Barb and I were chatting over coffee after working out at the gym.
She mentioned that actor Bradley Cooper, who’d played the part of a bipolar person in Silver Linings Playbook, recently won an award.
“That movie made me uncomfortable,” I said.
Barb said, “My husband is manic depressive, what they call bipolar now.”
I must’ve thought she was exaggerating for comedic effect, because I said, “What?” I started laughing. “When he’s in the manic ascent does he start planning a trip to climb Mt. Everest? Does he hire contractors for a total house make over….” My jaw snapped shut. I placed my hand on hers and said, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not embarrassed by it,” Barb replied. Then she added, “I can tell when another episode is coming on…he told me two weeks after we started dating about being manic depressive.”
We talked for another half an hour or so about her husband, gay marriage, a local murder trial.
After draining our coffee cups, we both stood to go off our separate ways.
Barb said, “That was an interesting conversation.”
“See ya Friday.”
“See ya Friday.”
When I got home, and the distraction of running errands around town was removed, I was left with me. What a jerk I am. What a stupid thing to say to Barb. What is wrong with me, making a joke out of her husband’s condition?
Shame. Disappointment. Surprise. Disgust. Regret. Guilt. Take your pick. Any or all fit how I felt.
The next day I was reading one of the quickie essays by Fenelon in The Seeking Heart when a zinger flew off the page and knocked me off my pedestal.
“As for the humiliation you feel when you see your faults – simply see how sensitive your self-love is. The pain you feel as your own imperfection is worse than the faults themselves.”
Self-loathing (pain) arises from self-love. We are to die to ourselves. Read about dying to self here.
I still regret what I said. Yet the idea that I’m to deny myself the indulgence of shame when (inevitably) I’m imperfect is radical. And freeing.
Thank you, Jesus!