When someone you know fucks up, makes poor choices that hurt others, cheats, lies, drunk texts someone, or steals, do you brand them a cheater, liar, alcoholic or a piece of shit person in general? What if they apologize, make amends, seek counseling, and exhibit true remorse? What if they learn the reasons behind their actions – what’s driving them to do those unspeakable things, and how to notice the triggers to avoid doing those things again?
It’s usually fear that drives those actions, or past trauma. Maybe she drinks to dull the pain from sexual abuse. Maybe he cheats because he is repeatedly told at home that he is worthless, a failure, and he is unable to talk with his spouse about it because it will trigger more verbal abuse. You haven’t seen them wail and cry in their therapist’s office, admitting the ugliest things they’ve done. You weren’t in court when attorneys brought up every poor choice, every indiscretion, while family members sat there listening to every detail as it was cast in the worst light possible. You’re not with them when they drive past certain places or hear certain names or run into “that person” at the grocery store or the bank and their skin crawls, and they want the earth to open up and swallow them whole.
Do you really forgive them and realize how those horrible choices made out of desperation and fear have shaped them into the person you see before you now? Do you believe them when they tell you they have learned from their mistakes? Do you understand that their experiences can now help others who are suffering? They can show them how to heal, how to get help, and how to truly make amends through their actions. Do you really believe that about them?
And what about you? Are there pages of your own book you want to rip out and burn? Or can you learn from them, and use that knowledge to cultivate empathy? Can victims learn to forgive? Do they know that their injuries can be healed? Being cheated on, abused (sexually or otherwise) robs you of your ability to trust. You develop PTSD. I have personally dealt with that for years. There have been many times in the past when I thought I was fine only to have to really ramp up my therapy appointments when something would hit me out of nowhere. Are you condemned to live the rest of your life like that? Can you escape that feeling of being the victim in future relationships? Can you and your partner repair things?
People can grow and change. They can evolve. But some don’t. Some spiral downward and become worse. Some battle demons for the rest of their lives. Some go insane. Some take their own lives because they see no other way out. So your answers to the questions above can be critical. We are all humans, and humans make mistakes. Even you. Even me.