Breaking Down Failure and Building Up Grace
You are unworthy. You are a failure.
I ran into my ex-husband awhile back. Well, by ran into him, I mean that I knew I was going to run into him—in a very non-stalker sort of way. I had prepared myself emotionally and mentally for this “run in.”
I was ready.
It simultaneously broke my heart and made me proud.
During our marriage (and, as it turned out, most of life before our marriage), my ex-husband struggled with alcoholism.
He was mean and manipulative. He was constantly angry. He often disrespected and hurt me and our marriage in the most damaging ways he could find.
He meticulously destroyed my self-confidence and my self-worth and regularly threw me into pits of chaos, then left me there to drag myself out.
It was devastating.
Somehow, in the midst of all of this, the truth I believed was that because he refused to work towards the sobriety I so desperately wanted for him that I wasn’t worth it. His choices translated as feelings of my worthlessness.
I believed I was unworthy of a blessed marriage, a safe home, and the life I had always dreamed of ever since I was a little girl.
Standing there talking to him that night, I realized that I selfishly felt hurt that he is now sober. He proudly told me that he had recently picked up his eighteen—month chip, celebrating over a year of sobriety. Why couldn’t he have done this when we were married?
Was I not worth it?
The truth that I have come to learn is that the decisions and actions of others do not determine my worth.
I carried a lot of shit away from that marriage. A lot of emotional scars and various coping mechanisms that only sometimes worked.
I spent a lot of nights being afraid that nobody would ever love me because I was divorced.
Like it was a giant red “D” that I had to carry around as punishment for the rest of my life. It felt like this giant failure I had to disclose to everyone I met.
“Hello, I’m a failure.” That’s how it felt.
Since our divorce, it’s been very hard for me to not think of our time together and despise him for who he was when we were married. I still remember the worst—the manipulation, the belittling, the fights, the alcohol-induced rage, the fear.
But as I stood there swallowing my pride, another truth punched me square in the gut. Driving home, the entirety of it all hit me. He was the person I remember. He very likely is not that person anymore. Why do I allow myself to keep harboring anger and resentment based on the person he used to be?
He doesn’t deserve it, and I’m the only one it hurts. I know that people are capable of miraculous change.
I sat in the heaviness of that revelation for a moment.
The truth: if I want other people to stop seeing me as the sum of my missteps, I have to be the first one to do so. I deserve to have the same grace for myself as I believe other people deserve from me. Forgiving myself is just as important as forgiving others.
My first marriage doesn’t define me. It doesn’t mean I am incapable of succeeding at marriage. It means I will fight harder and do better with this next one. It means I have a journal full of lessons learned, almost like a survival guide. It means I have learned the value of myself and what I bring to the table.
It means I know I am worthy of love and affection because I say I am and not because someone else does.
I’m learning how to let the past be the past while recognizing that it has shaped how I exist in the present. Having grace for the me I used to be. Forgiving myself for not knowing the things that I didn’t know when I didn’t know them.
I used to believe that because my life hadn’t turned out how I thought it would, that I had failed.
The lies I told myself over and over again—that I was unworthy, a failure—are quieter now. They have not disappeared.
But I know now that they are bullshit.
I’m more than who I used to be. I’m stronger, I’m better. I know now that life isn’t about getting only one chance and praying you don’t screw it up. We get a million chances to start over; we just have to take them.
The journey I have been on is not one I ever thought I would take, but it has made this life mine.
The struggle with questioning why he couldn’t have gotten sober when we were married has ceased. There is peace in the realization that it was never about me or my worth. His work towards sobriety after the divorce has absolutely no bearing on my worth at all; because he didn’t choose to do it sooner does not mean I was unworthy of happiness, forgiveness, dreams, or peace.
The decisions and actions of others have no bearing on my worth.
People are capable of miraculous change.
I am more than the sum of my missteps.
I am worth it.