I think I may have a superpower. I think, maybe, I am capable of forgiving anyone, ever, for anything. Not immediately, but eventually. I have a gift for understanding perspectives that are different than mine, and once you see that behind a decision you don’t like or agree with is just another person like you, trying to figure life out and not get hurt more than they have to, its pretty impossible to hold on to your anger or judgement.
There’s only one person I’ve struggled to forgive when they’ve screwed up or hurt someone I love.
Today a poor decision I made several months ago in the throws of complete heartbreak came back to haunt me, as I somehow always knew it would. It had been a month since Cowboy left me and the reconciliation that seemed possible at first was fading more with each passing day. Friends had been urging me to take a night off from being sad, hit up the local bar, and have some “fun” – whatever that meant. Believe me, I like a (few) cold beer(s), some loud country music, and good times as much as anyone, and I’d been wanting to hang with these friends (that I shared mutually with Cowboy) anyway. But I knew. I KNEW I was in a dangerous state of mind, and adding a night out and a bar full of cute guys in jeans was not at all a good idea for me. I was 100% in love with Cowboy, but every day that he slipped further and further away, my grief piled up higher and higher, just crushing me and my will to do the right thing.
I should clarify what I mean by the “right thing.” I mean pray for him, trust God’s plan, and not do anything dramatic that I couldn’t take back. I understand (and did at the time) that we were NOT together. I was free to do as I wished, as was he. But I sat on that porch swing the night we broke up and said exactly what I meant, which was that my feelings for him were strong and true and I believed he was worth waiting for and working for. None of that had changed the night I went out. It still hasn’t.
But my new Wranglers were fitting just right and after a little pre-gaming, I marched right into that bar and had a great damn time. My friends made me laugh, I met some fun new folks and even got out on the floor for a little line dancing. But as the night progressed and alcohol went from a stimulant to a depressant, Cowboy flooded my mind. I kept getting sadder, and then angry.
Why was I being so good about all this? All I had to show for my patience and understanding and respect for Cowboy was a lonely, aching, completely broken heart. I’d never known pain like this – not surprising for someone who’d never been in love before, but when it happens, there’s no way to brace yourself. It is a tidal wave and there is no outrunning it. And I was angry. So angry. I shook my emotional fists God and demanded to know why THIS was the fallout for just trying to love someone well.
Well, at just the right moment, my giant fireball of anger and despair met with the flirtatious touch of a new acquaintance who knew Cowboy and I decided that I was exhausted and broken and hurt and so I let him kiss me awhile.
I hated it.
Not that he was a bad guy, or even a bad kisser, but it made my skin crawl because all I wanted was Cowboy. He was all I could think of and the ache in my chest rose to completely unbearable levels. When I felt the tears start, I knew I was kissing this guy for all the wrong reasons and I was completely ashamed I would make such an immature, desperate choice and waste my precious kisses on a guy I cared nothing for. What was I doing? I was beyond this, especially having experienced what it is like to be kissed by someone who adores you for all the things that make you who you are and no one else. So, I shut it down. Many friends tell me those moments of kissing barely register on the scale of post-breakup mistakes, but thing about mistakes is that they aren’t relative. The moment you betray yourself, even worse when you betray the respect you have for someone else and their importance to you, the mistake is as big as it needs to be. (Again, please don’t misunderstand my use of “respect” to mean fidelity. I know I was free there.)
It all swept away by the next day. The guy barely recalled the previous night. I had stumbled, learned painfully from it, and wanted to forget it forever, and just prayed Cowboy wouldn’t ever have to know that I’d acted in such opposition to my character and my feelings for him. I dusted myself off, and from that moment I can honestly say I’ve put my respect for Cowboy and my honor for the powerful feelings I have for him before any other rash, immature decisions I’ve wanted to make (and there have been plenty).
But when I learned two nights ago that the guy had finally spilled the beans, my heart sank. I only have secondhand accounts of his reaction (surprise, then apparent indifference – though from Cowboy I wouldn’t have expected a reaction in public anyway), but I feel sick thinking how this may have changed his perception of me. I know if the situation was reversed, it would cast some serious doubts on the validity of the feelings I was promised and the integrity of the person who promised them. And yes, I know I’m a girl and we over-think things, and yes, I know he’s moved on and probably hasn’t given half a shit what I do with anyone for a long time now, and yes, I know it’s not like I cheated on him and yes, I know we all do completely stupid things when we’re drowning in heartbreak and grief.
I haven’t spoken to him about it, or heard from him, and I have a feeling I won’t be seeing or hearing from him for a while now. Which, really, might be best for many reasons beyond just this situation. I’m praying that if an apology needs to happen, God will provide us an opportunity to speak.
But what I’m really in need of is the ability to forgive myself, whether or not I need or will get the chance to apologize to Cowboy. I have hated myself for this choice every minute since it happened and have yet to get past it, because it was such a deliberate choice to step outside of the wise, rooted, compassionate, good woman that I am and be selfish and reckless instead. And if I’m being completely honest (which I promised to always be, here), I feel like God is full-on smiting me for that moment. I feel like God is sneering at me, saying, “Yeah, I know you’ve been trying to do the right thing and honor Me the 300,000 minutes or so since you lost him, but you screwed up for about 20 of them so you know what TOO BAD, get ready for some pain.”
Fortunately, along with my own true voice, I also have the voices of good friends who have reminded me that is NOT God. For whatever reason this all came to light, it wasn’t to punish me or wound Cowboy, because God is the source of love and healing and forgiveness. And I know that He wants me to grow and trust even more, neither of which will ever happen if I can’t find the ability to forgive MYSELF when I stumble. My friends have been kind and understanding, God has forgiven me for all my failures in the past AND those yet to come, and if Cowboy is man I believe him to be, I think he could forgive me too. But none of that matters if it stops short of me showing myself the same grace I’m hoping to receive from others. None of that love or compassion or grace can ever do its beautiful work on my soul if I have the walls of self-loathing permanently in place.
As my lovely friend Brittany said to me, “Grace upon grace.” Oh God, give me grace upon grace. If I am really Yours, I have to be grace upon grace as well, even to myself.