Do you believe in second chances? I do.
I know what it feels like to screw up and face the consequences. To long for forgiveness but never get it.
A few years ago, I dated an older man who was an extremely logic-driven INTJ.
I, of course, am an emotional INFP. We had a great deal of fun together, and it was a nicely matched relationship in many ways. But there was no spark of romantic love.
We tried to make it work, but when he said he wasn’t feeling it, I agreed.
And when he said he was unhappy about his decision because he thought we were great friends, I agreed with that too. So, we happily decided to remain friends and went to a movie immediately after our breakup.
It was a great day.
His birthday came up a week or two later. We stuck with our original plans for me to make him a cake and celebrate with a few friends.
The party started at a basement restaurant I chose where we chatted with four other folks and played Cards Against Humanity.
ICYMI, I have borderline personality disorder.
Unfortunately, at this point in my life I struggled a lot more with some of my symptoms and was in fact still misdiagnosed. I unexpectedly found myself feeling overly self-conscious about the breakup.
When a couple in the group complained about the restaurant, I felt like a failure because I’d put a ridiculous amount of thought into choosing the place.
My fears were compounded when I discovered they had all made additional plans for the next day without me. Back then, feeling abandoned or excluded (again) were still among my biggest fears.
To deal with my discomfort, I had a couple of drinks at the restaurant. And then, I kept drinking at our friends’ house.
My relationship with Mr. INTJ had been the type where we teased each other quite a bit, but it was mostly one-on-one. I knew that INTJs are often very private people, but in my sloshed state, I thought it was a good idea to tease him. In front of our friends.
I wound up making jokes about his age, which probably would have been fine because it was a topic we sometimes teased each other about on social media.
But then I made a few jokes about our bedroom experiences, including anal sex… and Mr. INTJ wasn’t pleased at all.
In the moment, he pretended everything was fine. That none of my jokes had gone too far. And when we said goodbye that night, there was a part of me that believed we would still be friends.
Even so, I apologized to everyone the next day when I sobered up. But it wasn’t enough. To Mr. INTJ, I broke his trust. To the other friends there, confessing why I behaved the way I did didn’t fix the fact that I’d acted like a fool.
Mr. INTJ never forgave me.
In fact, only one friend from the party did forgive me. Somebody who understands mental illness because he himself is bipolar.
The entire situation was a huge lesson for me and I haven’t turned to alcohol to cope since then. I also have learned how to quit worrying so much about how other people might perceive me to avoid such overcompensation.
I work hard to be mindful of my emotions and avoid unhealthy coping techniques.
My experiences have taught me how terrible it feels to try to make amends but receive a cold shoulder instead.
I have never been the kind of person to hold a grudge.
Though to be fair, I haven’t had too many personal conflicts with other people either. I’m too much of a loner for all that. Who can get angry with you when you have no friends, right?
Letting people into your life means risking their departure from your life. And I haven’t always been too good at that.
But clearly, I am not a saint. When it comes to personal relationships, I not only make mistakes and can behave selfishly, but I also exhibit the awkwardness of being on the spectrum.
On the bright side, I do forgive. To be honest, I have surprised myself over the years with my capacity to forgive those who hurt me. There are times when I think that I maybe should be angrier and draw more of a line, but it’s too difficult for me to stay mad.
Hurt? Sure, I might stay hurt. But I’m not one to go out of my way to hurt others. I tend to forgive because I want to believe the best of everyone. Good thing I don’t get into too many arguments.
Now that I’m an online writer, it doesn’t take much for me to piss another person off.
I’ve found out that simply existing will do the trick. Sometimes, a stranger or acquaintance will become angry with me over something I’ve written. More rarely, it may be an online friend or mentor as opposed to a stranger or acquaintance.
A while back, I went through an experience where some folks I barely knew did me wrong. Lied about me, made jokes about me, spread rumors, etc.
As terrible as it was, I felt like there were reasons they treated me that way. Reasons that weren’t even about me. A former mentor didn’t like something I wrote, and in a weird way, they were just protecting that person who was angry with me.
But some of it got quite brutal and it was affecting my mental health. I began dealing with suicidal ideation again. I even wrote about some of my suicidal thoughts and the fear that writing had been tainted for me.
Those people then went out of their way to comment and harass me as if I’d done something wrong to talk about that pain. They continued to throw insults around.
I suffered through multiple panic attacks and found the situation pretty damn traumatic.
When one of the people later apologized for some of their actions against me, I accepted their apology. But two weeks after that, they and their friends were once again talking about me, twisting my words, and encouraging others to do the same thing.
It felt like high school, but I never went through anything so difficult back then.
I can’t really feel betrayed by somebody I was never friends with, right?
But I keep coming back to this whole issue of forgiveness:
How we treat those who do us wrong matters.
I really believe this. One of the things that kept me sane in all of this was knowing that as nasty and vindictive as some folks have been, I haven’t done the same back to them.
It would have been easy to ask people to pick sides or even snub certain folks, but I had no interest in that. I wanted the whole thing to blow over.
Still, every time I found out that they were still talking about me, part of the wound reopened.
It seems that forgiveness and trust are two very different things.
I can forgive the people who treat me badly, but can I trust them? In this case, I believe the answer has been no.
Trust, in my opinion, would require a full apology along with enough time passing to see they are not continuing to try to wound me.
As long as people seem intent upon hurting me, I can’t help but duck away from running in the same circles as them.
That’s reasonable and rational, yet why do I feel so guilty?
Oh, I know.
It’s because I believe in forgiveness and that other people are good at heart.
I don’t hold grudges and I don’t like writing anybody off as a lost cause. Some people are simply mean and they find ways to justify their meanness.
But maybe there’s a deeper reason. Maybe they are going through things I don’t understand. Nobody could want to tear down a stranger, right?
I don’t really know.
All I know is that I have to find a way to keep believing in the goodness of people. But I also need boundaries from those who only want to hurt me, without developing my own hardened heart that in turn hurts them.
I believe in forgiveness. Truthfully, I believe in forgiving others whether or not they have apologized to you.
Even so, I struggle with the knowledge that people may not always feel forgiven since we can’t repair the trust. Trust takes healing and time. Broken trust takes proof.
It’s hard to burn a bridge with me and I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Maybe it just is what it is.