll never make these mistakes again, but I can promise that I am learning and I am trying.
I cannot promise anyone else will follow suit in a vow to be more — but I can promise that those of us who are willing might just be the change the world needs right now.