We all have those people in our lives. The friends and family who weigh on us. The people who just take and take and don’t know how to give back. Who use hateful language and simpering thin apologies.
When they’re friends, eventually we grow tired of the repeated abuses of our kindness and the indifference with which they treat our love and the friendship comes to a crashing halt. Sometimes this involves a big dramatic recounting of past wrongs and a final straw. One or both parties may refuse to be in the presence of the other. Very 8th grade and very dramatic. Sometimes it’s less dramatic and the relationship grows more and more distant and detached until you barely nod to one another when you see one another at the gathering of a mutual friend. Overall the ending of a friendship, while sad, is something you can rebound from and life carries on fairly normally after the initial shock wears off.
When it’s a family member, this process is so much more difficult and painful. The abuses suffered and the long held grudges that have been swallowed and held down for years, and occasionally decades, eventually all come boiling back up. Emotional heartburn. Most of these relationships, had the perpetrator been a friend and not a family member, would have come to a grinding halt much sooner.
We should forgive our family infinitely, so it seems. Choosing to end contact with a parent or a sibling is socially frowned upon. (This is, of course, barring any physical or sexual abuse by said family member.) You are supposed to tolerate the “occasional bad behavior” of the other party. Endure the verbal and emotional abuse to make it easier on the rest of the family. Forgive and forget.
This, to me, is unhealthy and unhelpful. Not only are you allowing this person to continue abusing you and those you love, but you’re encouraging it with your endless forgiveness. They know they can say and do whatever they’d like and although you may distance yourself from them for days, weeks, or months, eventually they know you will forgive and forget to make things easier “on the family”. And the cycle starts again.
I am making a stand against this in my own life.
I am letting go of friendships that are unhealthy and damaging. This is fairly easy as I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by many amazing people that I can call friends.
Here is the hard part. I have that family member and we have been in a cycle of abuse and forgiveness for 15 long years. I am not perfect. Years ago, when I was young and angry, I did my fair share of fighting and stirring up trouble. As I’ve gotten older I have done my best to make my peace. To let go of cruel comments and ignore fabricated past events. To delete the hateful voice mails and vicious text messages. To trust and believe the apologies. To “move on” and give it a fresh start.
This time I truly am letting go. I’m letting go of this relationship even if it means losing a part of my family. I deserve better. I deserve to be surrounded by love and kindness and true forgiveness.
We all do.