The concept of a persons’ “ugly” was introduced to me by my Dad. He is a wise, hard, loving man. The idea of a persons’ “ugly” is simple: every person has a part of them that is unpleasing, dark, bad or “ugly”. Another way of thinking about it is everyone has sin or a stain on them.
I have been aware of my personal ugly for some time or at least I thought I fully understood it. I can be selfish, close-minded, and uncaring. Also my mouth gets me into trouble more often than I’d care to admit. To top all of this off I can be fearlessly prideful and arrogant. I do all I can to keep these parts of myself at bay. I know that my ugly can cause hurt and pain for myself and others.
For the most part I have been able to keep my ugly contained, but recently I caused hurt and irrevocable harm. I am ashamed, but know there is nothing to fix and nothing to do.
I have lost a friend. It hurts to admit this. I don’t know if she will ever read this, but I want to put it out into the universe that I love her. I must thank her. She gave me so much through our friendship. I thought she was going to be a new part of my friend family, but that is not to be. I have been found wanting.
I want her to know that I wish her only good things and hope that through respecting her desire for space from me I can atone for my errors.
Gritting my teeth I write this now and share my shame in hopes that you can learn from it.
Over the past few months I have seen so much hate and anguish brewing. I myself have felt it. I have wanted to sever ties with family and preach my righteous speeches.
I was so caught up with me and I put myself ahead of my friend. I put my needs before hers. I killed our friendship because I was impatient and hurt. I did that. Now she’s gone from my life. I bumped into her at an event and the walls were so clearly up. I am a stranger to her. I did that.
My country, the United States, is going through an existential crisis. A civil war of ideas is brewing for the identity of my country. At stake is the heart of the US and the casualties this time will most likely be not only freedom and financial security but more severely family bonds and relationships.
Social media has given us the gift of deeper understandings of people in our life. We now know that our work colleague is obsessed with bowling and Dancing with the Stars. We know that our college friends are getting new jobs, having babies and taking adventures abroad. We also know that our grandma’s racism has leapt from the thanksgiving table to our news feed. We are learning that our good friend is pro-choice. All of this knowledge causes a clear tension. A tension which the new American President has put a prism up to. He has caused the tension to grow, refracting to all corners of the country.
Now choices must be made. Will we dive more fully to our respective corners? Will we abandon those who think differently than us?
It is not fair to ask someone to leave 10% of them self at the door. It is not fair to ask someone to be a little less them self. But what do you do when that 10% of them is in direct opposition to 10% of you?
I failed this question. My friend needed space, but I needed to have everything resolved. I needed to know where the boundaries were. I was selfish and pushed my needs ahead of hers.
There is nothing wrong with what she needed and what I needed, but I was wrong to put my needs above hers.
I think the easy path, to stay within the bubble of people who are just like you and think just like you will make us a weaker people. To abandon relationships over ideological differences is easy. This is why interfaith marriages and coalitions confound most people and inspire all. It is the more difficult path.
I remember reading a book by Desmond Tutu and he talked about lions laying with lambs. My teacher at the time further explained that this is not achieved by the lion being less lion or the lamb being less lamb. She explained that the goal was for the community as a whole to find a way of existing so that lion and lamb might lay together while fully being themselves.
I am not saying that this would be easy to accomplish, but I think working toward this ideal is better than cutting people out of your life.
People must come first. Relationships must be valued over ideas.
I live in a state where almost everyone who could, voted for the new American President. People I admire and respect, people who I have to see every day, people who claim to care about me. I wanted to cut these people out of my life. I wanted to shame them. Then I lost my friend. I felt the cut of losing a relationship. I am worse off now without her in my life.
So from this place of hurt and shame I encourage you to take the hard path. Life is short, too short for regret. Maybe you need time to settle your anger or hurt or whatever you may be feeling. Space and time can help give a clearer perspective. Don’t wait too long, because some choices cannot be undone and some damage cannot be repaired.
When you’re ready I encourage that you listen. Remember that everyone has ugly in them. Remember your ugly and allow it to humble you so that you can truly listen. Maybe the person whose ideas and ideals are different than yours has something to teach you and you have something to teach them. You’ll never know though, if you refuse to try.