So, before I begin, a quick update on my lack of a post last night: I finally saw the new Star Wars movie last night! I will write more about that tomorrow, because I have a few thoughts on the movie, but it was really good overall!
So, for the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis inaugurated on December 8th, I thought I would share periodic reflections, focused on the idea of mercy, as it is a topic which is very dear to my heart. I find this as an opportunity for growth, both through writing, as well as through sharing and dialoguing. This is the first post, and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing yet, so bare with me!
A few months ago, I suffered a very serious heartbreak that’s been affecting me for a while now. A person with whom I had shared tremendous love, with whom I had begun to plan out my life… to put it bluntly… left me.
For a while, I blamed myself. Of course it was my fault, if I had done things differently, then maybe she wouldn’t have left me? At least, that’s what my immediate response was. But, out of arrogance, or maybe just out of a need to move on, I began to blame her. She was the one who left me, after all. It was her fault, right?…
This thinking wasn’t healthy, and I slipped into a dangerous place: I began to act like she had owed me something. She had, in my mind, left countless years of our (future) lives fall to waste because of the person she had chosen to be. In my own head, it was on her to make that up to me.
I spent a lot of time in pain, blaming myself, blaming her, and then acting like she still owed me something. This vicious cycle ended only when I began (which, to be completely frank, took me a while to begin) to look at myself, and that situation, and realize that she didn’t owe me anything.
She still doesn’t owe me anything. Neither the world, nor anyone in it, owe me anything. Of course I’m speaking on an individual level, but I am not owed anything by the merit of my being a person, especially of my being a man. I have everything that I need that the world could give me. Not speaking of course of societal and cultural trends or groups or any of that, nobody owes me anything.
What I need, this whole time, was mercy. I needed to feel better, and out of this great pit of desolation in which I’d found myself in. I had, by trying to force all of the weight of this relationship onto this person, attempted to not feel that pain. But I still felt terrible! I was in desperate need of mercy. In trying to control someone else (or at least control who they were in my own mind), I was led to a great revelation: The only thing I have any control over is who I am, and how I act and react, on a very conscious level. I can control who I chose to be. The world doesn’t owe me anything, but I still owe myself something.
In the midst of this pain, I lost myself. I would often pray for guidance, and clarity and sanity and detachment, to do what was best for myself. Yet I actively let myself lose my well-being, my dignity, my self-worth, and my self-love. Only when I began to treat myself mercifully did I realize that I owed myself love, and care for my whole person. I owe myself dignity and belief in my own self-worth.
These things I was praying for, they weren’t going to just fall out of the sky and onto my lap. I needed to help provide these things for myself. God doesn’t simply hand you the things that you ask for. God is not a stockbroker that trades prayers for divine intervention. How can we ask for what we need without also putting in work of our own? To put it another way, God doesn’t owe me anything. But I owe everything to God.
In the light of this truth, I found mercy within myself. It’s not easy to be merciful to one’s self, but if we cannot reach inward with our mercy, how can we hope to extend that mercy outwards, and accept the mercy that comes from outside of ourselves?
As I told my friend Erik last night, I’m not 100% over that relationship, or that person. A big reason is that I hadn’t given myself the time or the space to begin to get to that place. But I’m a lot better. I’m working on being a better person to myself, for myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100%, but I’m also not sure that’s the point. I’m emotionally and mentally stable, I’ve been working on being physically okay with who I am, and I’ve been working on my own spiritual growth, while not forgetting about my academics and my other commitments.
I’m not over, in many regards, but God also isn’t over me. God has shown me mercy by allowing me to be merciful to myself. God is merciful, while I’m still working on it. But I know that I will be better. Though I might have been left by that person, God has yet to leave me.