Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Inside of my Heart

I wish I could take a scrub brush to the inside of my heart, and make it cleaner than it is. I hate that after all of the hard work I've done on myself, there is still judgement and anger lurking in there, ready to escape when triggered. I don't like falling back into people pleasing habits when I have learned that it only brings disappointment and resentment. I long to be kinder and more forgiving than I actually am.

I am grateful that I have come out into the light, and have way fewer places to hide, from others or from myself. I want to be accountable for my actions, thoughts and prejudices. Where I fail, I can recognize it and apologize. Simply having permission to make mistakes is a powerful thing that I wish I knew before the age of 37, but we can only work with insight as we become aware of it.

Part of not hiding who I really am means owning up to the darker sides of my human heart. When you spend a lifetime judging and feeling responsible for the decisions of others, it's not as easy as flipping a switch inside of you and becoming instantly loving and simultaneously able to maintain boundaries. There is a "one step forward and two steps back" dance which occurs when you are changing aspects of who you are.

It's all part of a process, and I need to improve in the area of extending grace to myself and to others. I hold myself to a high standard, sometimes an impossible one, and unconsciously I extend that bar to the people around me. When they don't hit it, I must manage my own judgements.

I have no idea if there is a limit for offering healthy love and support, or how you know you've reached the limit. It sounds good to say that love should always be unconditional between people, but how do you manage your expectations when they are repeatedly unmet, or when the person's actions are abhorrent to you and your sense of justice? I know for sure that I am no one's judge, especially because I know how black my own heart is. I also know I'm not responsible for other people's decisions, either good or bad, and that I would prefer to love instead of instruct. Beyond those things, it gets murky and I don't feel I'm standing on solid ground.

I honestly don't know how to love and support when I've been let down and when I don't see positive change in people. I'm hoping I will figure this out before I die, because I think it's an important part of living peaceably with my fellow man, but I don't like to be walked on while I'm showing love to someone. I struggle with this double-edged sword; it's easy to love those who are good to you, but significantly harder to offer that love to those who offend us with their words or deeds.

It does help to remember that we are all broken, to one degree or another. It takes time for people to work on themselves, and we can only improve in small ways at any given time, so the process is long and filled with ups and downs. I think that if I see forward motion I always feel better about the relationship. Perfection is not the goal, but growth and awareness of our shortcomings is important to me.

The inside of my heart has come a long way from where I was a few years ago, but I know I still have a lot of scrubbing to do to feel better about its condition. Patience is required, and healthy doses of humour and grace in equal measure. I want to learn how to love, even when it is uncomfortable to do so, and find the line between boundaries and support for people who don't always feel safe to me. The answers are often unclear, but as my confidence in myself grows, I believe I will one day see clearer answers than I do today.

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