October 24, 2016

How I Made my Pain a Catalyst for Change.

@elephantjournal on Instagram


After months of writing about the love that I lost, it occurred to me to wonder what it is like for him to have made such a deep impact on my life.

To be the focus of all of that attention must be strange!

The thought opened up all these doors in my mind. I began to wonder if I have ever made that kind of impact on anyone else’s life.

If I have, I certainly don’t know it.

I don’t think anyone I’ve dated has ever truly been besotted with me or pined for my attention. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been absolutely adored by one person. Not ever.

But then I thought, How would I know? Not everyone has a public blog. And maybe those people wouldn’t say. I can’t know for sure, can I?

While we can never clearly see our own impact, we can make an effort to have a positive influence in the lives of others. We can do our best to be kind and considerate—to spread joy where we go. We can try to limit the outward ripple of our difficult days where we’re capable only of great anger or sadness. We can remember to reach out to others who seem to be struggling. We do as little damage as possible in the lives of others.

When it comes to the world of dating, we can be our deepest, truest selves. We can be honest, even when it’s hard. We aim to be fully present in our relationships, and end them kindly when they’re done.

We may impact others deeply, but we can do our best to minimize harm.

I look back at the love I lost and wish he could have shared more of his truth with me. It might not have been a pretty truth. It surely would have hurt my feelings. I often feel like his avoidance was simply his way of protecting my feelings. Avoiding conflict is a common choice.

I found our ending hurtful because I would always prefer a hard truth over a gentle lie.

Perhaps my hurt was the wake-up call I needed. It certainly shocked me. I had become so wrapped up in that relationship—lost inside it.

In the end, I made my hurt a catalyst for change. I allowed it to transform me and make me stronger—rather than letting it break me down. I think when we feel damaged, we can use that pain as a reminder not to cause harm. We can use it to understand how our behavior has a ripple effect, and we can focus less on how other people treat us more on how we’re treating them.

It makes me think of It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey has this spectacular life that has had such a profound, positive impact on the world around him, yet he sees only his failures and struggles. But life isn’t a Capra film, and no angel is going to come show us exactly what impact we’re making in the world around us. Still, we can try our best. We can listen to feedback. When someone says we hurt them, we can believe them. We can make amends, we can be accountable. We can try very hard to lead with kindness, to think of others and to treat others how we hope to be treated.

It’s an election year as I’m writing this, and a great deal of harm has been going around in our interactions. Aspersions cast, insults parried. And I’m not just talking about the leaders of this country. Sometimes, I feel that we forget that being kind is more important than being right.

I think we use something like a heated election year to give ourselves permission to harm others with our words—rather than showing compassion. But I don’t think it’s too late for change. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start being kind. All the times we’ve been hurt can remind us not to inflict pain on others.

I don’t know if the love I lost ever thinks about me. I don’t know if my existence was anything more than a blip on the radar of his life, a bump in the road that took him to happiness with someone else. And I don’t know if I’ve ever impacted another human being’s life so deeply.

We can’t know that, and we’re not going to have a George Bailey moment where we get to find out. Instead, we can allow the experience breaking to remind us that other people are of value, even if they don’t play a starring role in our lives.

Even if all they do is bag our groceries or hand us a delivery, we can try to radiate kindness outward—always.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if he ever thinks of me or if I mattered at all. Because he mattered to me. The hurt mattered, and I hope that I’m a better person for it.

I hope that this perspective helps someone else turn their experience into a catalyst for being kinder, more compassionate and more aware of how important we all are to this world.


Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel


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