Have you ever experienced unconditional love? unconditional acceptance? My guess is that if you have even one person in your life who loves you that way, you are beyond lucky. To know that you can be totally yourself and still be accepted and loved would be something that could give a sense of safety and stability, elevate your sense of worthiness, and allow you to grow without fear.
I know that I have given that kind of love. I am absolutely certain that there is nothing that my son could do that would change or diminish my love for him. Now I do have the luxury of knowing that he isn’t likely to be on the nightly news for some mass murder so I have never had my love tested to that extent. He’s a good person. Does he always chose what I would chose, do what I would do, or even do what I want him to do? No. But none of that matters. He has to live his own life and do what is right for him. I will give advice and opinions. But whether he takes my advice or agrees with my opinions will not change one fact. I will love him throughout anything.
I’d like to have that kind of love. But when you grow up trying to win acceptance and approval and you are taught that what other people think matters most, it is hard to ever find the security, safety, and comfort that come with unconditional love. It also makes it difficult to feel capable of standing up to the ways that life attacks you.
I’ve been doing a great deal of reading and thinking about self-worth, depression, and self-love. I’ve been working on my own feelings and trying to make sense of them. What I have discovered is that, even at my age, I still want to know that there is someone who would be there no matter what. Who would stand up next to me in a storm, wrap an arm around my shoulder and say that we’re in this together…always…regardless of what happens. I don’t always feel that I have those people in my life, but now and then I find someone who steps up and stands with me.
Recently I was accused of being something that I find heinous. The accusation came from someone who didn’t know me at all. The accusation meant nothing. It was a reflection of the woman making the allegation and her insecurity not of me. What left me in a puddle of tears and disbelief was the lack of support from my bosses. They should have (and I really believe that deep down they did) know me better than to believe her. But they remained silent when it came to giving support. They were going to change my hours or hide me in a back office rather than stand up and say that they knew it wasn’t true. Their reasons? Fear, lack of courage, and an unwillingness to stand up for what is right. They didn’t want media attention or bad social media publicity. They cared more for appearances than truth.
For a very, very short while, I was devastated by this. Luckily, I did have friends who stepped up to stand with me. Who had been coworkers there. They were no longer employed there (and somewhat for the same reasons that I turned in my resignation), but they knew me and my work. They knew that the accusations were absolutely false. I talked to Megan first. Her anger on my behalf buoyed me up. Her automatic support let me know that others were willing to stand up for me and for what was right. As several other friends rallied around me, I felt loved and safe. It gave me the strength to not obsess over the incident and to know that I really did nothing to deserve this.
I still resigned. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the situation where I felt so vulnerable to the whims of someone who didn’t know me and to someone who is always in CYA mode. I had been through a similar situation at the end of my teaching career. As department head and as a representative for our association, I was called on to help some colleagues and friends. I went into meetings to offer support against unfounded allegations made against them, worked for their efforts with the administration, and was rewarded by them turning their backs on me when the going got tough. Perhaps even worse than not standing with me was that they turned their backs when I was subjected to some repercussions for my support of them.
I learned lessons then that served me well this week. I know that I have to be the kind of friend who will stand with you not only in the sunshine but also in the storm. Even though I have had people turn on me and run, I’ve also had those who stood firm. I had some people who sent messages of support when they didn’t know the particulars…but they new the participants. I know that there is honor and a sense of pride in standing up for what you believe to be right. Sometimes this can be a lonely place to stand. Luckily, there are also times when you find that you won’t be standing alone because there are good people around if you look for them instead of focusing on the ones who hurt you. I know that standing up for what is right has its risks, but not standing up has its risks too. If I stand up for what I know is right and I stand up for those who are right, I will be able to look myself in the mirror at night. Even if I had ended up standing alone, I needed to stand. As Atticus Finch said, “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”