"The bridge from stagnation to empowerment lies in our willingness to see them for who they really are, to take them off their primal pedestal and recognize their human limitations. This is not easy- the hungry child self clings to illusions- but it is oh so necessary. Until we accept the limitations of those who cannot love us, we cannot embrace the willingness of those who can."
- Jeff Brown
I learned a very valuable lesson the other day, a lesson I have been putting off for years, a lesson I’ve been petrified to learn: I must release people from the mythical pedestal I put them on with the hope they change into something different. It’s tough, especially when it’s someone close to you. But I’ll tell you this, it was one of the most liberating moments in my life. But it was also probably one of the most heartbreaking ones too. It was liberating because I no longer wasted energy secretly hoping year after year they would change. I was tired of feeling disappointment after disappointment. I was free! Oh but it was equally heartbreaking for the same reason. They would never become the person I wanted them to be. The person I knew they could become! But how silly is that of me! It’s only my judgment. They are who they are. But that’s life and while it took me 33 years to come to this conclusion it was well worth it (well…it would have been nice to learn like a decade ago).
My biggest fear coming to this conclusion was that they would disappear from my life. That if I didn’t hold out hope of them changing, I wouldn’t know how to love them anymore and they would cease to exist in my world. I just didn’t want to lose them. The funny thing is now I am free to truly love them simply as them. I don’t need to “save” them, I don’t need to have them be a “better” person, and no, this new outlook didn’t turn me into a cold cynical unfeeling bastard. Instead, it honors both me and them. It allows me to be more confident in who I am by recognizing the world as merely my own powerful interpretation. And for them, I can now give them love without ever expecting anything in return! And of course we should all expect nothing in return from love but I find it to be more difficult when it’s someone close to me like a friend or a family member. We often give MORE love and hold out hope they will change. But alas, some people just don’t have it in them and anyway who am I to say they need to change. Not this guy, that’s for sure.
The Key: Awareness and Acceptance
Become aware of the person you have spent endless time and energy on hoping for change. Then spend some time with yourself and see why. Begin to understand why you want this person to change. You want their approval? Their Love? Maybe for proof that there is hope in the world? Your lack of self-love? Fear of confronting the pain they inflicted on you? Fear you’ll be alone? Fear they won’t live without your love? Fear you will disappear? Whatever it is, take time and figure it out. As I’ve said many times before, the biggest factor to change is becoming aware!
Then Accept it. Just simply accept it. You don’t need to rationalize it. You don’t need to feel guilt or shame (two of my personal favorites). Now that you removed this veil of disillusion, accept them for who they are. Because it is your veil that you’ve placed on them. Now SEE THEM!!! And accept.
A lot of us accept people for who they are. The difficulty lies in taking that final step and releasing the hope that they will change. I’m not saying they won’t change. I’m not saying you shouldn’t help them change…(by the way they must want change for it to happen). What I’m saying is that you can’t take an energetic hit to the heart each time you hold out hope that “this time I know they will change” and they don’t. That’s just masochistic. Release that self-abuse and love them from that state of being.
I want to conclude with this, your relationship will be different after this new perspective. You may find yourself not taking as much abuse as you were before. You may find that you have more compassion for this person. You may find that they slowly fall out of your life. There are a multitude of outcomes. Do not fear them. And do not judge. You are honoring yourself and them. You are evolving! Let the myth go!
This is liberation!