Tuesday 7 February 2012

Sticky shadows

I left the drying up towel in a ball on the kitchen counter.  Dirk pointed it out to me. 

"No, I was just about to put it away properly.  If you'd only give me a break.  Why are you so perfect?"  I snapped back.
'I don't normally leave it there, why couldn't he give me a break?' I thought to myself.
I was not about to back down.  I was off...

In fact, I was lost, lost in defensiveness and self protection. 

The next day, I looked across the kitchen and noticed the towel in a ball on the counter.  So I do do that!

Even though I know I'm in the wrong, even while I'm stuck defending myself (with vigor), I'm silently beating myself up inside for getting it 'wrong', for my inability to accept that I get it 'wrong', for being defensive.  Anger pointed at him, is really anger pointed at myself that I haven't yet accepted.  It just erupts outwards.

But here's the rub.  We all have shadow sides, those parts of ourselves that are less loving, less than forgiving, less than kind.  It's a given, part of being human.  It's not the end of the world.  So why do I react so badly to getting it wrong, to having my shadow pointed out to me?  Because I've been brought up to see it as a personal failure.  It's normal to get it wrong from time to time.

What I've discovered is that beating myself up about being imperfect makes those imperfections more 'sticky'.  The more I beat myself up about them, the stickier they get and the longer they are a part of me.

I believe that grace dissolves our imperfections.  But first we have to own them.  Then we have to own them gracefully, without beating ourselves up for not being perfect.  Then, and only then, can grace dissolve them. 

This is subtle work.  I like to believe I'm a pretty good person.  I like to present that front to the world.  I get sticky around my own 'flaws'.  I don't even realise that I'm angry at myself for getting annoyed about the tea towel... yet again.  And so I get stuck, over and over and over again.  Until I don't.  Until the moment I notice myself getting annoyed, feeling embarrassed, feeling like I've somehow failed.  And from that point on, I'm not so reactive to my failing, I'm not so protective of my failing.  It's less sticky.  Gradually, it dissolves.  Perhaps it's not gone entirely, just no longer a source of anxiety and agitation in my world.

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