Both sides of the door

March 16, 2018


Since watching the musical, The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman as the title character, P.T. Barnum, I’ve kept humming one of the songs from the movie. It seems that it’s not just me that can’t get ‘This is Me’ out of my head, I’ve been seeing lots of Facebook shares of the video and lyrics:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.
I am brave, I am bruised,
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to take the lyrics to heart and as I sing along a couple of situations come to mind immediately, times when I’ve been ‘cut down’ and ‘bruised’. And as I ponder this, there are many more, dating from way back when. I am angry and hurt and defiant and wronged. This is me.

And then I remember: the main character, P.T. Barnum, is not the one who sings the song. The star, the hero, the centre of the story is not the victim in this scene. No, our ‘hero’ is on the other side of the door, shutting out the bearded lady who hangs her head, then raises her voice as she leads her friends away in defiance and anger. 

In this fictionalised version of a true story, when rock bottom hits Mr Barnum realises what he’s done and goes hat in hand to seek forgiveness from his family and friends. Cue happy ending, everyone hugs, victory song, credits roll.

Of course, as I sing along I’ve already pictured the faces of those who’ve hurt me, shut the door on me—before I realise if we were being cast in this movie, they would be the heroes, not me!

And then it really hits me. In real life, it's rarely so clear-cut. Occasionally the faults are on one side alone, but mostly, 
I’m both the hurt and the one who hurts—at the same time. Wanting in, while shutting out. If I’m being honest, I’m usually on both sides of the door. I’m the victim, but I’m the showman. I’m the shamed, but also the shamer. I’m the one longing for love. I’m the one chasing fame.

Here’s the rub: in my experience it’s hard to be humble enough, brave enough, to seek forgiveness. In a different way, it’s also hard to be gracious enough, brave enough, to forgive. It’s harder still to do both—apologising and forgiving.

I guess it’s the mark of relationships that last the distance, that there have been hurts along the way, and yet both sides have, in their turn, tendered apologies and granted forgiveness. I’m thinking of a few people right now, and I’m thankful we made it through the rough times, knowing that there's been faults on both sides. 

It’s important to remember that I can only be responsible for my part, I can’t control the actions of other people. If we forgive when there has been no apology or repentance, we run the risk of being hurt again, even falling into a cycle of hurt. Or our apologies can be offered but not accepted; forgiveness may come in time, or not at all. That’s not up to us. 

What we can do now is learn from and not repeat our mistakes. Sometimes healing comes to us, but not to the relationship. And sometimes, closure is the best or only option—and it’s okay to admit that.

Perhaps next time you hear ‘This is Me’, rather than thinking of who has hurt you, think about who you might have hurt. If you can’t think of anyone, polish your halo—or keep thinking.


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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Vol. 138, No. 46 // 16 November 2019

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