There’s this saying, “never stop being a good person because of bad people.”
I believe wholeheartedly that bad is us.
We are all bad people trying hard not to be.
We don’t want to claim this bad nature because it’s not natural, and it’s not nice; but self-deception is a skill that works beautifully to our benefit until we become more conscious of that aftertaste…
of an intense email sent, an “off” meeting at work, a “judgy” discourse with a friend, a social media post created to cut, or a pretentious convo with a loved one…
There’s something in the stimuli that hangs around, making me wonder if I rubbed someone the wrong way. I can taste/feel the sensation immediately after sometimes, and then it may be well into the future when I think back on my words and behavior— wondering if I was my authentic self or if I was, in fact, “the bad people”.
If it was my focus, my standard, my ideal, my way, my routine, my radical nature and relentlessness that silenced someone, made them feel small, or the big one: ruined their life.
I always try to practice mindfulness, and in that, making sure that everyone I share space with is treated with the significance they do (or don’t) deserve. I know we shouldn’t be afraid of living out loud; but what do we do when our high volume overpowers and drowns out lower frequencies? How do we control our volume so that we can hear/see those who have something to say?
This past week, I watched the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s 30th Reunion on HBO Max. I learned that back in the 90’s while we were all chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool— and swooning over the lovable live wire that is Will Smith— actress Janet Hubert (the original Aunt Viv) was having a totally different experience right before our eyes.
Janet is a trailing edge boomer and Will Smith is a gen-x-er. They are both talented artists who essentially became enemies as a result of their contrasting human and professional needs. Will Smith admits to being so young and self-absorbed that he was incapable of seeing how Janet’s needs deserved way more honor and sensitivity than what was given. He pretty much turned out to be Janet’s bad, and quite possibly, toxic colleague/boss. So toxic that his “words killed” [her]. Through their public reconciliation session, where everything surrounding their Hollywood feud got aired out, we get it. We get him. And we certainly get her.
It took Will and Janet 27 years to find their healing place. For those of us that live our lives and navigate our relationships without celebrity-platform, it may take us even longer. For those of us who never muster up the courage, we may go an entire lifetime never knowing who we mistreated, neglected or failed. We may never come to understand how our goodness was, in reality, gaslighting. We’ll live our lives thinking we’re hated-on a lot or that we’re better than… It’ll never register to us the ways in which our success could have soured a beloved relationship or how religion may have hardened our hearts or made us completely inaccessible.
It is an issue I take to God in prayer because I honestly am not always so sure about who I am hurting. The older I get, though, the more I feel my gut interceding.
“This is someone who’s glass you may have chipped.” – gut
“This is a karmic consequence.” – gut
“Expect to need closure around this.” -gut
What if we’re in the middle of a feud and we don’t fully realize it because the conflict is hiding underneath a peace-keeping mission or goodwill agenda? What if we’re out here messing people up? What if we are our own version of Will Smith– good and flawed, on the road to needing amends and closure?
I really do believe that we each have the capacity to become aware, wise, and brave enough to embrace the awkward experience of reconciliation.
As another old saying goes, “no one rides for free”. In other words, neither of us is exempt from navigating this hard ass life or the social struggles that come along with it. Eventually, we each have to choose our tools, assess the damage, and make repairs. It’ll cost us, too, but it is all a part of the job of being alive and being human. This is the hard work we have to do.
Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.