I was told sometime back by a close friend that she was shocked my family had stuff to work through because it seemed from the outside like we were all super close and got along great. We are close. We definitely get along. But we, like every family so far that I’ve heard about, have our things to work through.
Everyone is going through it
I used to hate this about us. I’ve never felt good about conflict or confrontation. I shy away, bury and internalize. I also never wanted people to see or know just how much we could struggle with our relationships at times. I wanted us to look normal. Not perfect like the feeds I see on Instagram — those lives seem unrealistically perfect — just plain old normal.
I always thought anyone who got to know us closely must feel like we were a mess. We must come off so dysfunctional, I’d tell myself. I was in judgment of my family, of my role in it all, and sometimes left like a victim about it. It was and continues to be something I struggle with and feel shameful about.
Over time, as the relationships around me began to become more authentic, I learned everyone’s family had these same types of issues, themes, struggles and great times all mixed in. It’s the entire spectrum of feeling for most people. I can honestly say I haven’t spoken to anyone who doesn’t have these types of hang ups. And yet, I still judged and resisted mine.
I don’t know where I got this need to look good, or blend in, or this deep craving to be accepted by other people. But it’s always been there and it shows up the most with my family. I want us to appear so normal, to be so normal, that whenever conflict arises, I resist it hard. I may even be making it worse.
People fight. People have problems. People love each other. People work through it.
I realize there are plenty of people speaking up about this and being transparent about the real life that goes on when no one is looking. I’m no pioneer, but I would like to be one more voice of complete honesty and vulnerability. If nothing else, so I lose my own fear of looking good or being embarrassed. I would like to write this in case someone stumbles upon it in search of acknowledgement and proof that we all go through these things. Because this is what I crave in those moments. I seek out people who are going through the same thing in an effort to not feel alone, or crazy, or like a horrible person for struggling with these things. I feel better when someone bravely shares their baggage. It makes me feel less alone.
Mainly, the things I work through with my family stem from misunderstandings, assumptions and poor communication. And because of it, I’ve been able to develop a deep sense of empathy and non-judgment for others who are going through the same. People can tell me about their familial or romantic relationships, and I can listen and assure them, sincerely, that it’s all good and well. But I have not been able to successfully apply this same empathy and assurance to myself or for my family. I’m harder on us. I still want us to look normal, and be “normal.”
Here’s the thing about judgment… its persnickety presence doesn’t remain isolated. With my friends and most people, I can be the space of total non judgment and empathy. Seriously, you can all but murder someone (even then!) and I will understand and intently listen in acknowledgement. However, for the people who hurt me or offend me in some way or who are related to me, it’s pretty astounding how quick my judgments and assumptions come out.
And it doesn’t feel good to me. That’s how I can tell I’m inherently not meant to be in judgment, because I don’t feel good judging others. It may feel somewhat satisfying in the moment, but right after I begin to feel a strange physical feeling in my stomach. I think it’s my own body letting me know this isn’t who I am.
I’m learning it’s not possible to have a conversation on judgment without forgiveness. I’ve known I have it in me to toggle between both extremes of complete and utter acceptance and compassion to harsh judgment and assumptions. This is because I haven’t forgiven myself for being judgmental. I haven’t forgiven myself for being human and having a negative reaction in a moment of defensiveness. Because that’s the only place it ever comes from, a place of fear. I don’t judge random people, I judge when I feel like I’m not being accepted, when I feel hurt by someone. And from that space of hurt, I become defensive… and then I judge. It’s a vicious cycle. And it doesn’t happen often, but it’s happened enough to know it’s time to let it go.
I believe when you’re fundamentally ready for something, it finds its way to you. And not a moment sooner. When we really commit to what we want, then we’ll create the circumstances to give us that. I committed recently to let go of this judgment, to forgive myself and to forgive whatever hurt I’ve been holding onto. I didn’t know how to do it because the feelings didn’t go away just because I said it. This happens a lot, I find. We make a commitment, get tested, and if we don’t reaffirm that commitment, it gets replaced by a new commitment… perhaps to be frustrated by our circumstances and give up. So, I pushed through even though it kept coming up. And then finally, I got an angel who held enough space for me to forgive. And I took a first real step in forgiving. And it felt fantastic. Better than fantastic. Amazing.
I’m not going to end this post with the direction to forgive, because it’s fucking hard. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of forgiveness.
But here’s what I’ll do, because I’ve experienced the power of someone holding the space for me to forgive, which wasn’t telling me to or leading me to forgive, but simply seeing me and acknowledging that I am capable of forgiving. Sort of like a hey… I’ll hold the space for you for when you’re ready. I’m gonna put that love out there for you. Just so you know, it’s there waiting for you.
Whoever you are, if I know you or not, if you’re one person or more who end up reading this post because the title resonated with you… I hold space for you to forgive.
I hold space for you to forgive yourself, even if you don’t want it or think you need it.
If you’ve been hard on yourself, I hold the space for you to forgive. If you have grudges, I hold the space for you to forgive. If you have anger or resentment, I hold space for you to forgive.
And if you don’t need forgiveness but want to know you’re not alone, please know I acknowledge you, and I see you. You’re not alone. None of us are.