It takes a lot of courage to not do the thing, to say the thing. To take the action, there is a lot of effort expended in NOT doing whatever it is you think that you should, want to, or would be best to. Forbearing, or pausing, requires a tremendous amount of grace, courage and fortitude.
“To forbear is indeed an act of courage and not a symbol of cowardice. It takes great effort and resolution to endure pain and hardship. It requires tremendous confidence to bear insult and disgrace without a hint of retaliation or self-doubt.”
Master Hsing Yun
When someone hurts me, it used to be my only options were to take the pain and make it mine and then destroy myself over it, or to reach out and wound back. Hurt back. Strike hard and fast and retaliate. But that never really got me where I wanted to go.
I used to, though, walk through life like some sort of weird mirror of other people’s actions...they would be nice, I would be nice. They would be mean, I would be mean. They would be gossipy, I would be gossipy. I just had no core. No person in there who was confident enough to stand on her own. Others defined me and I became what they wanted, or projected I would be. It was shitty for all involved.
And then I picked up the victim mantle and carried it for a very long, long time.
“They did this to me,”
“They did that to me,”
“ I had no choice but to do this after they did that...”
And so it went, for the whole of my life.
Then one day I realized that I was just this knee jerk response to others. There was no me in any of my interactions anymore. I was whatever people told me I was, or wasn’t. And then worked super hard to prove them right or wrong as the case might need. It was exhausting and not a very satisfying life.
One day I was standing in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and my face and body were so foreign to me. So foreign. I didn’t really know who I was. I don’t remember now what was going on at the time, but I was upset. Angry. Hurt and hurting. Wanting to retaliate against someone who did something I didn’t like, or that hurt me.
And as I stood there, I had this thought:
Do you have any choice at all here? Because they did that, now you have to this? Really? Are there any other options for you?
And in that moment the whole of my life changed. Really. Like totally different. I realized that this action/reaction thing had run its course. I was done. It didn’t matter what so-in-so did to me, it did matter a great deal how and in what manner I responded. And because I was a clusterfuck of nerves and reactions and anger, there was nothing for me to do but forbear, pause, wait it out. Wait to see who I would become if I didn’t act right that very second.
It would be great if I could remember what happened next, but I think the story more poignant because I can’t. Nothing happened. I can’t even remember what I was all upset about. I was just in full reaction mode and had no choice (so it appeared at the time) to do what I always did. But this time, I didn’t behave according to type. I didn’t let the other person’s actions define me. I took a moment for myself and have been doing that actively ever since. I will admit the progress is much slower than I would like, seriously! I always feel like I should be further along. But today, I am ok with where I am. I am here doing the deal of my life and I know who I am and what I am capable of for the most part. Most of the time anyway.
I still get triggered and jump in with an old, worn out response, like somehow this time that response will be appropriate...so far, nope!
So I work on forbearance. I work on holding my tongue. I work on releasing my need to appear other than I am, if only to myself. I have learned slowly over time that it does take tremendous confidence to bear insult and disgrace without a hint of retaliation...and even more to not doubt myself. That is what I am best at, doubting myself, not you or others, but me. Doubting me. Allowing your conduct and treatment of me to cause me to undo all the progress I have done internally, and begin to doubt me, who I am, how I show up.
But I have gotten better. I no longer have to retaliate, or doubt myself. I can just accept the situation for what and who it is and how it is going down and trust that there is a lesson, not always for me, in the whole interchange. It isn’t easy, but fuck, it is a lot easier than plotting people’s deaths (not really, I have never really done that) or dismantling my entire self concept (this I have done so many times that I can’t even count the times). Turns out that neither is productive...for me or anyone else.
I have learned a lot through forbearing. More than I probably did acting out. Don’t get me wrong, my actions have been spectacularly unfun and quite a dumpster fire on many an occasion. And the antidote to all of that, seems to be forbearance. Waiting. Pausing. Holding on to the feelings, allowing them to just be there and not allowing them to control my feeling or desire to punish back, or to unhinge myself from myself.
Recently I have had just such an occasion. And I was happily surprised that I can just bear the insult and perhaps even the disgrace, and I don’t want to hurt anyone, to include myself. And what a relief that is. How nice it is to have evolved into someone who is ok in her skin. People can think whatever they want, say whatever they want. I know my truth and if mine and theirs doesn’t match...so be it! That is ok. It will all work out in the end.
How do I know that?
Because so far it has. Every damn day of my life, over and over and over again. It has worked out and so much better when forbearance is the act and the result is that I do not fuck anyone else, or myself in the process. Pretty cool.
Sometimes courage comes in the form of walking away. Sometimes courage appears cowardice to everyone but yourself. And you know what? What I think of me will and has always been more important to my long term survival and life than what you think. I am the only one who has to live my life, not you, not the haters. Just me. And it is high time that I lived according to my own principles. Forbearance being at the top of my self care skills today.