I’m always interested in knowing what other people’s experience in therapy is like. Mine has been a Godsend. My therapist hits me with real, honest truths even when I don’t want to hear them. She listens to me try to rationalize my feelings and points out what I’m responsible for and what is not my responsibility. A lot of what I feel guilt and sadness for I have no control over. It’s simply a reaction to what has been done to me and what I’ve been through.
Several months ago I had a discussion with someone about therapy. This person relayed their appointment and now their therapist said they needed to “Drive their own bus” and stop letting the events of their past dictate their future. The premise was that, instead of letting the anger he experienced in the past be his driving force in life, he take control and drive his bus instead of clinging angrily on to the roof of it while other people drive it.
One problem with that- this person has used the proverbial bus to run over everything and everyone in his path, leaving a trail of destruction wherever he goes. I was no exception.
You see, in order for therapy to work, you have to be honest. You have to talk about things in a way that doesn’t make you look great sometimes. You have to admit fault. You have to come clean. It’s the only way you get everything you need out of therapy. The only way therapy works is if you are an open book and you have a therapist that gives you honest, sometimes brutal advice based on your own brutal honesties.
Do I think that this person told their therapist they had taken full advantage of a grieving widow and her child mere months after the loss of their beloved husband and father?
No. No I don’t.
I was always a secret in this situation. I don’t expect him to have been honest about me behind the closed doors of an office door, either.
After picking over every single detail of my last relationship with my therapist we have come to many conclusions, but the biggest one is that my intent was to do no harm. I allowed myself to be “the secret” because he convinced me that my existence would hurt his children. He convinced me my existence would hurt his parents. He convinced me that anything more that being a secret fixture in his life and a “friend” in public would hurt him, even though my daughter and I were the only ones who saw pain and loss in this situation. He was a daily fixture in our lives and then he wasn’t. Neither of us understand that to this day.
We were run over, and he was the one driving the bus.
I have struggled with the notion that forgiving someone doesn’t mean forgetting. My therapist and my spiritual mentors pointed out that as Christians, we are called to forgive. We are also called to hold the guilty accountable for their actions. Holding them accountable breaks my heart all over again, although I may be the only person in their life that has ever said “What you did is not ok. I have forgiven you, but I will hold you accountable because that’s what I am required to do so you don’t do this to anyone else”.
The trouble with empathy is that you take on emotional responsibility for what happens to people who don’t care what happens to you. You mistakenly think that everyone is empathetic, and that is not the case. Some people are happy to leave you in the middle of the road bleeding to death after running over you with their bus and moving on quickly to their next victim. Some people are given every opportunity to wrong their rights but don’t.
You can’t force them to. You can hope. You can pray about it. But in the end, personal choice wins every time. I have found myself making deals with what feels like the devil. “Well if he would just produce the title to the car, I could overlook XYZ. If he would just pay me monthly, I can see that he’s making an effort to return the money he took from us, and I wouldn’t have to move forward to make him do it.” My therapist told me his intentions are clear- he doesn’t think he did anything wrong, his parents don’t think he did anything wrong, he’s surrounded by people who enable him so he will never right his wrongs. His lifestyle and beliefs will not allow him to. All traits of narcissistic personality disorder.
Still, I empathize. I pray for the addict in him. I pray for the habitual gambler. I pray for the sinner. I pray for the person who is so broken that, when he saw me that first day in Starbucks minding my own business, decided I was an easy target and continued to break what was left of me. Throughout the entirety of our relationship I kept thinking “He has so much potential. If he could just get his life together he would be so great”. I found myself waiting out the bad times because he promised good times were coming. This person has had opportunity after opportunity to be loved. He has been in the company of some pretty amazing women and blew every shot he had with the same behavior he had with me. There is something really tragically sad about someone who uses and abuses women the way he does. There is something really wrong with someone who can bond with my young child and use her as a way to get closer to me and earn my trust, and then discard both of us like we are nothing. But that’s what happened.
Driving your own bus, to him, meant only looking out for number one. It meant doing whatever it took to get himself ahead, even if it meant taking everything we had. It meant lying, cheating, and stealing. It meant leaving me with a car I own but cannot drive. It meant seeing me so sad, traumatized, and broken by him and telling people that I’m “crazy” and “delusional”.
It’s important to remember as you drive your own bus through life, that you do no harm. The sum of your character is how you treat people. The sum of your character is how you right your wrongs. The sum of your character is how, even when making decisions that hurt people, you correct yourself when you need to.
This requires a bus full of people. My abuser’s bus is empty. That’s the only way he can continue to do the things he does with no remorse at all for the people he has left dead on the road from his abuse.
Mine is full. It’s full of people who keep me level headed and grounded when I just feel like losing my mind. It’s full of people who I trust and love to give me honest advice about how to proceed. I don’t want anything I do to ever be out of vengeance or bitterness, so before every decision I make I pray for my abuser. Every seat on my hypothetical bus has someone in it that I have reached out to for help on how to do the right thing when the wrong thing has been done to us. From my religious leaders, my friends, my parents, my grandparents, Matt’s parents, my therapist, and my daughter- we’re at capacity. Not a single decision I’ve made to hold this person accountable has been driven by hate. It’s been driven by love and empathy for a person who has no love and empathy for anyone but himself.
I have to face my abuser in court this week. I don’t want to. Seeing him and hearing his voice is detrimental to my mental health. The last time I faced him in court I shut down emotionally and found it hard to open my mouth and speak when spoken to by the judge. This person will likely never fully understand the impact he had on our lives. He will never understand how his actions have hurt us. He will likely never care. The last time I saw him in court I just wanted to turn to him and say “You can fix this. You can make all of this go away by doing the right thing. You have the power to fix this”. Unfortunately you cannot will someone into doing the right thing.
Yesterday at church our pastor spoke on loving your enemies and how important that is. He said we should pray for those who hurt us every day, that it may not change them but it will change you. I’ve been doing this since the break up. Every single day, even when it’s hard, even when I’m angry, even when I’m sad- I pray for him. It takes a lot out of me to pray for someone who is not sorry. It takes a lot out of me to pray for someone who continues to hurt us for sport. Sometimes when I’m done I’m a pile of emotions I don’t even understand. But still, I pray.
If you can love someone and care about the well being of someone who hurt you so deeply, it does change you. Hate and discontent for him because of my own hurt feelings has turned into empathy for someone who is just broken. I pray every day that his heart will be changed. I pray every day that he will, for once in his life, do the right thing.
Driving your own bus means doing it with love. It means being cautious and making sure you aren’t hurting anyone along the way. It means making sure the people you form relationships with know who you are and what you are and that, when the relationship crashes, they don’t have to pick up the shattered glass and continue to be cut by your actions.
So every day, I pray. And every day, I have open, honest discussions with my daughter about what it means to forgive and why we forgive. She prays for him, too. She loved him. We both did.
The wheels on the bus go round and round and, if you’ve driven your bus with love and understanding, everyone gets home safe.