The first time I was exiled, it was traumatic. Tantamount to crucifixion. I was instantly morose. Wounded. Exposed. Vulnerable. It felt like the very essence of my soul had been shoved into a blender and presented as pig slop.
Here I was, living my life in my standard “do-better change-maker, speak the truth, fix the world or die trying” kind of way. Out of the blue, I’m accused of being an unfeeling, calculating, maniacal snake.
I was speechless (that almost never happens). Beyond this momentary loss of words – I was completely dumbfounded. What was the origin of this spurious claim? I hadn’t fought with anyone; I wielded empathy and understanding as equally as I delved out criticism. And yet, somehow – my actions had be interpreted vilely enough to warrant the judgement of exile.
What was worse? The attack came from a person I trusted.
When someone attacks your character, they assault the very core of your person. It calls into question everything you ever believed about yourself.
Introspection occurs in the wake of exile.
Do I really need to change? What should stay the same?
When you’re attacked for being yourself, there are two distinct reactions.
#1: Panic and Contemplation. “Why would they say that? Is it true? People wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true, right?”
Panic causes doubt. Even if you’re brimming with bravado the accusation of wrongdoing compels you to take pause.
#2: You come out swinging. You react by launching a passion-fueled counterattack. They wounded you; truth or not, your goal is to return the favor.
I won’t presume to tell you which option is the just one – every situation is different. What I will do is share with you the lessons I’ve learned from failed attempts at character assassination, several terms of exile, and my observations of the human condition.
Authenticity will always cost.
If it didn’t, everyone would be themselves. It’s easy to go along with a crowd, to hide your principles and avoid making waves. But in so doing, you forfeit the opportunity to be a person of substance.
Every action has an intent.
More importantly, every intent isn’t honorable. Some people just don’t mean you well. The roots will vary: jealousy, spite, anger, boredom — the author of the accusation should be examined as carefully as you examine yourself.
Don’t run from your faults.
Not every attack on your character is unfounded. Sometimes, people will exile you because you were out of bounds. That’s okay, take a moment of pause. You, like very other living thing, is a work in progress. If there’s something you need to change – you’ll change it. We can always do better. Just don’t lose the essence of who you are in the process.
Growth spurts happen in exile.
Life is fleeting. It is far too easy to get “busy”, caught up in the minutia of life, losing sight of what matters. Exile offers the unique opportunity for self-examination. When that happens – you become certain of who you are, and who you want to be.
Exile is the ovulation period of creativity.
The greatest ideas happen on the fringes. When the opportunity “to go along with the crowd” disappears, your route forward is deliberately linked to what you can innovate for your future.
Don’t fear exile. Cherish the opportunity to herald your authenticity, build your tribe, and ignite your better self.
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