This quote is the first statement of principle that Rev. Michelle Wadleigh teaches in her Forgiveness work. She calls this quote, and a list of 19 others, Foundational Beliefs for a Transformed Life.
When I first read this statement of principle I wanted to argue with her. I asked her, if people think they are against you, then they are against you. Right?
“No,” she said. “They only think they are because they are afraid. When they look at you they are seeing a part of themselves they don’t like. Rather than look at that part in themselves they don’t like, they point their fingers at you. They blame you. They judge you in the ways they judge themselves – not good enough, mean, awful, selfish, unkind…you name it. It is easier for them to point at you instead of looking in the mirror.”
A few days later a friend called and complained that I hadn’t responded to a text in a time that she expected. My schedule was busy and I just couldn’t get to the text. She got so mad at me that she went on the attack asking me, “Why didn’t you respond the same day I sent the text? Don’t you care about me? How many times do I have to contact you before you will respond?”
Commonly I defend myself in those situations. I respond by telling the person how sorry I am and just take the blame. I just want to keep the peace. What I honestly wanted to tell her is that I have a life and I love you but I will call when I can, not when you demand. But that would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
But then I looked at the situation through the lens of Michelle’s quote.
My friend only thinks she is mad at me. Maybe she is lonely and just needed a call that she couldn’t ask for. Or maybe she has had a history of being ignored and in her fear, she decided that I was ignoring her. Or maybe she has a habit of ignoring calls and thought that I was ignoring her like she ignores others. Who knows? Right? Only that person can say.
The idea Michelle is trying to get across is that my friend only thinks she is mad at me. She only thinks I am the bad-guy. The truth probably is that she loves me dearly and is afraid that the way I demonstrate my love means I don’t love her back.
In my own treatment work I have begun to include much of what I have learned from Michelle. She encourages us to treat for challenges and transgressions back through the ancestors through the framework of forgiveness. She reminds us to treat for ourselves, first and foremost, forgiving ourselves for our own transgressions and painful errors in judgement. She tells us to remember the quote from the infamous Maya Angelou. “When we know better, we do better,” and release ourselves from any unnecessary and unwarranted judgments of ourselves. By treating with forgiveness in our hearts we are able to clear away the “muck” (a very New Jersey word) that clogs our souls leaving us to live in the love and peace and the freedom that we each richly deserve.