Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Giving up on a failure

Yesterday, I listened to a radio program on podcast about giving up on someone (this was NPR, of course-- nothing else would cover such a "story"). Something about it hit me in a deep and emotional way.

The voices themselves, their timbre and pitch, were compelling. A woman talked about leaving the house she shared with an alcoholic mother; a man told the sad story of loving a woman who lied and lied and lied about the many affairs she was having with people in her industry at conventions. Each of them were glad to have broken things off, and used the same word: freedom. It seemed like they did not realize the shackles that were on them until they cast them off. Even with that aspect of liberation, there was a mournful part of each voice, the reflection of a sad death.

Still, through those deaths come rebirth, and it is only by cutting the chain that these people became free. Those who hurt them could have ceased their action and didn't, and probably never would. The saddest thing of all is that it was clear that the people in the story who were hurt and left had been abused through their best and most Christian trait: The ability to love and forgive. To the abusers, these traits were taken as an invitation for further abuse and lies. I think there is a circle deep in hell for those who use others' forgiveness as an opportunity to hurt them.

I'm sure many of you have had to do this-- end a relationship that was hurting you. How did you do it? What pain did it bring? What freedom?

Probably everyone has had that. I know I have, more than once. You just have to do it. Once a person has proven who they are (abuser) you have to go away from them. Forgiving once or twice is wonderful, but more than that is delusional.
Depressing, Osler. But true. In therapy, they call those people "crazymakers," and the ultimate loser is the person who ends up with them. It is like passing around a bomb with the fuse burning.
It is counter-intuative for most to walk away. But sometimes that is the only and best option for all involved. And your friends never understand how it impacts you or the pain you feel in doing so.
I think this is hardest within a family relationship, giving up on a sibling or a parent. People do it and should though. My mother was a complete alcoholic, and we went through round after round of her saying she was quitting. It was never true. Really she was just coming up with new ways to fool us. And yes it was liberating to be done with that. I realized how pathetic she is.
It's a question of how selfless are you willing to be in your effort to help someone else when that help hurts you. If you're religious, then I guess you're asking yourself WWJD? I don't have any good answers.

I didn't have to leave my family permanently, but I had to get away from them physically. Growing up it was constant fighting--it's as though they're all each other's "crazymakers", but none of them have the strength or even the desire, really, to leave. They back-bite, and seethe, and hate one another, but no one goes anywhere, and the atmosphere is truly toxic. Short visits, and a lot of letting go of what I see/hear, is the only way I get through it anymore.

Then there was a boyfriend--fiance actually--I had in college. We were together for over 3 years. Both of us had some serious issues: I was clingy and controlling, and he was a verbally abusive underachiever who convinced me everything in the relationship was my fault. When things got physical I left. That was almost three years ago. I feel free. I still miss him sometimes; I think of good times (we did have some), places we would go, things we did. I left him at the same time I left my family and everything else, so it was a big adjustment, and sometimes I think I don't miss him so much as that place and my college years. But I'm growing up, and this is all part of it. I'm better off.
Okay, this is soooo not the popular or "right" thing to say, and I want to first say, if you are being abused, physically or emotionally, by someone in your life, get out.

That said, Anonymous 9AM hit the nail on the head. When it is a family member (or a spouse and there are children) there really is no "walking away". Sorry, but that person will continue to have the power to hurt you (and those you love) forever, even if it is "simply" by harming themselves.

You can diminish that person's opportunities, but there is rarely any Lifetime moment to look forward to.

Perhaps it is because I try to walk on the path that Christ began, (we forget what a tough road that can actually be!) I think He gives you the strength, and He will use you to work His salvation. Just don't stop obeying Him, and I think He will show you when to "give up"...if ever. And, I don't think distance means that you cannot still pray for the individual(and that can be our most powerful tool).

Forgiveness and self sacrifice are the core of what He teaches. So, I guess what I am asking is: if He doesn't give up on us, what gives us the right to give up on each other?

