There's a train platform, beyond the known, upon which you may have stood. Similar to that platform for Harry Potter's train to Hogwarts, it exists only for those with special access. We gather there, tickets long crumpled in sweaty hands, waiting for the Midnight Train to Torture. Not dreaming, but awake, we ride the tracks of very special memories: those of bewildered pain.
But WHY did she leave? WHY did he say that awful thing? What did I do to deserve THAT? How COULD she? We labor in the wee hours, straining as we shovel our already-painfully-hot coal into the firebox. Faster and faster flies the train, as we seek a destination of meaning, or at least of wisdom. We yearn for explanations, but there is no wise Conductor serving hot chocolate and answers...or there are too many to count.
If you've ridden this train, then at some point in your life, you have been rocked back on your heels with shock at someone's hurtful words or deeds. Out of "the blue," or "left field," it "caught you off guard" and wounded you deeply. Perhaps it even seemed to you that the person who hurt you didn't notice they'd done so. Oblivious, he or she has gone on with life, blissfully unaware of the pain inflicted. And, yet, here you are, still feeling the hurt, months, years, or decades later.
Maybe you've prayed it away, therapized it away, released it in a burning bowl ceremony, or as a candle floating down a lazy creek. Still, the hurt recurs, landing you back on that train platform over and over...maybe not every night or even every month of nights, but often enough that the pain stays raw. For another metaphor, here's how a man in one of my workshops once put it: "I already did the work to drop the handle of that little red wagon full of childhood wounds...but it appears to be tied to my wrist."
Here you are, at the seventh of the 7 Childhood Treasures. Acceptance can make the pain stop. Acceptance is meant to be the crowning glory, designed to provide sturdy cover for your Self-governed, Ego-Aware, Leading Free S.E.L.F., protecting you when life is at its stormiest. Acceptance shelters and protects all the other Treasures, once in place, but here's the catch: without a strong foundation of Trust and Independence, mined at one and two years, you could not have easily captured that gem of Acceptance at seven.
As always, though, it's never too late to return to the mines! To get you off that train platform forever, I offer a tool to re-open the mine shaft to Acceptance. It's a surprising one. Are you ready?
Rather than strive for acceptance of how you have been hurt, practice acceptance for how you have hurt others. Yes. Accept the certainty that in your "wake" in life, there has been pain for some. In some cases you know what you did that caused that pain; in others, you are, and will remain, blissfully ignorant. Just accept that it's true. You know in your heart that it is. No matter how "good" a person you are and have been, this is your past.
I created this mining tool because of a sweet little story I found in my social media feed, about an interaction among a book store cashier, an elderly customer, and the student waiting to buy text books. (I hesitate to share the link, because of implied endorsement of the click-baity site where I found it. However, if you're interested, search on "old lady paid for a customers books" and you should find it...and yes, I know there's a missing apostrophe -- sic.)
But you don't have to look up the story because I'm going to tell you the point.
Spoiler alert.... The upshot of the story is that we should be kind to strangers whenever we can, because we don't know all the ways we may have unknowingly hurt someone in the past.
So, I thought about that for a while...and I knew. I knew I had created a wake of pain. Some of it I can guess, some I know for sure, and -- yes -- of some, I am sure, I am blissfully ignorant. Certain of those hurtful impacts here and there in a generally very kind past, what if I could -- not excuse what I did -- but accept that I hurt some people, both knowingly and ignorantly? What if I accepted this reality and probable reality, "regarding it as true?" What if I accepted this indesputable fact, as in "accommodated or reconciled" myself to it? What if I could accept it, as in "to undertake the responsibility for?"
Then, what if I forgave myself? I know how to keep a firm hold on my responsibility for pain and still forgive myself for causing it, thanks to a shiney Treasure of Independence and some fine, healthy boundaries. I can accommodate the reality, acknowledge it as true, and also forgive myself. What happens when I do that?
I'll tell you what: the mine shaft to Acceptance opens wide, and my climb down to it is as easy as following a set of stairs. The raw ore is poking up, ready for me to grab it, shape it, and make it mine.
I realize that this strategy may sound counter-intuitive, and...well, reverse psychology does work! Once you accept the pain you have caused, accept it and forgive yourself, how can you not extend that same acceptance and forgiveness to those who have hurt you?
Alrighty then, say "so long" to the Midnight Train to Torture. Toot. Toot.
My March 8th #tedxwyco talk in Kansas City was about how we get wired for Faith...or don't, at about three years of age. It included basic instructions for two re-wiring tools, as well! The video will be available on my YouTube channel in a few weeks. Meanwhile, here is the video of the "dry run" talk that I gave a few weeks ago, as part of my preparations for the TEDx stage. #dreambig and enjoy!