Have you ever allowed yourself to be a punching bag for your past mistakes because you felt like you deserved it? I ask this only in that I recently realized that I was doing just that with someone I care about, that I once hurt immensely over a period of several years, starting during the summer of 2007.
Back then, I had just left an almost seven-year relationship and was feeling deeply hurt, broken, and not wanting to be in touch with any of it. So, on a trip to visit some friends, I randomly met someone at a coffee shop who I found quite attractive and struck up a conversation with. That brief encounter ended up turning into a friendship that would involve sexual intimacy over the next five years. Even though I really liked this person, I remained non-committal, all because I was still deeply wounded from my previous relationship and had never taken the time to grieve or heal. Frankly, I was running from myself and sleeping around to stay numb. What I never fully grasped though through it all was that this person wanted more than just a friendship with benefits. But I was too self-absorbed and self-centered to see this or the pain I was causing them through my ongoing actions.
When I finally became aware of it, I entered a new 12 Step recovery program to start the healing process. Not too long after, I made amends to this friend and owned all the selfishness and self-seeking behavior I had engaged in that had wounded them again and again. Through that amends I came to see that I had always placed them second to my addiction. After listening to how much they had been hurt, I asked for their forgiveness and was given that. Unfortunately, that turned out to not be the case as the years passed.
I began to notice this when this friend was having a down day, as they occasionally would lash out at me. The first such occasion I remember quite vividly was when they began dating someone new. I was truly happy for them and when I asked one day how the new love interest was going, I was told the sexual intimacy they were sharing was far better than anything I had ever offered them. It stung, but I accepted it. Why? Because I felt like I deserved it. Every bit of my former ugliness still sat inside me and I was often disgusted at myself for what I did.
As time went on, I had hoped that those brief stinging words would only be an isolated incident. Sadly, they weren’t. I started receiving random comments from this friend that honestly felt like I had not been forgiven for any of my past mistakes with them. Yet, I continued to allow myself to accept it, all because I really did believe I deserved to feel all that pain I had caused them. When my friend’s health began to wane after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, their comments in life would start to grow more negative, some of which would continue to be directed at me, where each felt like tiny hurtful missiles reminding me of how bad of a person I once was.
I eventually asked this friend if they could please fully forgive me because I didn’t deserve to keep being held to the person I once was and was told in response that it was hard for them to fully forget. Sadly, their occasional digs at me didn’t cease after that, but I kept on accepting them, even when I’d get unfriended and re-friended on Facebook more than once, when my calls didn’t get returned, and when I’d even occasionally be hung up on as well. For the life of me, this friend just wasn’t able to ever fully see how much I was trying to love them unconditionally and erase who I was in the past.
Repeatedly, I invited them over the years to come be a guest in our home, but they never took me up on the offer. I did my best to uplift them any time they were down, usually to no avail. I prayed regularly for them, often asking God to bring healing, forgiveness, and even a partner into their life, and was regularly told that they didn’t want anything to do with that God of my understanding. I’d shed many-a-tears along the way around this, but I kept on enduring, even when they personally attacked a number of my blogs, the one thing left I still found a little joy in doing.
And yet, I still stuck around, always telling myself over and over I deserved anything they sent my way. That was until just recently though when I realized through my therapist that I hadn’t fully forgiven myself for all the pain I had caused others and myself and that my continuing to accept this friend’s hurtful comments were a sign of that. So, when this friend sent me a text one afternoon that was most definitely loaded with negative energy, I opted for the first time to not respond. Shortly thereafter, I received a warning message that basically said there’d be consequences if I continued to avoid responding to them. Of course, I immediately fell back in line and responded to that with an apology, which in retrospect, I had nothing to apologize for.
A few weeks later, one of my closest friends passed away and as I began the grieving process, I found myself one evening on the phone with my best friend from Massachusetts discussing the details of his passing, when this friend called at a previously scheduled time. I quickly switched over and asked if I could call them back, which twelve minutes later I did, only to get their voicemail and a text message that said they were no longer going to be placed second in life. I was then unfriended again on Facebook, which for me, became the final straw. I messaged them and told them I no longer deserved to be held to my past and that I had done everything I could over the years to show them I was no longer that person. Deep down, I was sick and tired of being a punching bag and told them that when they finally decided to fully forgive me, I’d still be there for them with open arms and unconditional love.
And that’s where I am now with someone I do care about, but someone I also know who still holds on to the person I once was and not who I am now. I know the two of us could be great friends, yet that’s going to involve them fully forgiving me. Until they do, I know I must keep them at a loving arm’s length because I no longer wish to be a punching bag for them or anyone else for that matter. And ultimately, I’m ready to fully forgive myself for my past, because in all reality, I do deserve that.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson