Recently, I was listening to a dear friend of mine talk about how difficult it was to break away from a toxic family member . She feels torn. Sad. Angry. Family is supposed to help each other; not hurt one another. Maybe if she just ignored him . What if she was nicer? Wait, what if she confronted him?! Then he’d see how much he was hurting everyone and he would change! She feels like she needs to repair the relationship because that’s what good Christians do. We are supposed to turn the other cheek; 70 times 7 and all that stuff. Right?
Her dilemma resonated so deeply with me. I spent most of my life believing those lies and only had the strength and wisdom to change about 5 years ago.I am a recovering Enabler. We are the people who want to help everyone and fix everything. You can usually spot us by the heart on our sleeves and our rose colored glasses. We truly believe there is good in everyone no matter how much $%^& it’s buried under. I’m not saying this is inherently a bad thing. I still believe there is (mostly) good in everyone. The difference is I now recognize the people who want to change for their betterment and those that don’t.
Toxic people are the ones that give you that ‘ugh’ feeling in the pit of your stomach. They are the ones that make you cringe when you see them on your caller ID. The ones that leave you feeling drained and unsettled after being with them. My sister has been instrumental in teaching me this. While I ignored the ‘ugh’, thinking I could somehow love the jerks out of their jerkiness, she was walking the other way saying, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’ Hence, I married two of the jerks and finally , after learning a thing or two, married my Knight.
What I learned in my 40 years wandering The Desert of Enable, is that truly toxic people are so wrapped up in themselves that they aren’t aware or concerned that you’re being hurt.They need and they need and they need. And we, the big hearted wide eyed enablers keep on loving and loving and loving. We find it hard to leave because we just can’t understand Why they act this way. If only we could categorize it somehow maybe then we could fix it. Unfortunately, Toxics don’t change until THEY realize that they have a problem.
My other Desert lesson was this: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or accepting. Forgiving them means that I take my anger and frustration to God and let Him deal with it. (This.Is.HARD! Honestly, punching them would feel far more satisfying and be much quicker but I haven’t found any scripture to back up this method yet. Still looking.)
God tells me to forgive those who hurt me, but He never says to roll over and be used and abused. In fact, He says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” Ps. 4:23. As a mother and an artist, I need a clean open heart in order to love and create. If I let someone in who chooses to fill me with poison, then my ability to love is stunted and my ability to create is diminished!
There have been times when I confronted a Toxic with their behaviour and they were truly repentant and worked to make amends and repair my broken trust. Other times, my Come to Jesus meetings with Toxics have not gone so well. Those times I’ve been yelled at, put down, and told I was the crazy one and maybe if I was a better wife, friend, mother… they would be happier. Sometimes, the best way to forgive And save your heart is through prayer at a distance.Perhaps, sometimes ‘turning the other cheek’ means turning and walking the other way.