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December 20, 2016

How to Right a Wrong: Facing our Shadow Self Head-On.

In the community of light, we love to talk about the power of intention and compassionate action. We discuss at length how to spread this knowledge, and we work every day to infuse the lives of others with love and wisdom. We call ourselves healers, lovers, teachers, lightworkers—we identify strongly with these labels.

Yet our intense focus on the light can often cause us to have shadow selves much deeper and darker than anyone would guess.

I recently made irresponsible decisions, and I hurt the person I love most in the world. When I realized what I had done, my first reaction was not to confess, to beg forgiveness, or to prepare to do the work; my first reaction was to justify my actions. I am a good person, I thought. I would never do something like this.

There must be some dark force I can blame.
It must not have been my fault.
I am not someone who hurts people.

Why were these my first thoughts? Because I had thought them before. Repeatedly. My whole life, whenever I made a mistake, my natural reaction has been to say: Forgive yourself. People make mistakes. It’s not your fault.

This has merit, of course. We must all learn to forgive ourselves with time. But we cannot skip the step of acknowledgement.

When a human who identifies as a healer hurts someone, it is a direct stab to the ever-powerful ego. Suddenly, we are no longer who we thought we were. We are everything we fight against, and this is a painful thing for the heart and mind to process.

Yet if we skip the step of acknowledging our wrongdoing, and push the guilt and shame back into the shadow, we lose our authenticity. We lose the ability to act purely and compassionately, because as we build up justifications, as we come up with more and more reasons why we did nothing wrong, we become self-righteous.

We raise ourselves to a level above other people, and create an artificial platform of moral superiority from which we judge others by fabricated standards. We have no right to try and heal others from this place.

What I did shocked me to my core. It hit me too hard to hide from it. Through hours of sitting with my head in my hands, crying and throwing up, I realized that there was nothing I could do but present myself to my loved one in all my darkness, acknowledge I had done wrong, make no excuses, and leave the business of forgiveness entirely up to them.

Sometimes we cannot be the healer. Sometimes we cannot be the lover. Sometimes, all we can do is be broken and meditate on what we have done. It will not feel enlightening, and there is no glory. It sucks, in fact.

I write this while still in that place. I have not come out the other end. I am sitting with my guilt. I am not certain what the outcome will be. This work may not, in fact, work.

But I am learning to identify only as a human. I am not pure love and pure light. My actions do not always reflect my intentions. I do not always act from a place of compassion. I have spread love, but I have also inflicted pain.

I write this not to celebrate my process, but because maybe somewhere, someone in a similar place will read it. Perhaps, they will look in the mirror and accept their shadow. And maybe together, we will learn to stop trying to control the balance of right and wrong in the world outside of us, and start with ourselves.

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Author: Juliana Ivey

Image: Flickr/Bjorn Heidnestrom

Editor: Travis May

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Juliana Ivey