L'Innocence by Adolphe-William Bouguereau
A few decades ago, my precocious daughter said something we’ve laughed about for years. She was playing in grandpa’s workshop when one of Dad’s friends jokingly said to her, "Hello, little boy!”
She stared him in the eyeball, making sure she had his full attention and said, “I’m not a boy!”
“Sorry about that!” he teased, chuckling to himself. “Guess I made a mistake.”
“That was not a mistake, mister!” she retorted, “That was a lesson.”
Were you recently conned by a person you trusted? Did someone told you to “Fluck off!” when you thought your respect was reciprocal? Maybe your innocence & trust were not rewarded with fidelity. Maybe you were cheated on, deceived and abandoned without warning. Maybe you had faith in a silver-tongued Guru only to discover she’s a ScrewU selling happiness as something she has & you don’t. A little cash, a chunk of your integrity and she’ll spread the joy just ‘cuz she loves you so very, very much.
Maybe you joined a vitamin program sounding like a dream come true: “Order now! We CARE about YOUR health, WEALTH, and HAPPINESS.” Two hundred bucks later, you’re left with a bitter taste in your mouth; the same bald spot you started with; cellulite looking gorgeous compared to your pitted self-esteem; depression because a ScrewU’s claims of perpetual happiness were fraudulent. (Maybe she shared her Secret for a price, but she’ll never share the results of her psychological diagnosis no matter what you’re willing to pay.)
At some point in our lives, we’ll place unrealistic hope in a hopeless scam. We will. When we discover we were conned, manipulated, & duped, the reality of what happened chips at our self-esteem, forcing us to question our culpability and fear our vulnerability.
As an older woman, I have to say that maturation is an endless series of mistake making: trusting the untrustworthy, loving the unlovable, believing the unbelievable, and trying our best to control the uncontrollable.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of about that. But we are. We’re so ashamed we don’t want to tell anyone; we fear social judgment for having been foolish. We dread isolation from family, friends and yes, the social support we desperately need. Of course we don’t want to talk about what happened. It’s not an irrational response. Even well-meaning friends unconsciously protect themselves by thinking (and sometimes saying), “What’d ya do wrong?”
Our perceptions were valid, after all.
People avoid identification with us because it threatens their sense of safety. It threatens their assumptions of a Just World based on cause and consequence, giving meaning to everyone’s choices because of reasonably predictable outcomes. Listen, I’m partial to the just world hypothesis, too; but my partiality doesn’t make it valid. How do I know that?
‘Cuz good people are taken advantage of everyday, having done nothing to merit the consequences.
If there were no predators, no manipulators, no coN artists, and no pathologically selfish people in our world, then maybe a Just World Hypothesis would be credible. But that isn’t our reality. We must accept our responsibility to create the Just World ourselves. This requires active involvement by conscientious people limiting the conscience-less who refuse to restrict themselves because as long as we do nothing, they can do everything.
Stand up for what you know to be right. Bless your many virtues one-by-one and never sully innocence as a defect of character, nor demean your highest virtues as lowly crimes.
"To err is human, which means never erring is a red-flag herring." (You can quote me on that since you might get sued if you attribute it to a bona fide author.)
I won’t minimize the challenge it is trusting our selves again, though it's an even more daunting challenge trusting others. Our willingness to wrestle with the demons of distrust builds character strength and plants hardy seeds for spiritual growth.
So don’t resist this painful struggle by saying, “Mistakes were made but NOT by me.”
It’s not a mistake, after all. It's a lesson.
Hugs to all my fellow mistake-makers!
Tavris, Carol & Aronson, Elliot. Mistakes were Made but Not By Me