“You Have My Permission to Walk Away . . .”

21 Aug

I was angry.

Angry . . . and remembering God’s command that, in our anger, we not be sinful.

I was quietly praying for wisdom as I communicated with a younger friend via Facebook Messenger.

I had mentored this young woman, who has similar disabilities to my son’s, for years.  She had idolized me for most of that time.  Then, in the moment most realistic counselors dread, she came to the point that she decided it was okay to use me as her mental punching bag, to blame all of the things that were out of control in her life on me, as though I were her god.   

I had never allowed her to make me a god in her life, whether a good one or a bad one.  And now the moment for action was here.

With tears in my eyes, I texted back that we were not going to continue this exchange until she could talk to me as one adult to another, with our dignity and respect for each other intact.

I withdrew from the conversation for the course of about three months.  When she protested that that was not necessary, I assured her that it was.  That she needed to work on herself and to stop the torrent of verbal abuse being flung at me (and at her parents) more than she needed to try to woo me back as a friend.  

I said I will always be here for her, but I will not be her human garbage disposal.  That part does not fall within the definition of friendship.  Nor of any human relationship.

Yes, Jesus became our human garbage disposal in order to remove our sins.  I get that.  I also get that no other human can do that for me, nor I for them.  Theologically, that would make me a god in their lives and that is a role I cannot and must not take.

I have used those lines:  “I love you and I will be here for you, when you are ready to talk to me as two adults, with respect and dignity” many times in my life.  They work with angry spouses.  They work with angry children, after a certain age.  They work with friends.  They set a limit that is healthy and good. 

I highly recommend them, not as something magical or superspiritual that I have discovered, but as a practical way to keep our relationships clear of clutter.

You see, it is a universal human dilemma to want to let our hurt go somewhere.  Hurting people hurt people.  We have all heard that.  

But only I can impose limits on others that stops that from happening.  

While I acknowledge that there is much wrong in this world, that there is much hurt in this world, that still does not make me the human garbage disposal for anyone else’s hurt.  

And they need to know that, in no uncertain terms.  We do them no favors by letting them think it is okay to blow up and verbally abuse another human being when our own hearts are hurting.

Walk away.  Tell them you will resume the discussion later, when it can involve mutual dignity and respect.

You owe that to each other.  

P.S.  If my friend’s father asks me, I am going to give him this exact same advice, with the twist that he needs to actively protect his wife from the verbal abuse of their daughter. The way she described it to me, it sounds as though he is so anxious to defuse the daughter’s anger, when it ratchets up, that he sympathizes with her and soothes her, rather than telling her that she is not allowed to speak to her mother that way.  I believe he will regret that tactic, as anger only begets more anger.  Allowing her to spew at her mother will only create more of the same.  He needs to actively protect his wife and his marriage.  I believe I have the full weight of the Scriptures behind that counsel.

Walk away, folks, not to get away from your relationships, but in order to save them.   


One Response to ““You Have My Permission to Walk Away . . .””

  1. Mary Gardner Martin August 21, 2013 at 5:54 PM #

    In all honesty, I have been astonished to learn from more people than just people with special needs that, when someone has hurt them, they consciously turn around and go looking for someone whom they can “make feel as bad as I do.” Needless to say, this is not a Biblical/spiritual principle, but we do need to be aware of the tendency of people to think and act this way. And . . . once we are aware, tell them that we are walking away until they can talk to us as two adults, with respect and dignity.
    No matter what has happened to someone, we do her no favors by letting her dump on us! Life isn’t going to allow that, so why should we?
    Also, people don’t get over hurt by passing it on to others. Research shows they only get more angry and despondent. Sooooo, don’t let yourself be a human garbage disposal. It helps no one . . .

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