That's an excellent question. The Biblical answer is 7 x 70, right? But I guess that some people actually do get to that number.
I haven’t experienced anything like this directly, but I have been in the difficult position of watching family members do it to each other. In this case, it was a spiteful daughter who began her rebellious stage early an never really grew out of it. She was constantly in trouble with the her school and the police. Each time, she relied on her parents to smooth the situation over. When they had finally had enough, and decided that smoothing things over was only hurting her sense of discipline, they decided to let her clean up her own messes. The first time they did this, she was enraged. She screamed at them for betrayal, misinterpreting their tough love. She would eventually run away, come home, and repeat the cycle several times. They tried to get her counseling, but she rejected their offer. Eventually, when she had reached sufficient age, she was told not to come home—not to keep the rest of the family in a constant state of turmoil (they have 3 other children, 2 of which were younger than 7 when this all began). It was one of the hardest decisions her parents ever made.

However, just over a year later she would have a child out of wedlock, and for the sake of the child, she was brought back into the family. She has since had another child whom she regularly dumps on her parents without warning and without returning for hours, sometimes days.

How do you walk away from someone who hurts you, often intentionally, when innocent children are involved? Quite simply, they can’t.

How can you give up on 50 Tyson? He is already talking about remixes!

With Friends it is easier to give up on them because they do not have to be a permanent part of your life With family it is really hard. Let's face it, you only get a certain allotment of relatives. You only get ONE DAD ONE MOM a FINITE NUMBER of Siblings etc.

If the One Mom or Dad you have are completely toxic you are forever reminded that A) You are obliged to "deal with" them because they are your parents and B) that other people have normal Dads , moms, etc but yours got used up by being crazy, so you do not have one. It is BRUTAL really, or can be, when you are too young to understand certain things.

I think when people get a little older though it is still hard, you can sort of CHOOSE the people you want to surround yourself with. I always, always CHOSE my family. They were not my real family but the labels did not matter. I gave them what they needed and they reciprocated and that was alll that mattered.

I am not a Christian. I do not believe in God - not so much an atheist as an agnostic. However from a very early age I had this weird sense of self-preservation. When I was young I did not have the power to "get out" of my family but I knew they were insane. I knew that at some point I would be free to get out and never come back and also that I still needed people around me that could be like a substitute family and I sought those people out. I found them at Summer Camp and boarding school and College and whatever... you know? Had very little regret in cutting loose the crazies maybe because I do not believe in God, but who knows? I always knew this: I paid for their crazy behavior with alll the security, happiness and sense of well-being that a child is supposed to get. I had none of it. So, I felt NO GUILT AT ALL just cutting them loose and I honestly hardly EVER looked back. Not to say I was not open to them changing etc. My mom got cancer and she was very very different for those last three yeas and we got close. She was still crazy, but better. My Dad never changed, and after a while I never ever let him into my heart again.. I was never that angry about this because I felt that his punishment was that that he had to live with his own vitriole, and his life was in ruins around him at the end and he seemed to like it that way. I have no guilt about it - None.
Toxic people are not only crazy, they are scary selfish and they SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF YOU. I am not sure what the afterlife holds and all I know is THIS LIFE. THIS LIFE is precious to me, mostly because I HAD NO CHILDHOOD. Because I did that I feel I have earned the right to be selfish with my adult life as far as who I spend time with and who I do not. As an adult I have no time or inclination to make any room in my life for toxic people.
I think that the psychiatrists call it emotional cutoff.

In the examples which the professor cites, one can reasonably see why, I think, someone would have to end a relationship with a person who continued to engage in adulterous liasons. Also, the physical, verbal, and emotional abuse which may have arisen with the alcoholic parent could lead to the cutoff of relationship.

Certainly, there are times in life when this happens with friends or with family members.

With friends, it is difficult, but it is not the same as it is "with blood." When it is with a blood relative or a partner/spouse, different issues are at hand.

Abuse is never right and people have a reasonable expectation of respect, if not love, in a relationship.

Yet, does that mean that people never hurt one another emotionally or verbally in an intimate relationship?

Once again, physical abuse or the kind of emotional vitriolic rant of a Mel Gibson, or the examples cited by Dr. Osler, provide clear justification for ending relationships.

But, do all situations rise to this clear level of danger (which is quite all too real in many people's lives)?

Can we say, for instance, that the divorce rate in the US coincides with the Mel Gibson cases or the sort of example cited in Osler's comment? Or on the other hand, do we have some people who stay in horrifically abusive relationships and others who bolt from any kind of intimate relationship (marriage, parent/child, friend, etc) whenever one is no longer having any fun?

Are all relationships and connections with others disposable?

Where does one draw the line?
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