I have always said that when life throws challenges at you, it is always for a reason. Sometimes those reasons are difficult to see, or do not emerge immediately, but I guarantee you they are there. When you want to look for them and know how to, at least.
And usually, as a good rule of thumb, the worse the incident, the greater the lesson to be learned. I can give countless examples of these lessons in my life, but for this post I want to just focus on one.
Shockingly, it involves the OpenCon saga! Yes, one time soon I will stop writing about this. When it has become something not worth writing about.
So, with all this chaos around OpenCon, as soon as it kicked off, I thought, oh boy, there better be a big lesson in all of this. I have been meditating patiently, and focusing on keeping my mind sharp so as to understand the greater meaning behind all of this. At times, it has been difficult, but mostly, I have found it an incredibly valuable exercise to be deeply introspective and retrospective about the situation.
When I look back on the last few months, it honestly feels surreal, like a parody of real life. The way people have behaved, so vitriolically and histrionically over something so small, it feels bizarre, and more than a bit amusing, at times. A friend from SE Asia told me they would have found this whole thing a hilarious example of ‘white people problems’, if it wasn’t messing up my life so much.
For a long time now, it has felt like, okay, you’ve fucked up my life, what am I supposed to be learning from all of this?
So, here they are. These are the main lessons I consider upon reflection at this point in time. There are of course many more, but I will save them for future posts.
Lesson 1. Forgiveness.
Throughout all of this, I have been focusing on compassion and forgiving all of those who have tried to hurt me throughout this. Even when I have known there has been malicious intent from some people. Especially when meditating, it has been easy to ‘convert’ feelings of sadness and anger at certain people into a deeper sense of forgiveness.
What I originally mistook that for though was equating forgiveness with letting them off the hook for their behaviours. Justice will find them in different ways, I said. I am not needed to be the arbiter of justice, and will let people who behave without virtue destroy themselves through their own actions.
I forgave each of those who hurt me unconditionally, but it did not sit well with me inside for some reason. I was a bit confused. I had forgiven them for what they had done, so why had I not felt the usual release I felt when doing so?
Something was wrong. A friend told me that forgiveness can come later, but justice needs to come first, and I need to be the one who brings that. It is not going to be easy, but the way some people have behaved, they simply cannot be allowed to get away with it. Hold them accountable for their actions, and then forgive them after.
Just because I am forgiving, that does not mean I want to see these people or work with them again. It does not mean that everything is okay. It means that I am not letting the pain they have caused me debilitate me any longer. I am not angry at OpenCon, I am not angry at my exes, I am not angry at the mob. I imagine that all of them probably thought they were fully justified in destroying my life for whatever reason.
While some of them did make it explicitly clear that their intentions were to hurt me, I imagine they even felt justified in doing this for whatever reason too. How can I be truly angry at that, and claim to be any sort of empathetic or compassionate person? If anything, I feel pity and disappointment that grown adults feel that behaving in this way is in any way acceptable. But hey, who am I to judge.
Forgiving them enables me to convert any of these ‘negative’ feelings into more positive ones, and enact positive change from that; for example, identifying the characteristics of those who I will work with in the future, who are more concerned about improving cultures than virtue-signalling and tearing people down.
But still, that does not mean that what they did was not ultimately wrong. And for justice to be served, there has to be an appropriate level of accountability. In many cases, I will simply accept an apology. Such as with OpenCon. I believe that they have been used and misled by several narcissistic individuals, and am willing for forgive and move on if that is the case, with a simple apology. We've got bigger problems to face, and it is time to move on.
Lesson 2: Trust.
I have spent too much time in my past letting people treat me like shit, and getting away with it over and over. I had very weak boundaries, and always put up with abusive behaviours in the hope that people would get better or change them. WRONG. So wrong.
Throughout all of this, I have seen people mislead, deceive, and all manner of strange behaviours, from people I once called friends and colleagues. In the past, I would have forgiven right away and said it is okay. But now, no. I trusted people with my friendship, and instead of reciprocating they used me for selfish intentions. I trusted people with my love, and they used that to wound me.
I know that this is inevitable in life, but instead of putting up with it over and over, I chose to learn from it about how to trust more in the future. And not make the same mistakes again.
On the other hand, what has happened is that many of my friends I now feel a much deeper level of trust and respect for. Those who were there to support, not condemn me. But also, make sure that I was getting a kick in the nads as to acknowledging my role in all of this, and how to be better in the future, and most importantly to take back control of my life. The best friends you have are not the ones who always tell you that you have done no wrong, but those who tell you when you fucked up, and help guide you through that. That is how you earn real trust.
My trust was always something given unconditionally in the past, on the assumption that people were decent and would not abuse it. How wrong I was. In the future, my trust is not something that people will receive by default, but have to earn. People will still have my unconditional respect and my love until they lose it, as I feel for all humans. But from now on, trust is something that has to be worked for. I was foolish with that in the past, but not anymore.