These relationships aren’t always easy. Giving space, releasing, granting freedom for you and them: it can all be quite tricky and hard. When you ask for help and few respond, does that mean few care or others can’t help that situation? When you invite to lunch with the clear intention of learning from the other person, and they refuse does that mean they don’t want to be there for you? I think it takes more than one situation to know. But, as the old saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
I have seen people boast of their anger towards an innocent person. The service person on the phone doing their job gets the brunt of the anger regarding a situation with the company. An accidental brush receives angry glares and ugly words. I have seen pride in the retelling of these stories because they stood up for themselves and backed someone else down. I have worn the walls which create these situations; daring anyone to cross me by the look in my eye.
But I have also been the recipient of such anger and outburst. I have felt the attacks which are unseen but leave marks forever. I have worn the shame of being backed down into a corner rather than lash out on my own. And I know that I allowed someone to treat me that way because I (1) didn’t want confrontation and (2) didn’t know how to do it in love.
We decide how people will treat us, don’t we? We decide what we are going to put up with. And each relationship has different sacrifices and different expectations. But we make that decision based on so many things. I can’t tell you how to put up the boundaries in your life, and I can’t tell you where to draw those lines. But I can tell you when you say nothing about their behavior, when you let them rant and rave about their made up injury, and when you defend them over the people who were hurt in order to “keep the peace” you have given them permission to behave that way again. You have told them they were right.
No, we can’t change a person. But we can explain to them what they did was wrong, and it simply won’t be accepted. We can decide we won’t allow that type of behavior towards ourselves or our loved ones. We can tell them we want a good relationship with them. A true relationship. One where we can both be ourselves, rather than one where I pretend to be something else so you don’t get upset. And then, maybe one day they will be ready to have a real free relationship with us. But we decide what we will accept.
The list of all the posts for this series can be found in the Table of Contents.