By Ashley Williams
Have you ever hurt someone you truly cared about? Done something you’re ashamed of or something that people made you feel shame for? Have you ever lied, been deceitful or dishonest? How about selfish, greedy or arrogant? I’m not talking about the self-care kind of selfish; I mean the “I don’t care about anyone except myself” type of selfishness. Have you ever felt so defeated with shame and guilt that you couldn’t imagine coming back from it? I have. I think most of us have. If you say you’ve always been ALL good ALL the time, then maybe you are being dishonest with yourself.
I’m not trying to call anyone out. We are a prideful people, and it can be hard to accept we have hurt someone. But I think it’s important to own the fact that we aren’t perfect people. Everyone is entitled to mistakes. We often like to put caps on the number of mistakes someone can make. A lot of the time that means ONE mistake. If we’re lucky we may even get a second chance. We also feel like we have the right to tell people what mistakes are forgivable. We pretend like we are omnipotent. But I can say that I’ve messed up more times than once and I’ve been regretful.
Now I also acknowledge that there are situations in which people harm someone in such a way that is beyond repair to the relationship (domestic violence, abuse, manipulation, etc.). Some people have a habit of engaging in these behaviors often and trap themselves in a cycle where it is extremely hard to not hurt others. This isn’t an excuse; it’s the reality. I’ve seen it and heard it too many times. My hope for these types of people is that they are able to get the help they need in order to become better human beings. I hope that they find empathy and ways to correct their trauma. However, this post isn’t for those people. This post is for all of us who have messed up and have the capacity to do better.
Every night before I go to bed, I pray to God that I can better person each and every day. I pray that I can be mindful of the impact I have on others and be a positive image in someone’s life. I fall short of this, sometimes several times a day. But I desperately want to be better and continue to grow into the plan God has for me. I sincerely believe, no matter if you are religious, spiritual, have no faith or are still trying to figure things out, that everyone deserves the opportunity to be better people. See, I”ve been internally struggling with the concept of “good” and “bad”. I think we all are both good and bad. We all do things that are questionable and at the same time, we all have the ability to be empathetic, kind, and compassionate.
Let’s talk about redemption. Redemption is mostly associated with religion. In a broader spectrum, I think through this idea of being relieved from the wrong things you have done is so important. The bible talks about the love God has for us, regardless of the things we do. In fact, it says there is nothing we can do to stop God’s ever-flowing love. Yall, NOTHING WE CAN DO. Before I turn off non-religious folks and those that are unsure of their faith (because I believe there is a message in this for all of us), imagine for a second what would happen if we continued to love those around us, regardless of the things they did. And again, not to say that this means the relationships will be sustained. But WOW. Regardless of where you’ve come from and what you’ve done, there will be unconditional, never-ending love; the pure love of people.
My personal fear is that if I forgive someone, I am saying “it’s okay that you hurt me,” but that’s not what forgiveness is. That’s not redemption. What if the key to all our troubles was to love a little bit harder? I think it’s possible to be delivered from all the wrong things we did and all the times we were selfish or hurt others. But y’all, the thing about redemption is that it has to be sincere. You have to genuinely want to be better and grow from the experience. I know it’s hard, but you have to want it. The other side of redemption is forgiveness. I touched on this a bit but it’s honestly another topic for another time. This week, I challenge everyone to put love, compassion, empathy, and a will to change and understand at the center of everything you do. And experience how the power of love and acceptance alters your week.
Ashley Williams is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC.