Jezebel is a blog that runs articles making fun of people for a range of normal human behavior to true outliers of people being self-serving, ignorant, or apathetic to the harm they cause. As a feminist blog, it’s usually women they are making fun of. Right now the biggest targets are Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and fellow conservative but unconnected to white house (or anything other than a pop news show) Meghan McCain.
This weekend they ran a story making fun of presidential candidate Marianne Williamson for believing that someone accused of sexual misconduct on her opponent’s campaign could be worthy of redemption. She said “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in redemption. I believe in people rising up after they’ve fallen down.” This seems like an aspirational belief not only morally but taking into account the way a person who forgives functions in society compared to someone stuck on punishment and revenge. It’s an idea that helps people see each other as fallible human beings, not unworthy of love because we fall short of the people we want to be.
Marianne’s actions say, it is good and natural to strive and fail. It is good and natural to dust yourself off and try again.
I think it feels good to blame our problems on someone but by waking up every day and reading or writing about how this person or that person is evil and causing us all to be unhappy, we are getting farther away from being happy, emotionally healthy people. We are separating ourselves from other humans, who are our only teammates. The way we judge others is the way we can’t help but view ourselves. When every mistake is a reason to cancel someone forever, we can’t help but be unforgiving of ourselves when we act in any way that’s less than perfect.
I have made so many mistakes in my life and they are painful moments and every time I think about them I have to consider how I ended up in that mess. My mistakes have made me seek therapy or remove myself from relationships. They’ve made me reflect on negative aspects of my personality and think about why I was rude to someone or why I took pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. They are benchmarks I can use to measure progress when I make a goal like “I don’t want to take my fear that I am not worthy of love out on other people.”
My mistakes even help me realize little things, like how crabby I can get when I haven’t eaten or slept well. They are a prompts for questioning and real change, even if it takes many of the same mistakes to build to the moment where I begin to change. Mistakes are our teachers. There is no one living a life in which they are not learning from their mistakes.
Two of the most personally inspirational things I have read about how I want to think about and treat others came from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and an interview Erykah Badu did with New York Magazine. Viktor said that you couldn’t tell what a person was like just because they were a prisoner or a guard at the camp. Some prisoners turned other prisoners in for minor infractions in order to get extra food for themselves. Some guards snuck as much food in as they could. Being on the side of good doesn’t automatically make you good, and vice versa. Erykah said that she wants freedom and redemption for people who are or were slaves, but also freedom and redemption for the slave owners.
These views feel like freedom to me.
It’s not my job to make sure other people are punished for their bad behavior. It’s my job to hope for and expect them to redeem themselves, so that they can be part of the team of humanity and we can take on the real threats to our communities: discord between it’s members and damage to our planet. We’re not going to build a world where we can take care of the most impoverished among us if we can’t come together and agree that we need to build a world where we can take care of the most impoverished among us. And I believe this is a community value that all humans share, even if we have to search for consensus on what this looks like. We need to make each other feel safe to make mistakes and share their opinions. We need to be open to cooperation
Instead of cancelling someone, can we be patient with them? Can we let them be an imperfect human being and love them anyway? Can we (gently) help them learn a better way?
I just want us to be on the same side. There are real problems we have to work on as a community and the longer we are at war with each other the longer we delay making this a better country for everyone. What I am trying to say is that we are an ecosystem. We need each other and we serve different purposes. None of us our only good (or evil).
When you make a mistake, consider that you don’t have to punish yourself. You could just try to be curious about what went wrong and learn something. You could just try to do better next time. You are not unworthy because you get something wrong.
When someone else makes a mistake and you feel yourself wanting revenge, try to hope for redemption instead. Try to hope that the other person learns and joins you and you both can try together to make a better life for everyone. When you go forward in life and make your own mistakes, whatever voice of judgement you have cultivated for others will be the same one that speaks to you. Try to make it a healthy one.