I have a confession to make.
Kinda. Sorta. Not really. Not right now.
In the last year or so I’ve been really big on authenticity. I’ve been embracing my truth and interpretation because to deny or normalize what is uniquely me into what I think might be accepted means I’m not okay with myself. When I’m wrong, I quickly admit it and do my best to address it immediately.
On Friday I made a mistake at work. It was big enough to tie my stomach in knots and make my clumsiness much more pronounced. I even broke my coffee mug. I was holding it until I wasn’t and it tumbled out of my right hand and somersaulted out of reach after jumping through my left hand before shattering spectacularly on the concrete floor. Try to imagine the echoes I can’t forget. It was loud and probably applause worthy but certainly epic. I knew I had to own up to it and walked around the inside perimeter of the building trying to figure out how to fix it and decide if explaining what I did was something to do in person or by email. I decided to do it in person because I’m not big on hiding. Not lately. By the end of my run on sentence it wasn’t a big deal. It was even nothing that required more than a notation. I worried about nothing. The fact that I worried means that I cared, and my first concern was that I was creating more work for someone else to fix.
Confession is rarely for the benefit of the person we’re confessing to. When I confess something I’ve done it has gotten to the point where what I have done is making me uncomfortable. I’m not happy or at ease with what I have done, and removing the guilt and shame looks like telling on myself. I need you to know what I’ve done and the weight of what is on my shoulders needs to be explained so that you can see what I did. At the end of the confession, the confessor has a heavy burden lifted, without concern for the new weight sitting on the shoulders of the person they’ve confessed to.
It’s like admitting to a lover that you strayed while you were still unofficial. You unburden your conscience but with little regard to the person you say you love. They now have to carry your actions they might have been okay living blissfully ignorant of.
When we offer forgiveness, it’s a gift we give ourselves. We don’t have to tell a person we forgive them. If they’ve done something wrong, they will have to find a way to make it better. If they confess, giving your forgiveness means they still have to accept it and let it ease the disquiet of their actions. In giving forgiveness, you release them from the responsibility of your feelings. In forgiving, you give something to yourself so that you feel peace about a situation. There is no reason you need to make someone feel better about how they treated you. They will have to find a way to feel better about what they did or failed to do. Forgiveness is something we sometimes need to repeatedly offer for a single offense. Sometimes a single situation has a myriad set of reactions that become unreleased offenses. For me, this looked like my ex leaving, and every single way my life changed for the worse become an unreleased offense until I realized this was the greatest gift beyond our kids he could’ve given me.
What I’m still learning is that when I do something wrong, and I’ve confessed and been forgiven, the hardest thing to do is to accept my own forgiveness for breaking a commitment to being the person I want to be. I have to forgive myself for something I did when I didn’t stand up straighter for my beliefs.
When I was just out of high school I had a friend that was one of my favorite people. We hung out together. We drank together. One night at a party, I was very nearly gang raped in my own bedroom. A guy I was seeing left me alone to grab this friend, who burst through the door, yanked me off my bed and ended the party for me while I sat and shivered on a couch between him and other friends. A while later he was angry with his girlfriend and I stood between him and her with his fists raised in anger. I knew he was hitting her and I repeatedly chose our friendship over what I knew was right. Over 8 years ago I decided I couldn’t condone that and I completely severed the friendship. I still haven’t forgiven myself for what I did in accepting him and not telling her to leave him sooner than I did, then walking away to not be involved. It’s enough to leave a sad look on my face that makes others ask if I’m okay. I wasn’t okay and that in itself is perfectly appropriate.
I’m trying to teach my boys that an apology isn’t enough. There are some things I really am sorry for and when I do something wrong, I try to apologize. I apologize to my sons a few times a week at minimum. Sometimes I apologize to the air I’m breathing because there are times my rage is so much stronger than the debt I feel to the person I’m angry with. Being angry has nothing to do with right or wrong. What I feel doesn’t legitimize what I do because of feelings. You know what feels right to you instinctively and human brains are usually good at deciding the rest. There is no reason to feel other than how you feel or to apologize or explain it.
When I say I’m sorry, and I really mean it, I will go into the ways I felt I’ve wronged someone and I will tell them what it made me feel about myself. I will tell my kids I’m sorry I yelled. I lost it and my reaction is not your fault. I will do better next time because nothing means more to me than you do. (Even a fight that leaves another broken dish on the floor.) I will try to correct the committed offense and ensure it won’t happen again because being the mother I want them to have means fewer therapy costs. Anything less and I’m breathing air and it’s meaningless.