Toxic family is a reality. We don’t discuss it much because it is not a socially acceptable concept. We have to honor our Mother and Father. This is assigned as one of the fundamental religious rules to Christians. There is even a holiday that reminds us annually least we forget. There is a lot of pressure in religion and society to bind to family, no mater what. We grow up with these concepts that blood is thicker than water. Family first. Family above all else. You must overlook the offense. You must welcome them into your home. You must attend that family function. You must help them. You must take that call. It is your lot in life. It is your duty. That’s just how it is. But, what happens when your family is toxic? What happens when it is your family that threatens your sense of peace and personal security? What then?
I have fought this battle for years. The guilt endured by those who go against the grain, the “social norms,” is sometimes unbearable. I ride the joyless teeter-totter between what is required and what makes me feel safe and happy. As if my happiness is a sin or some type of selfish desire of which I should be ashamed. As if forgiveness is some type of prize I should covet and attain. A medal that proves my strength and valor. Pish Posh Applesauce!
This requirement to forgive haunts me, no doubt. But, why should it? What do I need to prove? Frankly, dare I say, there are some acts that are simply unforgivable, at least in my human capacity. That’s the whole-hearted honest truth, albeit not a truth we want to recognize or ever openly express. It’s not a truth we want to speak because we are taught something entirely different. What do we do instead? We water the concept down to make it more palatable, to make it achievable.
Forgiveness, for example, has turned into nothing more than this concept of release. Popular theory provides forgiveness is me setting myself free of the offense. It simply doesn’t make any sense, except if intended to bolster my personal need, my ego, a concept that I am better than I actually am. The raw truth is forgiveness is an act intended to pardon the offender of the offense, not an act to free the offended, the victim, from the act. I differ from popular theory, this I know, but I just can’t buy into this watered-down concept. Releasing ourselves from the chains of anger and pain related to a wrong that has been thrust upon us is not forgiveness at all. This is a process of release from personal bondage. That is a great! That is a worthy goal! That is what you should obtain, release. But, let’s call it what it is.
Why so insistent, here, Ms. Carol? Because there is another layer to this process that can be very harmful. I see it often. People who force themselves to associate with their offenders. Enduring their presence. Faking a relationship. Exposing themselves, time and time again, to those who are toxic to them. But, why? To prove the meme correct that only the strong can forgive? I forgive therefore I am strong, I am good. But, do you, do you really forgive? I would hedge that honesty bears more no’s than yeses to that question.
One of my friends, many years ago, had another very fast and loose friend, who she believed was regularly hitting on her husband. I would concur in her belief. It caused more than one heated discussion in their household. My question to her was simply; “Then why do you continue to invite her to your home if she is a threat to your marriage?” It was an innocent question, or so I thought. It was also a question she could never answer.
I have another friend who doesn’t have a close relationship with a sibling. In fact, they fight bitterly. Yet, she continues to host the holiday gatherings at her house and she still invites the agnostic sibling, because they’re family and it’s expected. However, their presence, together, creates tension and stress for all in attendance. My friend knows full well she is going to be a mass of stress and anger and at some point some sort of confrontation is bound to erupt. Yet, she does it anyway.
I see the struggles others have with this concept of forgiveness. This concept of family togetherness, no matter what. And, I see clearly the BS you must wade through in order to meet it. Forcing yourself to do what is expected, even when it is to your own detriment. Struggling with guilt when you can’t meet the standard. Forcing yourself to endure people who hurt you. Forcing yourself into situations when it is harmful to your metal, spiritual and emotional health. I want those people to know it is okay to be different. It’s okay not to accept the popular theory. It’s okay to go against the grain. It’s okay to not forgive the act. It’s okay to stop enduring and forcing yourself to deal with that family member. You don’t have to expose yourself to situations which cause you stress or threaten your personal safety. You don’t have to endure the gathering. You don’t have to associate based upon a label. You don’t have to open your home, your place of refuge, to the destroyer, to the plunderer. Even God has a prerequisite to forgiveness, it is called repentance. He doesn’t give one without the other and I doubt very seriously He calls upon me to do something which He won’t.
Forcing yourself into fake relationships or pretend forgiveness does not prove you to be a great Christian. Forcing yourself to endure and associate with offenders does not prove you are strong. I do not have to offer my offenders forgiveness and neither do you. It is not something they are entitled to. In fact, it’s pretty arrogant and hateful to make such a hideous demand. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody.
I’m not advocating hatred here. I am not advocating bitterness. What I am saying is let it go… Yes, let it ALL go. Release yourself from the act, the pain, the anger. Release yourself from the individual. Let go of the need to hold that person accountable (if justice is not forthcoming for you). End your subscription to the guilt when you say ‘NO!” Release yourself from society’s pressures. Don’t be vexed by society’s requirement to forgive, expose, and endure. Live the life you need to live for your health, safety, welfare, peace and happiness.
People are people. Some you like. Some you don’t. Some you get along with and some you won’t. Forcing people who really don’t like each other much to interact together out of some out-dated ridiculous concept seems to me to be nothing more than a recipe for disaster. If you are trying to avoid drama and discord, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m pretty sure this is the fastest route to get to the opposite.
I strive for a genuine life. There are people who exist who do not have my best interests at heart. I understand this truth. That is just part of life. It doesn’t matter how many times they smile at me, hug me, or say; “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t matter how hard we try to avoid the truth, or turn a blind eye to past events, or pretend that things haven’t been said or done. So why on earth would I want to spend my day with any individual who fits within that category? Forced relationships are never successful. I am perfectly happy to co-exist. I know you are out there. I acknowledge, in some cases, we may share some genetic coding or familial line by blood or marriage. You do you. I’ll be over here doing me. We can live parallel but our lives don’t necessarily need to intersect or cross. I, personally, do not have a need to expose, associate, or endure, regardless of who you are, what your title may be, or what label you may bear.
Time is the only thing you can’t regenerate. Time is the most precious commodity you own. Yes, YOU. You own it. The great thing about being an adult is you get to decide how to spend your time. Take control of it and spend in wise ways.
Society is more than happy to call me unrelenting, unforgiving, and even bitter. Pish Posh Applesauce! I say I’m practical, very, very practical. I refuse to live an incongruous life in response to society’s ridiculous demands. Being genuine and truthful with myself is far more important than meeting some out-dated, water-down concepts, of how others have decided who I should be. I’ll create my own identity, thank you. I have nothing to prove and everything to gain. Untied, untethered, unbound.