Baggage can be a tricky thing. Sometimes we don’t even realize the baggage we carry into our friendships or our relationships until it crashes to the ground, spilling out our personal effects, leaving them exposed to the world.
One thing I’ve learned over the past year is how this baggage can not only weigh down on me, but how it can hurt others as well. In my case I struggle with trust.
It takes awhile for me to gain trust in a person and it takes even longer for me to get to the point of fully trusting them.
In the past I have been betrayed in a variety of ways and I have allowed myself to now expect a certain level of deceit from others; I will allow myself to build up trust in a person to a point, but the minute that I feel I have been wronged or that I am being treated unjustly I throw all the built-up trust out the window and become numb to that person, forgetting the multiple times they have proven themselves and instead assuming the worst and, in the case of relationships, lumping them into the category of being like “every other guy”.Some might call it a self-defense tactic, others might call it paranoia, and others may go as far as to call it callous.
I think all of these definitions hold some truth to them.
Yes, I am protecting myself – I am standing up for myself in a situation where I feel (emphasis on ‘feel’) I have been wronged. And yes, I am also slightly paranoid – always watching my back, always waiting for that moment when I will inevitably become victim to someone’s disloyalty. But I also cannot ignore the fact that the ways I react to these feelings of betrayal spawn from a certain level of numbness that comes over me and therefore I do in a way, at least in that moment, become callous or cold as I fight for ‘self-preservation’.
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At this point I must clarify that I am not referring to people who are legitimately untrustworthy or people who have proven themselves over time to be disloyal; I am only referring to those people in our lives who have to some extent (great or small) proven to be true to their word, however, some circumstance has hurt us and therefore causes us to bring out that heavy baggage we’ve carried around from past relationships and past hurts and causes us to start throwing its contents at our ‘offender’ in an act of desperation to protect ourselves from being hurt in the same way we have in the past.
This is not fair. And it is not healthy.
Often in these situations we do not consider how our actions may upset or hurt another person – or how they may even instil anger that may or may not be justified.
I have in the past watched friend’s faces literally drop as I have found myself questioning their loyalty or implying that they have been deceitful since the beginning and only now have I become aware of it. I have also experienced the anger that one can feel when they have been bending over backwards to prove themselves to me only for me to disregard all of their acts of loyalty as soon as they make one slip-up (which often is unintentional).
But most importantly, I have felt so deeply the regret that sets in mere moments after I spew out accusations of disloyalty to a friend whom I value and in doing so cheapen any past expressions or promises of my commitment or care for that person and our friendship.
Baggage, as you can see, weighs you down.
Yet we still choose to walk in to relationships burdened with it – but how can you embrace someone when your hands are already full?
So what do we do with all of this baggage? Well, we let it go.
Yes, it is easier said than done, but as French author Antoine De Saint-Exupery says, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”
It is not going to happen overnight. And there may be some baggage that will always be there – I don’t know, I don’t have all the answers – but what I can say is that I do know that baggage doesn’t do anybody any good.
Be aware, yes. Protect yourself, yes. Don’t trust everyone, but at the same time don`t live in fear of trusting anyone.
Acknowledge the baggage that you carry, become aware of it because awareness is key, and when you feel the temptation to use it as a weapon of self-defense, stop yourself.
Remember the things that are true. Remember the ways in which that person has proven themselves to you; realize that you’re back isn’t against the wall – that the only corner you are trapped in is the one in you built up in your mind.
Don’t let your fears get the best of you. Don’t let your baggage weigh you down.
And above all, don’t give the memories of yesterday’s wounds the power to devalue today’s genuine friendships.
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