Accountability is a tough one. It borders that very fine line between victim blaming and owning your own stuff. But it is so, so, so important. We can’t shy away from it simply because it is uncomfortable or confusing.
When I went through my divorce, it was easy to point fingers at my ex-husband. He made a lot of rather public mistakes, whereas my mistakes were more private, more subtle. But that didn’t make them any less real.
Our relationship had been broken for a long time, from the very beginning, if I’m honest about it. It was one of those relationships that was meant to be for all the wrong reasons.
We both needed to grow up, and for that reason, we were good for each other. We grew through the experience of treating each other like dirt. Yikes! How’s that for a bitter pill?
Admitting that I made mistakes in the relationship doesn’t absolve my ex-husband of his wrongs done to me. It doesn’t justify the way he treated me. Far from it. Accountability isn’t a tit-for-tat. Anyone who turns it into that is completely missing the point.
In order to forgive yourself, you must first identify what it is you’re forgiving yourself for. It wasn’t easy to admit that I’d screwed up too. But it was necessary for my own healing. And it was absolutely necessary in order for me to Redefine Love.
When I made the decision to distance myself from my family of origin, to set boundaries so I could heal and release myself and my children from the Shame Cycle we were caught up in, I had to once again dig deep and be accountable for my own mistakes in the relationships.
I’d let too much slide for far too long. I’d allowed other people to define who I was and what I stood for. I pretended to be this whole other self for the sake of the status quo.
The shame and humiliation I felt when I admitted these things in therapy was almost too much to be borne. But the burden that was released after was a freedom like I’d never known.
I can’t imagine now how I’d carried the secret weight of my shame all those years. It was literally crushing me. As difficult as it is sometimes to deal with the strained family relationships, I would never go back to pretending just to maintain an impossible false pretense of perfection.
In this case, it’s my turn to make the “public” mistakes. I get to be the bad guy, the prodigal son – or daughter – in this case. But I don’t feel prodigal in the least.
(Prodigal as defined Biblically. The secular definition is one who spends money lavishly, which I most definitely do not – I am famously cheap. Biblically speaking, for those not familiar with the story, the prodigal is the son who turns his back on his family and the father accepts him back lovingly, no questions asked, when he returns impoverished, dirty, and broken.)
I am not impoverished, dirty, nor broken. I am more whole than I’ve ever been. I do not blame anyone for my mistakes. I’ve made them. Lots of them. They are mine and mine alone. They are a part of the story of Me, along with my successes and victories. I claim them all.
The admission of my mistakes does not absolve others of theirs. I have been wronged mightily in my life. I deserve apologies that I have accepted I will never receive. I have made peace with that. I have forgiven those who have trespassed against me.
I understand that we are all the bad guy in someone’s story. And I’m okay with that.
Published December 3, 2018