On Giving Advice
One of my best friends gave me some advice the other day. It is some of the best advice that I’ve ever gotten. It has been bouncing around in my head non stop ever since. Uggghhh…I don’t wanna get into what the conversation was about but the gist of it is, I thought I had hurt someone. Which is to say I thought I may have damaged a friendship and hurt someone emotionally. It wasn’t malicious. But it was a little negligent. To paraphrase my friend’s advice: stop trying to live in a way that will prevent you from ever needing to forgive or be forgiven. It’s a really earth shaking premise. When I first sat down to start this blog post that’s not the direction I was heading. I suppose that is one reason why I should be happy instead of anxious that it takes me so long to fully develop something before I complete the writing part of it and post it as a blog. Some posts come pretty quickly and others just rattle around for ages before they materialize. That’s not to say that I don’t sprinkle in a bit of laziness to boot. There are days where I look over at my laptop with PLENTY of time on my hands and I opt to take a nap instead of setting a 15 minute timer and free writing on it until I hear the DING! It’s fun to digress.
The part that really struck me at first was this idea that I tip toe around my life trying to make sure that no one ever needs to forgive me. Another friend of mine would say “get out of other people’s journey.” And that’s so true. If I follow that idea to its logical conclusion I see myself modifying my behavior all the time! That shows up a bunch of different ways. I may relax a personal boundary because I’m afraid that to be firm with it would turn this person off and maybe they’ll like me less? It also allowed me to consider, from a fresh and loving perspective, whether or not I thought I would ever really be a person who never needed forgiveness? Is that a real thing? Of course not. And to think so or to behave as if I would never need to be forgiven, is to deprive myself of a deep aspect of love and to deprive another of the same. Forgiveness is a deep pool of self reflection. But it’s almost as if the deeper you go into the stillness and darkness of the water, sometimes the more clearly you see yourself. When I tiptoe around my life I do not honor the gift of my uniqueness and individuality. When I am not honest in my conversations and interactions with people and the planet, I do not honor the gift. When I sit quietly with these ideas I am comforted by the bright truth that the discomfort is always leading me back to love. I don’t have to be afraid to live honestly and boldly in any moment. And one aspect of developing love for myself is the freedom to trust my heart. I trust my heart not only to act in its best interest but also in course correcting when it doesn’t. And that’s a deep twisting gnarly embrace of my humanity. Because part of me wants to say that it’s a cop out to be a dick whenever I want because hell, I’m doing someone a favor but putting them in a position to forgive me. What a gift I have given you that I have so royally fucked you over that your ears are steaming…bless me. Bless me, indeed. But yeah, it’s not like that. I think it’s normal to feel an aspect of that, and that feeling is worth exploring too. But when I distill the idea of my friend’s advice in the silence of my heart, I find that it comes back to love. Do I love myself enough to forgive myself when I fuck up. Because if I do, if I truly do forgive myself when I know I have wronged another or drifted from my dharma, then I am aligned with dharma all along, and at peace with my heart in a moment. If I am uneasy with myself, I am uneasy with you. If I have not forgiven myself, then your forgiveness, even the idea of your forgiveness, terrifies me. So it comes down to this; I can love you and you can love me and we can forgive each other. In fact, if we are honest and loving and hold each other dear along this journey together, we will likely need to forgive one another at some point. And the good part, the spoiler, the truth, is that we are all worth it. It comes down to love. It always comes down to love.
I also started to write this post because giving and receiving advice is a really triggering event for me. I always feel like I’m in a position to give and I often feel insulted when I someone gives me advice, even if I could really use a moment of shutting the fuck up and listening. I know that’s a common set of feelings. I could gloss over it easily and say that it is tied to my insecurity but…insecurity about what? What is really behind all of these feelings that pop up around giving and receiving advice. And how does this gem of a piece of advice that I was so recently gifted fit into the puzzle?
I think that part of being a good friend is being able to give and to receive advice when it’s called for. Or, maybe that’s part of being a helpful human being in general. When I find myself in a situation where I feel compelled to give advice it usually looks like this: other person says something, and before they finish what they are saying I have usually formed some kind of opinion about what they are saying. This means I have diverted my full attention from them, I have given away my stillness, and I have entered a narrative. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing that I need to take note of. Once I enter into the narrative, that’s really where I seem to be triggered. So as I slow it down I see that my emotional connection is often more closely connected to the story I have told myself ABOUT my friend’s story, and not about their information. Now fully triggered I fall quickly into the pattern that says “these feelings are all bad and they are here to destroy you and you must do anything you can to eliminate them.” One of the first manifestations of this is that I reply to my friend with scorn. I am not above it. It still happens and is still a very real part of my human experience.
The difference is that I am not afraid to talk about those feelings anymore. I am not afraid to say out loud that friend has upset me or that I have given away my peace or that I have erred and need to be forgiven. Look, there are a few times in my life where my humility has taken my into the arms of a friend who has forgiven me and welcomed me home. Those moments matter. It’s not an excuse to misbehave. It’s not an end run around accepting responsibility for emotional mischief. It’s just true. We will fuck up. We will get fucked with. We can forgive. And we can be forgiven. And once again, it all comes down to love.