“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ve heard this age-old saying enough times to truly convince myself that giving someone a second chance after they’ve wronged me would make me a fool. Because of this, I am someone who seldom gives second chances. This is not to say I am not a forgiving person, but I don’t revisit past flings or relationships for this very reason. I never want to feel like a fool. I am someone who approaches situations logically, often times to a fault. I act with my head, overanalyzing scenarios and making pro and con lists, rather than following my heart and taking chances in the moment. I am a skeptic by nature.
But at some point, we just have to jump even when logic is telling us it’s an illogical move. I recently took this jump when someone I had been interested in came back into my life after unexpectedly (and unexplainably) disappearing from it months before. I not only forgave him when he apologized, but granted him that second chance when he asked for it. I slowly but surely confronted all the doubtful voices in my head – the ones that said, “It’s doomed from the start” and “A tiger never changes its stripes” – and I told them to take a seat. Instead, I listened to the ones that whispered, “Trust one more time.” I put myself out there. Again. I took that leap of faith not knowing if I would fly or fall.
And guess what?
He didn’t catch me.
He extended a hand only to take it away shortly thereafter. He decided all those doubtful voices lingering in his head were the only voices. He chose not to give me the second chance I gave him. He became the skeptic I previously was. In an instant, I could hear everyone saying, “We told you so.”
But, I’ll let you in on something I could only learn by doing the supposedly “foolish” thing: I didn’t feel like the fool I was certain I would. If I beat myself up, it was only for a brief moment because I soon realized something very important. We constantly throw around these words like “fool” and “idiot” when our trust is taken advantage of, but is it really foolish to be vulnerable in the face of uncertainty? Or, is it actually a strength, a superpower even? Living in a generation that seems so disillusioned by the entire notion of commitment – so much so that one foot is almost always out the door to begin with – I think the ability to open one’s self up to rejection in the hopes of finding connection is brave.
You see, giving someone a second chance says a lot more about you than it does about them, and contrary to belief, it’s not saying that you’re weak or a fool or that should you feel shameful. It says that you are an anomaly in a society that conditions people to retreat when things get confusing, or hard, or scary. It says that you are someone who is willing to put all your eggs in one basket even when you know it’s safer to divvy them up. It says that even after being let down time and time again by the people of your past, you’ve still managed to hold on to that hopeful, little voice that whispers, “Trust one more time.” It says that you’re not empty of love, but actually full of it.
Strength isn’t about fighting your feelings or keeping someone at a distance so you can have all the power; sometimes it’s about surrendering. In fact, Dr. Brene Brown has done enough research on the subject to say, “Vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage…and if you’re brave with your life, you are going to get your butt kicked.” Well, I got my butt kicked twice this summer, but I can honestly tell you it didn’t hurt as much the second time. To my surprise, I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t work out yet again. Because he had already let me down, I had zero expectations when we picked back up where we left off. And for those who know me pretty well, you know having no expectations is huge progress for me!
Did I wish things had gone differently? Of course! I mean, don’t we all hope for things to work out when we like someone? We want them to choose us. To believe in the connection. To throw out any and all excuses. To be brave alongside us. To dare greatly. But despite the fact that I wished and prayed for it to be better the second time, I no longer expected it to be anything other than what it was. It wasn’t what it could have been and it wasn’t what it should have been. It just was what it was until suddenly…it wasn’t anything anymore.
So if you’re still reading, please take away this: If you care about someone and truly believe there is a connection still worth exploring (and you can bring yourself to forgive them), grant them that second chance. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Extend open arms with the understanding that they may not embrace you. Lay it all out on the table and leave nothing untouched. Speak your truth even if theirs may not be what you want to hear. Bring down a wall of yours even if a single brick of theirs won’t budge. Despite what you may think, you will not regret believing in them (and yourself) even if they decide not to believe in you. Because in the end, it’s the vulnerable people who are a lot closer to finding a deeper connection than the ones who accept the doubtful, closed-off narrative they’ve chosen to write for themselves.