My birthday falls just before Independence Day, and I received countless messages, texts, videos of love, congratulations, funny jokes and more from friends near and far. I was surprised when I received a message from someone I’d gone to junior high and high school with, it was a long, long time ago and the sender was not someone I knew well.
That was nothing compared to the surprise when I read the message:
Have a so so birthday and rest in eternal unhappiness because you were too good to associate with kids like me who came from East Jackson – across the tracks. You took for granted what you had when many of us were struggling to just make ends meet and even doing without.
Below the words was a picture of my classmate giving me the finger.
That message took my breath away. I was flooded with mixed emotions.
My first emotion was shame – a recognition that his experience was valid, regardless of what my intentions had been, and my intentions had never been one of condescension or social bias, my own boyfriend had come from East Jackson. Though my family was not wealthy, we were well off by Jackson, Tennessee standards. My father was a pediatrician and my mother’s family had owned the local “fancy” hotel downtown. I knew there were people with less, and some with more, but his words struck home. The luxury that came with my privilege was that I believed we were basically all the same. I didn’t experience the difference that was clearly very painful to him.
My second emotion was sadness for him. Not for what his profile suggests is a full life – happily married, enjoying retirement in Florida after a successful career, and playing bluegrass music with friends. The sadness came from understanding that his childhood was still poisoning his present. It was the eve of Independence Day and this irony did not slip by me. I thought about how we find independence from hurting one another.
I debated what to do. Write and tell him how sorry I was? And I was sorry. Try to make it his fault for misunderstanding how “good” I really was? Say nothing? In the end, I decided to sleep on it. But when I went back to re-read his post, I found it had been taken down.
What his post had given me was the opportunity to meditate on how we find independence from past hurts. Here are some questions to ask yourself to find that freedom:
- Who may we have unintentionally–or intentionally–hurt?
- Would it make you feel freer to make amends with this person and ask forgiveness?
- Who has hurt you?
– Do you think they did this intentionally or unintentionally?
– What is the story behind your hurt?
- Does believing that story still serve you?
– What if you let that story go?
– Would that bring you more freedom?
In finding freedom from our past actions and the stories that bind us, we can often awaken to a fuller, more meaningful life.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Until next Tuesday,