Those left behind
When someone walks away from a family of origin relationship, it’s so easy to blame them. They must have “issues.” Often, the person they left behind has quite a lot to say about it to explain their absence, and often it makes a lot of sense, especially if the other person doesn’t stick around to explain their side of the story.
Would it matter if they tried? Would anyone have listened? Chances are most in a dysfunctional family and friend system have already taken sides, already made up their minds.
Hurt and confused
Those left behind may feel hurt that the person walked away, often without an explanation. But try to keep an open mind. Maybe he or she tried to explain, but they felt they weren’t listened to. Perhaps explaining was simply too painful for them. Or they felt emotionally unsafe, worried that you might reveal their feelings to their abuser, even inadvertently. They might have worried you’d try to solve the problem and only make it worse in the process. Or they may not have wanted to burden you with their problem.
Try to see their point of view
What if he or she had a very good reason for walking away? What if walking away was the very best thing for the mental or even physical well-being of him or herself and their family? What if every other option was tried to heal the relationship and nothing worked? What if, every time it seems there might be a possibility of reconciliation there is another incident of harassment or abuse?
Accept the unacceptable
It might be hard to accept that our friend or loved one might be capable of doing hurtful things. The first step is to open our ears and our hearts to the possibility that this person we love is not perfect.
This is difficult because it hits close to home. If this person who seems so good to us is capable of hurting someone else, then perhaps they are capable of hurting us. And on a deeper level, it reminds us that we all have light and dark within us, good and evil. It makes us reflect on our own capacity for darkness, and that is highly uncomfortable.
Ultimately, accepting the darkness in a seemingly good person means holding ourselves accountable for the darkness within ourselves. And that stings. It requires bravery. And it is a crucial step in Redefining Love.
Once we are willing to accept the possibility of fault in our loved ones, we can come to a place of grace, love, and acceptance towards them as well as the one who walked away.
Get ready to dig deep into yourself
It might be hard to accept that a friend or loved one might be capable of doing hurtful things at first, but eventually we could make peace with it, and perhaps even become a part of the solution. But acceptance is not the most difficult part.
We choose to blame the person who walked away because the person left behind was the side mostly closely related to ourselves, by blood, by appearance, by community, by faith. There was something about this person that we felt connected to in some way. The other person felt more “other,” and therefore it was easier to shut them out, easier to see them as being wrong.
We don’t want to consider the possibility that someone who looks like us, talks like us, shares our values, our faith, our community, might be capable of causing harm to someone else, because it makes us consider our own capacity for evil.
We all have the capacity for causing harm to someone else. We all have equal parts darkness and light within us. Thinking about this can be uncomfortable. So we push away those who are different, and we refuse to listen to those who have walked away from pain caused by anyone who looks like us.
When we talk about the courage it takes to set boundaries, we are talking about the courage it takes to stand alone against a community, a faith, a family, united in the need to protect itself against the knowledge of its own capacity for evil. That is a very powerful force to stand alone against.
Courage is required not just by the person setting the boundary, but by the person brave enough to accept those boundaries with accountability and grace. Every time you blame someone else, every time you make excuses, you shrink with fear against a boundary set against you.
On the other hand, every time to examine your own behavior, every time you stand up and admit you are wrong, every time you humble yourself to your own shortcomings, every time you say you’re sorry, every time you commit to doing better next time, every time you account for your successes and failures equally in your relationships, you are a warrior. You are Redefining Love.
Published November 19, 2018