Sunday, June 8, 2014

not too long ago I found myself in a very unfortunate and uncomfortable position when a relationship turned toxic. In the end, I had to cut off all contact with this individual in order for things to die down and for both of us to be able to move on with our lives. And the interesting thing is that part of the reason I found myself in this position was this individual had some unsettled problems and unresolved angst, as well as clinical depression. And I was angry that this was the lot that this person had been given in life, and it didn't seem fair that this should define their life, and I wanted to be part of their life almost to prove that their life didn't have to be defined by those negative things.

So when I tried to break off the friendship and cut off contact, I found myself on the receiving end of the accusation that I had a wonderful support network and this individual didn't have anyone to turn to- they never had, and they would always be alone. Looking back, it was a baldfaced attempt at manipulation, to make me feel bad and guilty. And it worked. I did feel guilty. Fortunately, I happened to mention this to my cousin Sarah, and she very firmly pointed out to me that yes, I do have an amazing support network- and I built it myself. It's not something that I inherited or bought. It's the creation of my own labors of getting to know people, serving people, loving people, and spending good time with them. Even the part of my network that I arguably did inherit, my family, is still in some part my own handiwork. I engaged in the same behaviors and habits of actively cultivating relationships and being genuinely interested in other people.

the more I thought about it, I began to realize two things. First, I really do have amazing and wonderful friends, and an amazing and wonderful family- siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even great-aunts and uncles and my mother's cousins I count among my friends. But second, I thought back through some times in my life (not often, fortunately), where people have tried to make me feel bad for the blessings in my life. And I concluded: never let anyone make you feel bad or guilty or undeserving for the blessing that God has chosen to give you. Never. Because frankly, it's not their business what God has given you, and He gives us gifts to enhance our lives, increase our gratitude and joy, to teach us, and I think also simply because He loves us. Does it stink sometimes that there often seems to be such an unequal distribution of gifts in the world, be they physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental? Heck, yes it does. But I'll tell you one thing- looking at the good things in my life with disgust or shame is only ever going to increase the amount of misery in the world, not the joy.

The desire to share that joy and spread it abroad is such a more powerful tool for equality than shaming or guilt tripping or beating ourselves up. No, sometimes we can't make the changes we want or bring joy to the lives of others in the ways we want because of circumstances. Sometimes, as sad as it is, we do have to remove toxic situations from our lives and that may mean removing toxic relationships from our lives. But I believe that God gives us tools to create our environment and He wants us to create as much beauty and joy as we can, for ourselves and to share with others. I think of how He created the beautiful Garden of Even for Adam and Eve, and charged them to take good care of it and cultivate it, and to be happy there. The individual in the story who tried to make them feel bad, worried, guilty, and ashamed wasn't God- it was Satan. I'm pretty sure that dichotomy holds true today, too. God has given each of us gifts. Some of those gifts were given to us as raw materials or tools and we have shaped them into new and beautiful things ourselves. Don't let Satan or anyone else ever make you feel bad about their lack of blessings, because chances are good that they had opportunities to create similar things and let them pass by, or that they don't have what you have because they have lessons to learn from a certain gift's absence.

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Great points. It reminds me of a former relationship I had where the other person seemed to feel very depressed and threatened by my gifts/successes, and to try to make me feel bad about them too. I'm not sure I ever articulated it so clearly to myself, but it was a very toxic situation as well. I'm glad you had the courage to remove yourself from it your own.