Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If Right Feels Wrong, Is It Right?

A friend and I recently discussed people who - for whatever reason - are “toxic to the soul” and how it’s best to distance oneself from their lives and/or remove them from your own.  Fortunately, I’ve encountered very few such people in my life.  And since I’m not a confrontational sort of person, I tend to just drift away rather than having it out with someone.  Cowardly?  Yes.  Self-preservation?  That, too.

But then I get stuck on the concept of forgiveness and feelings of regret once I’ve drifted.  When I mentioned these stumbling blocks to my friend, she sighed.  She knows me well.

“You’ve already given these people a second or third chance,” she noted.  “But go ahead, try forgiveness again - let them back in your life.  They’ll be just the same as they were before and you’ll end up hurt and stressed again.”

“But what if this time I explain what’s wrong, how their actions affect others?  Maybe then they’d change.”

“Okay, go ahead and try that, too.  Odds are they won’t understand or change.  Toxic is who and what they are.”

Valid points.  Reluctantly, I admit she’s probably right.  So why do I still feel guilt, remorse and sorrow because these people are no longer part of my life?  Particularly when it comes to family. 

And why do so many clichés, sayings, Bible verses, etc. exist encouraging me to feel this way?

Turn the other cheek…  [Matthew 5:39]

Forgive and forget.

Do unto others...  [Matthew 7:12]

Life’s too short to hold a grudge.

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones
But words will never hurt me  (but they do)

Blood is thicker than water.

Never give up on people.

You can choose your friends but not your family.

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.  ~ Dalai Lama  (not so sure about this advice anymore)

I suspect the following cliché is the most appropriate for someone like me:

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t…”

photo credit: google images


Gorilla Bananas said...

Avoiding obnoxious people is one of the keys to a happy life, but maybe you feel compelled to redeem the sinner. Ever thought of becoming a priest?

Trish said...

Beth, I have been there too. I am non-confrontational and try to give people the benefit of the doubt because, really, I believe it is the best way to live. It's taken me years to accept, though, that others don't necessarily believe as I do, continuing on their toxic ways regardless of the trail of hurt they're leaving behind them. I came to see that I was trying to 'fix' people, or at least giving them endless opportunities to fix themselves at my expense. The responsibility of this is crushing and isn't very realistic or sustainable. Letting go is, sometimes, the only sane thing to do. Self-preservation is not cowardly.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink . . .

Sherry said...

It's not cowardly at all to turn away, or avoidance. You've given more than one chance...and that's saying a lot. I learned a few years ago from a good friend that when you expect others to behave differently than they have done you are setting yourself up for disappointment. It's when people behave differently on their own that the surprise is pleasant.

Forgiving means that you do that for yourself and it's an excellent way to alleviate those guilt feelings. It doesn't mean that you have to forget, but the forgive part is an amazing release of toxic that builds up within you.

Those who are negative or toxic can only change if they want to. Keeping that toxicity in your life is only going to be detrimental to your own health -- both mental and physical.

Been there. Done that. I have too many t-shirts.

love you!

Beth said...

Never – way too stressful. And I’m certainly not in any position to be casting any stones…

Thank you – very, very much. Your words, experience & advice help a great deal.

You’ve tried to teach me this for years – and I’m still struggling – despite the fact I KNOW the results of toxicity and stress…
I have to learn to forgive myself and those others… It’s hard.

Jaya J said...

that's a good and difficult post title there, Beth.
when it comes to forgiveness, i tend to forgive because i dont like having ill feelings towards anyone. that aside, after forgiving, i'd be more careful and maybe just cordial so as not to get myself hurt again. keeps me happy, and i dont think it's cowardly.

Juliette said...

And this one: "Be nice to your enemy, by doing this you are heaping burning coals on his head" Hmmm, have always found that one difficult. I, like you, try to forgive as we aren't all perfect and I too have read many Dalai Lama quotes to try and make myself a better, more forgiving soul. Still, if people are horrible, stay away. Life's too short and it's too much like hard work!

Beth said...

Jaya J:
I like your “cordial” bit. ;)
Forgive, live & let live (another cliché!) – and keep my distance…

Sometimes I wonder if a good YELL would be best (and less work). It’s not my style but perhaps I should give it a go – if there’s ever a next time. (God forbid.)

