would you still take me?
I've heard it said that guilt and anger are like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. Which, obviously, sounds pretty silly. But let me ask you this: are you holding on to guilt or anger? Do you think about all the dumb things you've said or done and felt terrible even though there's nothing you can do about it?
I do. It kicks my butt regularly. Sometimes I lie awake at night and go over something stupid I said years ago and agonize over it. I know I can't change it. And yet, here I am, thinking about that one time I said "You too!" to the waiter who said, "Enjoy your food!" like the dumbest boy in all the land.
If you're like me, you've done some cringy and/or stupid things in your life. If you haven't, then I'm proud of you and you should read on so that you know how the rest of us feel.
I've been making the rounds on some of the music I listened to a lot in high school. My brother and I had gotten into a lot of Christian rock, which I've talked about a lot in previous posts. One of the bands that we were really into is called As Cities Burn. They're kind of hard to define, mainly because each album was almost a different genre, which is super cool because most artists don't really evolve that drastically. Technically, they started as post-hardcore and then kinda meandered over to indie rock, but that's not really important.
Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest is incredibly chaotic. It's As Cities Burn at their craziest and angriest. There's a lot going on lyrically and musically, which is why their second album Come Now Sleep was a total surprise. Super mellow compared to their first album. One of my favorite tracks is called "Wrong Body", which you can check out below.
"If I make it to heaven / I may be as bloody as hell / would you still take me?"
I've thought about this song a lot while writing this post. If you read the lyrics, which are fairly simple, the song is talking about forgiveness and how hard we are on ourselves as well as how some branches of Christianity view God. I'm not really here to talk about religion, so we'll skip that part.
I like to think that the first lines of the song are directed at each of us. After going through a bunch of really bad things, after making a bunch of mistakes, after doing things that we regret on a daily basis, will we accept ourselves for who we are and where we've been? Or will we spend the rest of our days hating ourselves because of our life experiences?
That's a big question.
Here's another one: When presented with forgiveness from other people, will we accept it? Will we make peace with the things we've said or done and let it go? Or will we continually feel bad about it, beat ourselves up over it, and let it affect our relationships with the people we care about the most?
I can tell you that I've struggled with both. On my good days, none of this stuff makes it to the surface. On my not-so-good days, I replay events over and over and get trapped in this cycle of self-loathing and regret and grief. Needless to say, I don't really feel qualified to be giving advice on this subject. However, through all of my years on this earth, I have found some things that might possibly help.
- Attempt to make amends quickly.
- When you can't, make peace and move on.
- Recognize when you're falling down the rabbit hole.
- Say your thoughts out loud.
- Practice mindful unmindfulness.
- Learn from what haunts you.
- When you can choose to be right or kind, choose to be kind.
Alright, let's start at the logical place: number 4. Just kidding. Number 1 it is!
Attempt to make amends quickly. By apologizing quickly and hopefully having honest and open communication with the person or persons involved, you can potentially avoid years of bad juju inflicted on yourself. Recognizing early on that you've said or done something hurtful, whether intentional or unintentional, then making it right will allow you and your conscience to rest easier than leaving it unresolved. There will be times where this one is impossible, which leads us to number 2.
When you can't, make peace and move on. There will be times in your life where you won't be able to make amends with someone, and that's okay. We encounter this a lot with friends and family members who have passed on, as well as those still living. In both cases, constructing hypothetical situations where you get to say what you wanted to say isn't really gonna do you any good. Instead, reflect on what you'd truly want to say, then write it down and either burn it or send it up into the sky with a balloon or a paper lantern. Whatever you need to do to come to terms with your situation (within the bounds of reason), is also fair game.
I'm not gonna lie to you, making peace and moving on can SUCK. Like, a lot. It can be an intense, exhausting, and time-consuming process. When you have strained relationships with living family members, sometimes the best thing you can do is to set up boundaries and stick to certain topics of discussion, as well as limit the time you spend with them.
Recognize when you're falling down the rabbit hole. This one is tricky because you have to pay attention to where your mind is going. After some practice, you'll get pretty good at knowing when you're about to take a tumble down the Feels-Bad-Man hole and end up in Regret City with a one-way ticket to I'm-Such-A-Doofus-ville. That's why the next two are important.
Say your thoughts out loud. By vocalizing our concerns, worries, or irrational thoughts, we give ourselves an opportunity to recognize how silly they are and correct them. This works wonderfully in a lot of scenarios, especially with intrusive thoughts. You can also make a list of why the thought in question isn't valid or should be dismissed. Basically, vocalizing these thoughts give us a chance to refute them, correct them, and remember them the next time they come around.
Practice mindful unmindfulness. What? Yeah, it's not a word. I know. Chill. Anyway, oftentimes we get into loops of negative thoughts because we let our minds wander. Your train of thought should be free to chug its way across the landscape of your conscious and/or subconscious, but make sure to notice where the conductor is taking you. This one ties in with number three on the above list.
Learn from what haunts you. The really neat thing about going through a crappy situation, doing something we regret, or making otherwise dumb decisions is that it gives us a really good opportunity to learn something. Heck, you could even learn more than one thing! By analyzing why we're hung up on what happened, sometimes we can find out ways to change our thoughts or behavior to reduce or eliminate the possibility of making that mistake again.
When you can choose to be right or kind, choose to be kind. I don't know that this needs much of an explanation, but here it is. By being kind and choosing to follow our moral compass/conscience/whatever you'd like to call it, we can sometimes avoid feelings of regret simply by making the best choice possible.
Long story short, at the end of the day we are still worthy of love. We are worthy of being loved and loving others. We are worthy of forgiveness. We are worthy of compassion, and empathy, and understanding. Despite how messed up we may be, despite our scars, despite being bloody as hell, we are worthy of happiness and we are worthy of a second chance.
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