For All I Do Wrong
Posted by Trina Bartlett
I felt like a child on the verge of a temper tantrum. I wanted to put my hands over my ears, stomp my feet and tell everyone to be quiet.
But, I couldn’t. I was attending a meeting in a professional capacity.
And so, I could only throw an internal temper tantrum during which I raged about how easily people can point fingers.
Maybe, I had just reached my capacity for simplistic thinking. Maybe I was exhausted by all of the people who expend all of their energy finding fault rather than solutions. Maybe I was tired of putting labels on people without taking into consideration all of the external forces that helped shape them. And maybe, just maybe, I was too aware of all of the mistakes I’ve made in my own life.
And so, when I was forced to listen to people make a blanket statement that all homeless people are drug addicts and criminals, I twitched.
Here’s the truth: not all homeless people are criminals or drug addicts and very few drug addicts and criminals are homeless.
Here’s a greater truth: no person arrives at rock bottom on purpose. No one makes decisions with the sole purpose of destroying all of the good things around them. Most important of all, no person can be described by one or two simple adjectives like addict or homeless or loser.
I’m not just saying this because my work involves individuals who struggle with those labels so I have the opportunity to see how complicated people and situations are.
I’m saying this because I make mistakes EVERY SINGLE DAY. Sometimes the mistakes are small and easily forgotten. Sometimes they are significant enough to hurt others, and I carry the guilt and regret with me as though they were an actual physical presence. And, more often than not, I’ve hurt myself with a pattern of wrong decisions that have left scars on both on my body and my soul.
And yet, few, if any people, label me by mistakes. Maybe that’s because I’m able to hide them behind a shield of respectable friends, family and job. Maybe it’s because I am surrounded by people who are not so weighed down by their own mistakes that they still have the energy and ability to help me when I fall. And maybe it’s because I was raised by parents who, even as they reached out a hand to help pick me up, never allowed me to escape the consequences of my mistakes.
But if I ever discovered that, instead of being identified as a unique individual, I was being forced to wear my mistakes as a label, I would not just feel shame. I would also feel less than human. And when I feel bad about myself, I am much more likely to make bad decisions.
Which is why, as I sat in that meeting where blame was being thrown around like baseballs at spring training, I wanted to remind people of that old saying “when you point a finger at someone, remember there are three pointing back at you.”
In other words, we can’t expect the world to change until each of us changes too. That starts with spending less time finding blame, more time trying to understand the complex issues that cause our biggest community problems, and, most importantly, relying on ourselves rather than others to be part of the solution.
About Trina BartlettI live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter in high school, a son starting his adult life at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.
Posted on March 26, 2016, in My life, perspective and tagged addiction, community, homeless, life, life lessons, mistakes, musings, opinion, People, personal, perspective, social problems, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.