In my teens and twenties, I used to tell a racist alcoholic rape joke. I pulled out the exaggerated accent. I slurred like a drunk. And I didn’t even flinch at the idea of a woman being repeatedly raped. I thought it was hilarious, and I never expected that would change.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped telling that joke. I don’t remember when or why, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was an evolution.
Am I racist or sexist? Am I a bad person? Does my past define me? I don’t think so. We’d all be bad people if that were the case. Even back then, was I a bad person for finding the joke funny? Or was I misguided? Misinformed? Immature? Unworldly? Naïve?
Just like people today are not responsible for world atrocities that happened before their conscious existence, individuals can’t be held to blame forever for what they did in their own less-conscious past. We have to move forward, and forgiveness is often the way. It may be a good idea to never forget, but where do we go from here if we don’t move forward? If we all stayed stuck in shame, denial, regret or anger, we’d all be depressed. Bad, depressed people.
A Slow Evolution
Mark and I used a poem by Dick Sutphen as part of our wedding vows. One of the lines is Accept me without change. I get that. In a way, people are the people that they are—and the older we get, the less we want to budge. But Mark insisted that we adapt the poem to better reflect how we felt about our lives intertwining. Instead, we said, I promise to accept you without change, but I accept that you will change. Now almost sixteen years into our marriage—wow—I am glad for the vows we created. We are the same. And we have changed and changed and changed.
Everyone has the potential to change. Some are more willing than others. Change can be difficult. Sometimes we can easily flip a switch in our brains, but often it is a process.
Imagine the life of a celebrity or otherwise famous person. Their every action is noted.
A golfer (2009) … A president (1998) … An actor (1991) … A producer … A comedian … Are these people damned for life? I suspect that the secrets they keep are what holds them back from growth. With their secrets exposed, they are forced to move forward, level up, make some changes. As much as they hate the moment when their world (and possibly their career) comes crashing down around them, some of them might say that it is the best thing that ever happened to them. A pivotal moment. A moment of change. Their evolution.
Many of my transgressions were not noticed or noted. But I had them. I had many. I apologized where I could (and nobody edited my apology). And I evolved.
People change. Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, you can change. And I accept you.
Watch for another Me Three post coming soon.
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Good one, Sheila. Yes, I think if we accepted this human condition we’re born into, we would have compassion for ourselves and others. Even as we work at transcending this human condition. I think we have to work every day at leaving our old selves behind. Those old selves look pretty dumb sometimes. So, you’re right — we have to forgive our dumb selves. ~ PJ
Thanks for your comment, PJ.
Pow! You are hitting the nail on the head with this series, Sheila. I have such mixed emotions about the stories of sexual harassment that are flooding our news these days. Please do keep on sharing your thoughts.
Thank you, Auntie Marg. Your comment means a lot to me.