I have stopped trying to be a good person. And I feel good about it.
A radical statement I know. Maybe even heretical. But it is the right thing to do.
And it is the moral thing to do.
Like most people, I have regrets about the past. I have made many mistakes and have hurt the people I love. I have tried to make things right with them. Sometimes they have responded well. Other times they have not and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of bitter emotions from them.
In the past I have victimized others with my out-of-control Bipolar Disorder. I acknowledge that and I take responsibility for how my actions affected them at the time. In recent years I have been working on recognizing when my emotions are out of control to the point of hurting others and have prayed to see where my perceptions have been wrong.
To me, the experience of having Bipolar Disorder is like living in a fun house (only without the fun!) My perception of life is skewed and I often misinterpret situations around me. Someone might say something that I take the wrong way and I lash out in anger, hurting their feelings. I often swing back and forth between thinking it is all their fault or it is all my fault. I have carried a heavy weight of guilt for years.
My response to this is that in recent years is to make myself wrong when I am feeling angry at someone. I tend to feel that I am overreacting and so I will acquiesce to whatever they want. This has caused me to be in co-dependent relationships where I was always second-guessing myself, whether I had a right to be angry with them. Because I didn’t speak up, I ended up being a doormat. After having a “friend” as a roommate who took over my house and my life, and who expected me to take care of him, I was as confused as ever.
It didn’t occur to me until later that I had the right to ask him to leave at any time because it was my house. The issue was never about whether I was right or wrong in my assessment of the situation. The issue was about boundaries and my right to be treated the way I wanted in my own house. The truth be told I never wanted him to move in in the first place. He had quit his job, recklessly spent the rest of his money on extravagances without looking for another one, and then expected me to rescue him from his own bad choices.
I let all this happen because I wanted to be a “good person.”
In August of last year I had been trying to work out some problems with a family member that I know I have hurt deeply with my past behavior. She seemed very open to discussing these things with me and I thought we were making progress. We were in the middle of tackling a thorny issue when a personal crisis came up for her with another family member and she asked me if we could put our discussion on hold until it was resolved. I agreed.
Then in January I made an innocent comment to her and the next thing I knew I was being bombarded with angry e-mails from her and her husband. It seemed that I had inadvertently triggered a resentment related to our discussion that we had put on hold. They both were accusing me of saying something that I had not meant when I had made that remark. Now, I was willing to try and resolve this situation because I really did want to make up for my past behavior towards them.
However, every attempt I made simply resulted in more anger from them. And with that anger came a lot of verbal abuse. In their eyes, I was a completely worthless human being. I was devoid of any redeeming characteristics whatsoever. I was completely selfish and had never done anything for anyone in my entire life. In fact, anything good that I had done was used as a weapon against me. If I treated them nicely, then it was “proof” that I only used my illness to manipulate them.
This truly broke my heart. I was devastated. All the work that I had done in the past few years to improve our relationship meant absolutely nothing to them at all. My fragile self-esteem hit an all-time low. I blamed myself for not being able to make things right.
As I prayed for guidance, I came across an article which completely changed my perspective on the situation. A sentence leaped out at me. It said, “You are not responsible for another person’s healing.”
Wow! I was stunned. I realized that I could forgive myself, even though they could not forgive me. I did my part, the rest was up to them. The choice to heal was entirely their responsibility, not mine. The fact is I don’t have to make up for the past. I acknowledge it, but I don’t have to live my life under a cloud of shame anymore. It is what it is.
My dad, who is my biggest supporter, has told me that he refuses to let the past interfere with our relationship now. And I realize that anyone who can’t accept me as I am now, I don’t really need in my life anyway.
So I have stopped trying to be a good person because I am already a good person. A person who makes mistakes and can always do better, but still a good person.