Bojack Horseman came out with its final episodes this month. One of them was about how when the bad things we’ve done to others come back, you can’t really get under them or go around them or fake them out. Eventually, that kamma bears fruit and it fucks you. In 2018, before I felt I could hold the precept of honesty I spent some time apologizing to people I had hurt before. Someone I bullied in grade school. Stealing from my grandma. Drug use I hid from my parents. Last year someone from college joined a community I’m part of now, the first thing I did was apologize for the way I hurt them and those around me.
I alienated a friend during my last psychotic episode, I wasn’t able to mitigate the suffering and pain I caused them. Excuses didn’t and wouldn’t work. I had to put myself in their shoes and accept how I hurt them and rather than go around it, go through it, take ownership for my behavior. This shit is so hard and it feels like it barely gets easier. I called one of the kids I work with a dick because they frustrated me during a card game. I apologized for this and that, that was still hard.
Making mistakes is par for the course in being a normal person. We hurt people intentionally and unintentionally. I’ve reflected on that recently after listening to a This American Life episode, a rebroadcast about five women in relation to sexual assault/rape. It brought up my experience of being raped, although I only had the clarity to call it that recently. In accepting that I was raped I also had to accept that we hurt people without setting out to cause harm, that normal people can cause great pain, that not everyone who commits rape is a caricature villain and that part of forgiving myself means seeing my perpetrator as real and human, fallible.
I don’t know how much the people I’ve apologized to see that in me. I know there are still people who either don’t comprehend that I’ve hurt them or will not listen to anything I might say. Looking at past mistakes is uncomfortable. Believing I was hurt by a villain who wakes up twirling their mustache planning how to hurt people seems laughable, it doesn’t feel like I can even place blame on them, how can I blame something evil in nature? Yet that’s the thing, we don’t have an unchanging essence, no permanent enduring nature, this sense of self and identity is fabricated and impermanent and it’s not consistent. People aren’t Batman villains. The people who hurt us are people and people hurt others.
We’re not hurt by an amorphous evil, we’re hurt by mistakes and craving, actions done by people just like you and me.