the aftermath of public shaming
I was recently reminded that things were pretty terrible this past Fall. For four months I was incredibly depressed, lonely, heartbroken, and to add insult to injury: publicly humiliated and shamed by someone I considered to be my best friend. In the months since, we’ve forgiven each other. I’ve forgiven him, and when that happened, it felt pretty amazing. It felt as though a rock that had been placed on my chest had been lifted, and I (we) was (were) free to start my (our) journey again.
Forgiving the person who publicly shamed me has been a lot easier than forgiving the people that believed him, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s because I know this person, and I know there were deeper issues for his need to public shame me (not that it makes it right). But that they believed his words so wholeheartedly, I’m still somewhat bitter about. I’m angry that so many people took his words as truth, that they immediately believed him, and that I was stigmatized by people I cared about as a result.
In my quest to figure out what I “want” and “need” out of life, the only certainty I’ve been able to come up with is that I have an unconditional love for people. I care deeply for the people in my life and I want to take care of people. It want to lift people high above the clouds, open their eyes to their own beauty and potential. I don’t have any grand plans for how to do this. I try and be a good friend and a good person. I teach my students to believe in themselves, to not walk like lemmings through life, and to stand up against injustice. Some of them think I’m crazy, but considering many of them say that I’m the only teacher that they believe really, truly cares about them (as people), I think I’m doing something right. I absolutely LOVE people. And I fall in love (not necessarily speaking romantically) with people easily — because I want to give so much of my heart to others (and share in their joys, sorrows, etc.)
So when I was publicly shamed it was probably the single most painful event in my life. I couldn’t understand why it was happening and why it was necessary for this person to write those words, those UNTRUE words, so heartlessly, after all we had been through. But what hurt more is that people believed him. I was treated differently after that. People unfriended me on social media and they avoided me in real life. They treated me like a frail object, tiptoed around my feelings, whispered quietly to others about me. I became a person that was known as someone full of beauty and life and joy to someone who sat in dark corners in cafes, with my eyes squinted and my pen ready. This was not me.
I tried to talk to some of those people. And, to be fair, there were (are) mutual friends that did not give up on me. That DID see through the smear campaign that was being written. And to those people I am forever thankful for having enough sense to see hurt and anger when it’s written. God knows I’ve done my fair share of it (though not to the degree, in my opinion.) In fact, there were some that reached out to me to let me know they didn’t believe it — couldn’t believe what was being written about me.
But after it was all said and done, and time healed the wounds that needed to be healed, I couldn’t forgive those that took his words as truth. Even after he and I said, “Let’s end this. We are hurting each other. Let’s stop,” I was still angry at the people who openly supported him in his public shaming of me. It was easy to forgive him — he was wounded and angry. He needed to paint me as the unstable one in order for his own ego to feel okay with the circumstances. He needed validation from the outside world. I could see all of this and I expected others to be able to see it as well. But no, that is not the case in this particular situation. I thought people would be smarter, more insightful, more thoughtful of my feelings. Or maybe ask me — as uncomfortable as that may seem.
I guess I’m just still reeling from the aftermath of that public shaming that happened back in November. When it came up recently in a casual conversation with a friend, I realized quickly I was still not “over it.” Even though our forgiveness was contingent on me accepting responsibility for my behavior, I do not. Time and perspective allows us the clarity to see situations for what they are. I was not what he said I was, even after we made up and I said, “Yes, dear. You were right.” I was not that person. I am not that person.
Forgiving him was easy, but forgiving those that insisted on those words as truth — that’s been a lot harder.