By: Gabriela Yareliz
The insights of the month of June. The insights come to me in between the walks past the bakery that just opened, with its “Grand Opening” funeral flowers, getting elbowed in the face while exiting the train (almost broken glasses– nerdy much?)– only to find the permanently broken escalators of the train stations. Broken escalator means feed the Fitbit or die underground. They come to me. They come to me in weird moments. But thank God, they come.
“I believe in redemption,” my soul sister EA said. Life is filled with new opportunities, every time we take a breath. She reminded me that these opportunities are to be seized. God will often throw us a second-third-fourth-fifth chance to make something be what we always dreamed. He does this because He loves us. He does this to position us for the greatness He has prepared for us.
I was reading Elaine Welteroth’s book, More than Enough. As we grow up, sometimes we screw things up or we don’t fully see all we deserve or life screws things up for us. Sometimes, we are casualties on someone else’s battleground. But then, after the storm clears, comes a sunny day with new opportunities. My soul sister says: “Second chances are often better because they are what you deserved all along.”
This is your wakeup call.
So many things in life are so deeply complicated. Especially, people. We gather little pieces and facts about people, as we interact with them, and sometimes we gather info as we hear about them from people who know them well or people who were more aware of what was going on at the time. Or sometimes, we strain our brains, as we search blurry memories.
It’s incredible to see that people, who do even some of the most atrocious things, are ultimately extremely broken inside. It’s not even a shift in perspective. We all have the same nature. That isn’t a question mark. It’s not about shifting perspective but about taking the time to pause long enough to look at someone. To humanize people, even after they hurt us means we can’t just push them away. It doesn’t mean we condone behavior. What it means is we see the tragedy of people’s actions as a reflection of their brokenness. It’s an exercise I do even with people close to me. I also catch my own actions, and see through them.
I will never forget some office hours I had with my Grad Student TA/ Professor for a social justice class I took in journalism school. He now owns a bookstore in our college town that has a total of like three shelves in it, but still… very cool. You know, those books from publishers you have never heard of, with cover designs that look like those photos you would throw away after you developed a film because it turned out it was an accident shot of the corner of a table and the floor (blurry linoleum). I digress.
We went to a café (he was hip. duh. coolest office hours ever.) and I brought my composition notebook with all my little thoughts scribbled in it. I opened it, as we began our chat. We were talking about whatever current events were going on, how we met Cornel West, racism, Rihanna, and something else I can’t remember. If you don’t know me, I am a pretty straight shooter. Some would categorize me as “intense.” I don’t mess around (in an effort to cut back on my New York habit of cursing, I am using the word “mess.”) (I swear I didn’t curse until I moved here. I think once they elbow you in the face a time too many…)
I have never made excuses for people because, in many ways, my life was a you-have-to-get-it-right-the-first-time-or-it’s-over kind of thing. I couldn’t afford to make mistakes. Sometimes, that was literal. I literally had to be responsible and extra careful because there was no way I had the means to make it through, if all else failed. Life’s circumstances sometimes put us under the strangest of pressures. This often translates into my way of thinking.
If you have ever listened to someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, I am very much from his school of thought. It’s a get-up-off-your-butt, stop-making-excuses, when-you-want-something-you-go-for-it, RELENTLESS type. I am relentless. Discipline is my middle name. This came across in my conversation with my professor. And I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I remember I was stating that I didn’t agree with someone’s behavior because it represented X, Y, and Z. (super intellectual, though.) I remember he stared at me with his big brown eyes, and he put his hand over my notebook in front of me, to sort of get my attention in the pause, and he said, “You have to realize, not everyone is you. Not everyone can be strong and thrive after breaking.”
I am not sure how I felt after that meeting. I know my cheeks burned when he said that comment. I think they burned from a sort of shame. Who knows. I know I didn’t agree. I figured everyone had the same right to rise to the occasion. People’s choices to hurt themselves and others would seriously anger me. Maybe, it angered me because I knew how much it hurt. I had been on the receiving end of brokenness and selfishness. I didn’t find it funny or light or an oops. I have always recognized the weight and gravity of our choices, as humans. Sometimes, it still angers me.
And as someone who strives to be vulnerable and open, I will tell you: it’s easy to dismiss people who don’t make the choice you think is right or the people who hurt you. It’s easier because it creates distance. It keeps you safe or so you think.
What is hard is when you ask questions to understand because understanding changes you. It changes you. Not anyone else. And by that, I don’t mean it makes us accept behavior or even toxic people. No. But it opens our eyes to see what is really there. A shattered person. People who fill voids with all the wrong things. People in identity crises seem to hurt the most people. Maybe, a person who is afraid. Maybe, a person who was abused. Maybe, a person with no sense of self-worth. Maybe, a person left behind. Maybe, a person who had zero guidance. And while people ALWAYS have a choice as to who they become and what they choose for themselves, if they choose something that hurts others or themselves, then we are left to witness it in pain. Seeing it in pain is different than seeing it in judgment.
When we sit with that pain, that is what changes us. To see the world as it really is means you see how sin has the capability to absolutely shatter and imprison anyone who allows it. It allows us to see the invisible that makes the visible.
Sitting with pain means your walls come down, and you are no longer trying to be understood or correct or protect. Instead, it means you feel. And if you feel, it’s because of love. God is love. So if we are filled with that compassion-driven love, then we are overflowing with divinity.
I want to feel the divine.
[To the passenger who elbowed me in the face: you didn’t shatter me, but you almost shattered my glasses.]
Never give people the power to affect how you see yourself. I was telling my boyfriend this week, that if I could tell my younger self something, it would be that I know I spent so much time and energy trying to be understood by people who had made up their minds about me, and nothing I did or said would ever change that. I wish I hadn’t wasted time (or money) on those toxic social settings.
No matter how steely you are, you hang around certain types of people who are hurting and broken long enough, and you might absorb a little of the criticism and biting hatred they try to spread. (A cranky boss or weird acquaintance who is always in your path). But then, we do a sanity check. We have to gather our things, stand up straight. Identity is rooted in the Everlasting One who does not fail. And that means, everyone else’s opinions don’t matter.
Trying to be understood can be exhausting. Understanding you aren’t for everyone, and the ones who love you, love you for it– that is liberating.