To the world Arieta Tora Rika is a Tongan-Fijian Freelance Writer, Digital Communications Specialist, and Talanoa’s Founder and Creative Director. However to me she is “Tid”, the older sister I never had. It is my pleasure to present serasituations first ever guest blogger. – Sera
Have you ever been hurt by someone that you love? Or have you ever done something stupid, without thinking, and ended up seriously hurting people along the way? If you’re brave, you might try to confront the issue by reaching out to the person to talk it through, with the intention of making amends.
Sera’s last blog post hit some serious notes in the melody of my heart. I know that shame, that guilty feeling of knowing you have unresolved mess out there with people who supposedly know ‘the real you’, the person who acted out through stupid, reckless behaviour. The person you revert to when shit gets real. It took me less than 20 seconds to send an instant response to what I’d just read.
“Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly, and for rolling up your sleeves and getting in there. In your final note, you said to hit you up if it made you feel some time of way. So I thought I would. I experienced the other side of the coin, where I’d opened up to the people who I experienced guilt and needed a release from, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. They understood on a shallow level, but it didn’t resonate with them as it did with me. And I think it’s a topic worth exploring and talking about too, like, what happens when the person rejects you? Or you offend them? Of if you go ahead and do it without God? How do you cope with the vulnerability in that case?”
A few days later, Sera’s response lit up my phone. “Nothing compares to a story that is accompanied with experience. If you’re up to it, I’d be honoured to have you as serasituations first guest post.”
Oh heck. What had I done?
“Tid, I’d be honoured to. Give me a deadline and you’ll have it by then.”
So here I am. And this is it. This is my story. Sera talks from a very real place, a trait of hers I love and connect with. So I thought I’d show you the same respect and do the same. While my 29 years of life have been full of love and colour, there’s no denying I have known real pain in my life. Pain that isn’t easy to talk about. But I mention it because pain is directly related to shame and guilt. I’m not a trained psychologist, but I don’t think we have to be to speak on the human spirit and its emotions. Anyway, this is what I’ve learnt about shame.
Knowing the difference between guilt and shame…
When we experience pain, whether it’s self inflicted or inflicted by others, somehow, guilt or shame seems to loyally follow suit. Guilt is the feeling that we’ve done something that hasn’t aligned with our values – it’s about what we do. It often motivates us to do better. Shame however, is a lot more destructive. It’s the feeling that we are unworthy and also incapable of change – it’s about who we are. Shame leaves us feeling worthless and unlovable.
The way my pain showed up in my life was either through anger, or by holding onto people and situations in the hope that they would truly see and appreciate me for who I am. If you’re close to me, you know this about me. You know I am quiet and cautious at first, then full of colour and laughter the next. I’m physically small but large at heart. I’m witty, bubbly, strong natured, and passionate, and when I’m scared, hurting and don’t pull the reigns in I can be wild with white-hot anger, controlling and anxious as f**k. Yeah.
So, as you can imagine, there have been some casualties along the way. And I’ve also been badly hurt by people who I expected better from. By the time I’d worked through this pain, I realised that I had pain’s best friends, shame and guilt to deal with too. Those thoughts of –
“What if the people in my life found out how stupid and irresponsible I’ve been in the past? Will I lose their respect, or maybe their friendship? Heck, will I lose my job?”
The apology didn’t heal me…
Thankfully, I’ve been raised by women who taught me how to pray. So like many times of heartache before, I turned to prayer. I was anxious, so I rushed through, but I figured that reaching out to people I’d hurt, and that had hurt me, to “resolve” the issues would immediately fix my shame. I’d listen, apologise and this would help me heal. God knew my heart, right?
But what happens when that prayer is a one way street, and the plan openly backfires? When an apology doesn’t heal you? When they turn around and shut you down? Or refuse to hear you out? Even worse, what happens when the person is indifferent? How do you find grace and healing then?
“His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?”
I won’t lie, it’s embarrassing at best and painful at worst. I turned back to God, feeling betrayed. I remember praying, “What the hell God? I took responsibility of my shit. I did the hard thing. I tried to make it right. Why does this feel worse? Here’s my broken heart God. I don’t want a quick fix. I want YOU to make this right, not me.”
“Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”
He answered my prayer and this time He did in His way, not mine. Which means, He wanted to address the root issue (what drove my bad behaviour) and not just the superficial cause and damage (my anger and torn relationships) that my issues had caused.
And what lay ahead was a long road of God inviting me to give more than my petty pain and surrender my whole heart. Again and again, it meant doing it His way, not mine (not trying to mend those broken relationships in my own strength, and turning to him to work on myself). It meant releasing how the situation would play out, and trusting that He wanted me to work on me, and not on my relationships with others. He promised to do the rest, and I had to trust that. At times it felt like my heart was being turned inside out, completely vulnerable and out in the cold. It felt like I was freefalling and I had no idea where and how I’d land.
Trust the process…
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and
my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It was a long process ahead. God showed me a lot of things about myself that I didn’t like, and ultimately had to deal with if I truly wanted to heal and move forward. I am a different person for it and I’m thankful for what I went through. Of all those lessons, here are a few that are universal:
- It’s irresponsible and manipulative to expect someone you’ve hurt to hear you out for the purpose of alleviating your guilt and shame. It’s not on them. It is your responsibility to figure out why you did what you did, forgive yourself, and try to make peace with people for the sake of releasing yourself. Not for the sake of relieving yourself.
- Also, He showed me how powerful it can be when we remove the blame game from the equation, and look deeper into what drove our bad behavior. He showed me where the anger and need for control was coming from. Like looking through a glass down through to deep waters, He also showed me the pain had I endured, basically the real why behind my bad behavior.
- From there, the next step was finding the peace. Peace came when I was able to understand myself, forgive myself, do my best to repair the damage, accept the outcome and release the situation back over to God.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and
lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and
he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and n
ourishment to your bones.”
That’s where the real work is, and inevitably, the real reward – freedom and peace. We all walk our own paths, and yours may be similar or different to mine, but I believe that all of us who feel as if we’ve failed at some point throughout our lives all seek peace and freedom from shame and guilt from our wretched pasts. If you’re about to embark on your own journey of dealing with your past, my only advice is this. Don’t do it alone. If you’re spiritual, you know we’re not technically running solo, but what I’m talking about here is staying constantly connected to a trusted friend. Find your tribe, people who will hold you accountable, advise you, and love you throughout the highs and lows of facing your shame. Or even if it’s just one person, find someone who you can share openly and honestly with who will not judge you. Even if it is a paid psychologist, just do it. Don’t walk this journey alone.
Know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, if you embrace your story and own your past. There is a bright and beautiful future ahead. And like Sera, there are many of us who have walked this journey and are forever marked with the beautiful scars that remind us of where we’ve been, and where we’re going. We’re survivors, and deep down, because you’re here – because you’re still reading, connecting with this story – I think you are too.