Lainey-Paney said...

I'm in a very similar situation with anger and blame.
And what I feel and my core beliefs are not fitting together right now, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I say, just be the best person you can be. If you have nothing left to give a relationship, consider the ball in their court. If they do nothing with the ball, then at least you know where you stand.
That's my $0.02. You can't always be the one to make the effort, or to make things work.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

I've struggled with this too, as you know.

So here's what I have learned/am learning:

You are NOT cowardly. At all. In fact, you have a duty to keep yourself away from toxic people because we take on and give back the energy around us. If you're around toxic, you take in toxic, and then you give out toxic. That isn't to say that we don't all do toxic things because we aren't perfect. The trick is that we are working on it and keeping ourselves away from toxic is part of the work. Also, we have to question our own motives. Are we trying to hang on, fix, or be the bigger person because we want to be liked, feel capable, or feel like the bigger person? 'Cause it is normal to want to feel those things. Better is to feel those things in healthy relationships.

As for forgiveness, think about it like banks and debtors. A bank may forgive a loan, and may even continue a relationship with the debtor, but that relationship may not include lending money again. A bank might also end the relationship depending on the particular debtor. Either way, the bank "forgives" the debtor, in that the bank needs nothing more. The bank has freed itself. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Forgiveness starts and ends with you. Give yourself a hug. You got this.

Finally, thinking about your very awesome blog post title, someone taught me that good is always right, but right is not always good.

This is a great one, Beth.


Beth said...

“…what I feel and my core beliefs are not fitting together…” – you hit the nail on the (my) head. I have to work on this.
As for you, be gentle with yourself. I am thinking of you – truly.

Wow – bless you for taking the time to write this. Many new things to consider – some already seeping in…
“If you're around toxic, you take in toxic, and then you give out toxic…keeping ourselves away from toxic is part of the work.”
“…we have to question our own motives.”
“Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation.”

Thank you so much for sharing, my friend.

nursemyra said...

you've taken the time to consider, now I think you know the answer

Anonymous said...

oh gosh, a really tough one, no matter how you slice it.

PG said...

I like what Cheri said about forgiveness not meaning reconciliation. I received a message from someone who was toxic in my life about 10 years ago. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether not responding would suggest that I haven't moved on and am too angry to respond. But, really, I didn't feel angry. I just didn't want to go there again. Been there, done that...

The toughest thing is when you still have to be around the person regularly. I haven't mastered how to deal with that situation. It's so much easier when spending time together is a choice rather than a requirement of an activity (e.g., work, school, neighbour) you do on a regular basis.

I think your friend's advice is good. You'd probably recognize this too in very little time if you did give the relationship another chance. Maybe it's that we tend to forget (or minimize) painful experiences.

Beth said...

Why writing things down always helps – as does blogging…

It should be simple but when logic, reason, emotion and love are at war…
May reason prevail.

“Maybe it's that we tend to forget (or minimize) painful experiences.”
As in, distance (time) makes the heart grow fonder, we focus on the good times & put aside the bad. My perspective of the past needs some fine tuning. said...

Yes, women -especially- are taught to be all-forgiving. We're even to forgive infidelity and all sorts of mistreatment. I say, this is ludicrous.

To thine own self be true, Beth.


Beth said...

Yet another new & helpful perspective. You’re right – why should I be so all-forgiving?
This is going to be a tough habit to break…ingrained for so many years...

Zhu said...

I think it's good to try to be civil, but self-preservation is great too. Life is too short to bother with people who aren't worth it.

laughingwolf said...

seems someone bitched about something on my blog, so it's been removed... the blog, that is *sigh*

Beth said...

I’m really not capable of being anything but civil – even when in the company of those who don’t reciprocate. Don’t want to stoop to their level…

WHAT??!! (And, yeah, I just checked.)
Start a new one – go with Wordpress – don’t leave the blogging world!

And I hope you’re feeling better – what a rotten time for this to happen.

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Barrie said...

Do you think it's because they're not totally toxic? There are parts to them (perhaps very small) that you enjoy or that make you think or laugh or whatever? That's my problem. And then I drift back.

Beth said...

I guess people aren’t totally toxic – but for me, a little toxic from certain people is so difficult to deal with. I really don’t want to drift back.

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