When I was younger I broke my sister’s collarbone.
I didn’t set out to hurt my sister, but the fact that I did resulted in immense guilt and shame.
It was an accident. There was no ill will or ill intent towards my sister.
As I recall, she was sitting in a chair and I wanted to sit in it.
So I pushed her off.
Normally, this wouldn’t have been a big deal.
She would have leaped up from the floor shrieking, “Hey!” and then would have pushed me back and, more likely than not, we’d be reduced to fits of giggling in no time.
Just as we were when she grabbed me by the back of my shirt and the belt loop of my jeans and hoisted me off of the couch and left me a heap on the living room floor.
My intentions, as far as kid intentions went, were pure in this circumstance.
A dash of sisterly annoyance, heaps of good will, with a spoon full of fun were all that I’d intended.
Instead of leaping up and engaging in this ‘game’ with me, however, my sister screamed and cried.
At that moment it didn’t matter what my intentions were.
My actions had, in a very real and tangible sense, resulted in my sister breaking her collarbone.
For weeks afterwards every time I looked at my sister I was reminded of what I had done.
It was a good lesson in the gravity of the consequences of my actions and the importance of thinking before acting. I couldn’t help but be reminded of this every time I looked at my sister, with her right arm in a sling.
We, as flawed people, are good at hurting the people around us.
So often the hurt we cause, just like the injury I did to my sister, is accidental or the result of the purest of intentions gone awry.
Generally speaking, the hurt we cause isn’t visible, though, like the sling my sister had to wear for six weeks.
The sling a reminder that I’d inadvertently hurt her and that it would take time for that bone to heal.
In that interim, while she healed, I’d have to be a bit more gentle with her when we played.
A lot of injuries carried don’t show external signs of injury or healing.
There is no doctor’s note saying it’ll need to be immobilized for 2-6 weeks, no regular check-ins to see how it’s healing, and no gentle handling by those in your immediate vicinity.
An ex-boyfriend after we’d been dating a year got spooked by the seriousness of our relationship and dropped of the radar for a month.
Stopped answering my calls.
Didn’t respond to text messages.
There was no rhyme or reason for it, and nothing in our time together leading up to his disappearance gave me any clues as to why this would have happened.
I moved on as best I could with no answers.
This type of exit was particularly damaging for me from the previous trauma caused by my divorce.
This was the second time in my relationship history where someone had one day declared they loved me and the next abandoned me and left me with no answers.
After a month he showed up at my house with flowers, an apology, and an explanation.
I am certain his intention wasn’t to hurt me with his month long exit from my life, but he did.
There was no broken bone immobilized by a sling to bare witness to the brokenness – but I suffered a brokenness all the same.
When I decided to give him another chance after the month hiatus there was healing that needed to happen.
Unfortunately, each time there was evidence of my wounding – instead of a check-up and gentle handling – there was an expectation that I just get over it and move on.
After all, he hadn’t meant to hurt me and had explained that it was how much and how quickly he was growing to love me that had resulted in his month long absence.
His feelings had scared him.
In the time my sister was in a sling after I’d broken her collarbone I never once looked at her and said,
“Why do you have to wear that all the time?”
“You know I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“When are you just going to get over it!”
‘Everytime you wear the dang thing it just reminds me of how awful I was.”
“Why do you have to remind me over and over again of what a terrible choice I made to push you off the chair?!”
We understand that broken bones don’t just get over it and move on, why would we expect broken hearts and broken trust to?
Nothing heals in the space of neglect.
Just like my sister’s broken collarbone required gentle care, the occasional check-in, and time for the healing to take place.
Ignoring a broken bone doesn’t fix it.
If left untreated, the problem only gets worse and leads to complications and more pain and suffering.
The same is true of our internal injuries.
Tend them as tenderly, if not more so, than a broken bone.
Perhaps, like a broken bone, if given this intentional space the heart can heal just as strong – if not more so – as before the breaking.
Your Trusted Friend ❤︎