Step 8 of the 12-step program I’m in is to make a list of all people I’ve harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
My list was 200 items long, and I felt deeply ashamed to share it with another person.
Alas, I did. One by one, I went through and explained each person and instance to my sponsor. Halfway through, we were cracking up. Why? Because some of my ideas of harming another were like:
WHEN I WAS SEVEN I STUCK MY TONGUE OUT AT A GIRL IN GYMNASTICS CLASS.
I LED A BOY ON WHEN I WAS 20 BECAUSE I WANTED ATTENTION.
I BROKE UP WITH SOMEONE WHO REALLY LIKED ME.
And for each of them she’s like, “Sounds like a regular seven year old to me.” Or, “sounds like a normal human relationship at age 20.”
I’m not condoning leading people on or being snarky or anything. But… These aren’t instances where I have to go back and find these people to apologize for my horrible transgressions. These are examples of where living amends will work just fine. Meaning… Moving forward, I’ll do better.
Sharing my list of people / places / animals / things I thought I’d harmed was immensely freeing for me. I’d held in so much shame and guilt about how horrible of a person I thought I was. If I was cranky toward another person, I’d spiral into shame. “I’m spiritual. I should know better. They didn’t deserve my anger.”
Out of the 200 items, turns out I owe amends to maybe 20. I’ve gone through and made most of them, and it’s been healing and freeing… But not for the reason I expected.
I expected to be forgiven for my horrible wrongdoings. I expected to free people from their pain based on me taking responsibility for my past horrendous actions. I’ve even expected for people to yell at me for how much I fucked up their lives.
Instead, people have been like, “Oh that? It happened so many years ago and wasn’t even a big deal. I haven’t thought about it at all.”
And I’m like…
BITCH WHAT I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THIS EVERY DAY FOR TEN YEARS.
80% of the people I’ve made amends with have said, “I really don’t think there’s anything to amend or apologize for. I appreciate the effort and everything, but… I have had zero hard feelings against you.”
And one guy where I really truly owed an amend was like, “Yea it sucked a lot and was painful, but it actually ended up being transformational for me and I wouldn’t have met my wife if that didn’t happen.”
Y’all. It turns out that I DO NOT HAVE THE STRONG IMPACT ON OTHERS THAT I THOUGHT I DID.
I DON’T RUIN PEOPLE’S LIVES JUST BY BEING HUMAN.
AND THIS ROCKS.
I mean, it poopoos on my ego a bit because I want to be massively important in some ways. On the other hand, I feel free. I feel like I can breathe more easily. I’m learning that I am human.
Part of being human is making mistakes. Being imperfect. Learning. Knowing better and doing better.
I’ve exhausted myself trying to prevent missteps, trying to be a perfect mate or friend or daughter or employee… And that has caused me and others more pain and strife than anything.
It’s impossible for me to anticipate and fill everyone’s needs. It’s impossible for me to go through life without ever hurting anyone’s feelings ever again. It’s impossible for me to make blog entries and Instagram posts that ONLY bring followers and NEVER cause people to lose interest.
It is impossible for me to be perfect.
I’ve known this logically, but that wasn’t enough. It didn’t stop me from trying, or from beating up on myself when I made a mistake.
The other night on a video chat with my boyfriend, I got a little spicy about a situation. After the call, I called him back to apologize. He goes, “For what???” And I told him, “Well I got angry about that situation.” And he’s like, “Rightfully so. It fires me up as well. You have nothing to apologize for.”
I’M ALLOWED TO HAVE HUMAN REACTIONS? I’m allowed to react in another way aside from calm, deep breaths and ohm-chanting and full immediately acceptance and grace?
You mean, I can be spiritual AND get angry sometimes? I can be going through an awakening AND sometimes have a bad attitude? Having occasional anxiety doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong or should SHIELD THE WORLD FROM HOW HORRIBLE I AM?
You mean… I can be exactly as I am in any given moment, and the rest of the world goes on spinning?
Well, then… I think I’ll go take it easy on myself.