On our most recent trip to our soon-to-be new home, we stopped at a local coffee shop to enjoy some delicious food and the beautiful weather. We had just experienced some deep loss from a tragic event and we were starting to find the joy in life again.
Our goal for the day was to meet our first of several builders. We were ready to begin the process of building our forever home in a welcoming and loving community. It was truly a dream come true to find such a magical place to live.
Sitting in the warm sun with the soft breeze on my face made me feel at ease, and I was beginning to embrace that we were moving to a more welcoming place.
The table next to us was two older couples and they were clearly locals. They began discussing grief and how important experiencing loss was to one's overall strength as a human. My wife and I could overhear a lot of what was being said, and we quietly agreed with the sentiment as we were currently in that struggle.
Their conversation turned political, and although we did not really listen to much of what was being said, we gathered that we were all of like minds. This was comforting to me, and I turned to my wife and said, "I love it here. Can we just stay?" She smiled sweetly and opened her arms. I laid my head on her chest and she held me for a moment.
Suddenly, the lady at the table next to us, the one who had been doing most of the talking, was on her feet and speaking quite loudly. We did not want to seem rude, so we tried to just stay focused on our list of questions for the builder. However, we quickly realized her protest was about US.
"... I don't appreciate having to watch homosexuals MAKE OUT while I am trying to eat ... "
It took us a moment to realize that we were her target. She was shaming us! I said, "Excuse me, but no one is MAKING OUT." My wife launched into explaining our moment of intimacy, and I said, "You don't have to explain shit to this lady."
Shaking and stunned, we packed our things and left.
Forgiveness is Freeing
Once in the car, shame and despair washed over us. My wife decided that she could not let our reaction be the end ~ she had to have the last word. She put her mask on and went back to the patio.
"Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt. But I need you to know that you hurt me. Deeply. My wife and I have just experienced a devastating loss and we overheard you saying such good things about grief. I was comforting her, and what you did and said was extremely hurtful." The lady apologized, but began protesting our offense to her actions because she had been "traumatized", which I assume had something to do with homosexuals making out. She asked to somehow make it up to us. "There is nothing you can do. And I want you to know that I forgive you."
Upon returning to the car, she seemed lighter. Her energy had shifted. She relayed the interaction and the lady's excuses. But the most powerful part of the interaction was my wife's forgiveness.
In that moment, the forgiveness was the freeing response. The only way we could move on from that unfortunate happening and the despair we felt was to forgive her. Immediately.
Reactions based purely on emotion can backfire. I believe in that moment, all parties were reactionary.
Reactions, such as the ones displayed in our interaction at the coffee shop, comes from a place of trauma. The lady who got offended by an intimate moment of grief by two women clearly reacted as a result of her trauma following an event she had experienced prior. She then projected her trauma onto us.
Being reactionary eliminates any room for critical thinking, emotional intelligence, or self-love. When one reacts to something, the consequence can be damaging. And in our case, it was damaging for all parties involved.
But a mindful response comes from a more healing place. When one responds vs reacts, it can have a much better outcome. There is more room for everyone to take ownership of their own emotions and not project their trauma on to others.
My wife quickly shifted to a mindful response rather than a traumatized reaction.
Not reacting to an emotional situation can be difficult. The amount of control over one's emotions is purely based on one's ability to think before responding.
When my wife went back in to confront the woman who reacted to us, she was responding; she was sharing her true emotions in that moment - in a kind and loving way - despite having felt attacked and shamed.
This is why it is important to take deep breaths or count to ten after an emotional outburst or attack. It's not always easy to do in the moment. In fact, I found it interesting that I even wanted to say anything to her except that I felt the need to correct her. My reaction was from my inner trauma of being shamed for being gay. And what she said she saw was not even true. It was her trauma that reacted.
Empathy & Understanding
During events where deep trauma and pain are triggered, it can be difficult to find empathy and understanding for others. However, without these traits, we miss the lessons; we hurt others; we create a bigger divide in society.
My wife was able to find her compassion and instant forgiveness in that moment for that lady. I could not. How could my love for my wife be triggering to someone else? How can a moment of comfort turn into a traumatizing event? How was it so easy to feel a tremendous amount of shame from another's trauma?
It has taken me almost a week to write this blog, and many meditation sessions, but I am going to forgive the lady. The only way for me to be free is to do so. I must find empathy and understanding for someone who has clearly lived a lifetime of events I will not experience. Her trauma and pain stops with me. My forgiveness helps us both move out of trauma and into a more healing place.
May you find forgiveness ~ for yourself and others.
May you respond with compassion and understanding ~ to yourself and others.
Be well, Friends