A few days ago, I made the biggest mistake of my life. And when I say big, I mean dirty. In the hours that followed, not only did I have to live with the utter disgust I felt towards myself, I had to live with the excruciating guilt of having hurt someone I love.
There’s so much I don’t like about myself, but I like to think that my soul comes from a place of good and kindness. Consequently, never in a million years did I think I’d ever become that person who betrays a friend for a 30-second kiss with a stranger on a night out, knowing full well it is wrong. But, somehow, I crossed that line and I am mortified.
If I looked in a mirror, I wouldn’t even recognise the girl who crushed her friend’s heart because it was so unlike me to begin with. I don’t go out to bars and clubs to make out with random people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not who I am. What I am though — or thought I was — is a woman of values, who cares to do right by people. Therefore, there are 5 rules I usually swear by when it comes to seduction and relationships in particular.
- I don’t make a move on people who are already involved
- I don’t cheat or participate in cheating
- I don’t go out with an ex
- I don’t play games with people
- I don’t let a love interest come between me & my friends
And yet, here I am. I broke a code of conduct that I never, ever thought I’d break. If anything, I used to brag about having principles and sticking to them through thick and thin. I guess I don’t have such strong morals after all.
It’s true that the heart has its reason, of which reason knows nothing. However, as someone who sees life in black and white, I have always assumed that this is where the line is drawn between right and wrong: we’re all entitled to our feelings, but choosing not to act on them is what distinguishes a respectable human being from a despicable individual. I used to think that mistakes were just another word for weakness, and that people hid behind them to try and feel better about themselves, instead of taking responsibility for a choice they made consciously.
Oh, how I’m laughing now.
Let’s keep it real, I am not a saint. Never have been. Never will be. So, why did I ever entertain the idea that I was too good to screw up? And it’s not like I haven’t made bad decisions in the past either but, when it comes down to relationships, it always took two people to make a mess of things. In this case, however, I most definitely dug my own grave.
In some way, I trusted myself to have limits. Limits I was so sure I would never stretch, meet or go beyond. Because if I’m capable of overstepping one limit, how many more could I disregard completely? That terrifies me more than anything.
The uncertainty of what I am capable of isn’t my only concern, though. When my friend asked for a reason to understand why I did what I did, she wasn’t satisfied with the answer. How could she? The way she saw it, I deliberately did it to hurt her. I put myself in her shoes and, from where she was standing, it sure didn’t look good. So, how do you explain to someone that you never had the intention to hurt them, yet did it anyway? How do you explain that it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with your own vulnerability? How do you explain that it was a selfish move, born from stupid insecurities? How do you explain something that makes no sense whatsoever, and doesn’t even excuse anything?
It’s the worst part of it, that I hurt her to the point where she thinks I did it on purpose, to the point where she believes I actually wanted to upset her. Which makes me wonder… am I the type of person who calculatedly inflicts pain on another human being, but isn’t aware of it? Could I be lying to myself? Am I pretending to be someone I’m not, just so I don’t feel terrible about it all?
I hope not. I truly hope this moment doesn’t define me.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot I’ve had to question, from the whys of my behaviour to the flaws of my beliefs. I was reminded once more that each story comes with different factors, occurrences, sides and feelings. I keep being hit by these epiphanies where I realise life really isn’t just black or white. It’s so much more colourful, intricate and messy.
So, where do I go from there? How do I deal with the shame? How do I find redemption?
The first thing I’ve learnt is that anyone can actually slip up. It only takes a second, and there’s no going back. I used to look down on anyone who ever cheated, played with fire or went too far in any way. I don’t anymore. Each situation is obviously different and it depends on the people involved, their history, whether it happened repeatedly before, whether remorse is demonstrated, etc. Nevertheless, I won’t be caught passing judgment ever again. It took a while for me to get there, but I have changed my mind on attenuating circumstances and I now believe in second chances.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that acknowledging your mistake and apologising without minimising the other person’s pain is tremendously important. Sorry doesn’t magically erase what happened and it doesn’t even make up for it. But it still shows care, regret and consideration towards the feelings you’ve hurt. I cannot go back to make a more sensible decision and I cannot cast an Obliviate spell on both our minds to forget the whole thing, but I can take responsibility and try to make amends. At no point did I even consider denying, dismissing or defending my actions. Sorry was all I had to say for myself, but it was a start. I grew up in a household where lots of mistakes were made and lots of blame was thrown around like dodgeball, but no apologies were ever whispered. It used to heavily affect my relationships — and so did lack of communication — but I have gained from past arguments and grown from them.
The last thing I’ve learnt is that being honest with yourself is key. You need to recognise why it happened so it doesn’t happen again. The truth is, there’s no good enough reason that’ll ever make the lapse in judgement right. I feel like it doesn’t really matter how I justify my mistake, because nothing can truly support my actions. However, figuring out what went wrong means that I can work on it. In my case, for instance, it was low self-esteem, lack of confidence, outside influence, need of attention, comparison to others as well as seeking validation and comfort that made me lose all sense of decency and integrity.
If it is possible, one positive thing did come out of this. I have finally, truly accepted that it is OK to be single and to not seek more. I must stop letting society make me feel weird about it. I am not ready to date and I don’t particularly enjoy exchanging saliva with random people, just for the sake of it. I understand that others might feel different, and it’s totally fine. But there’s this common belief that you have to put yourself out there and meet someone to be accomplished or complete. It’s so toxic that some of us end up doing stupid shit to feel less rubbish about being alone. I thought I needed someone to fancy me to be worthy. That night, for once, I wanted to be anything but the ‘designated ugly fat friend’. I craved to be the one who caught the attention of the charismatic, attractive stranger. For that, I ignored a friend’s feelings. So yeah, I might have looked beautiful. But I felt ugly on the inside, and that’s something I simply cannot bear.
Now, moving on from a mistake that made you feel ashamed and that hurt someone you love is the next step. In some way though, it is as difficult as dealing with the fallout. It’s a process that goes from acknowledging and apologising to forgiveness, which is a tricky business. Not only do we seek it from the person we’ve hurt, we also need to look into ourselves to find our own. More often than not, we don’t think we deserve it so it makes the following days/weeks/months that much more agonising. So, the sense of relief that poured over me when my friend accepted my apologies and forgave me was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I feel so grateful for it. Once again, I grew up in a household that never forgave, so I didn’t ask for it and certainly didn’t expect it.
That’s, alternatively, the final lesson I learnt. I don’t know if everything can be or should be forgiven. I’ve held grudges and been angry about stuff for so long, only now do I realise that there may be another way. Staying mad at people earn us nothing in the end, whilst letting go brings a sense of peace like no other. I’m aware that forgiveness doesn’t happen for everyone, so I feel like it shouldn’t be the sole source of closure, but it’s helpful nonetheless.
I still feel the weight of the blame and the weight of the shame, but I have amazing friends who see the best in me even at my worst. They have taught me that ‘to err is human, but to persist in error is diabolical’ (from the latin ‘errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum’). A heart has been hurt because of me, and I am disappointed with myself because of it. There’s no avoiding it, no forgetting. But beating myself up over it forever won’t fix anything. Lessons have been learnt and, at the end of the day, I have to believe it’s enough.
We all mess up in our own unique way, so I don’t expect anyone to relate to this particular mistake. However, I want to raise conversations that might spark compassion and understanding. If you’ve ever done something you’re not proud of, please know that you are not alone. Nobody is perfect but we can all aim to better ourselves, and that is the beauty of mankind. Let’s have faith, shall we?