Modern wisdom states that if you want to change your life and be a happier person, identify the people in your life that detract from your happiness because they are “toxic” and kick them to the curb. Protect yourself from their damage, do what’s right for you, and cut them off. I can certainly understand why that seems to be the “healthiest” thing to do. It is certainly true in the case of those who are being terrorized and tormented by abusers intent on causing harm to others, regardless of reason. However, I question whether that is truly the best way to deal with other people who are what more and more of us seem to be: the walking wounded, people who have been hurt and damaged by life who are doing their best to love and be loved through faulty filters and misfired good intentions.
Personally, I have encountered very few people who aren’t mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally damaged in one way or another. We see them as users, manipulators, workaholics, busybodies, addicts, layabouts, womanizers, party girls, freaks, narcissists, unapproachable, gossipy, undependable, flaky, disrespectful, clueless, jerks, @$$holes, weak-willed, insular, narrow-minded, close-minded, liberal, conservative, misguided, stupid, too smart for their own good, frivolous, sticks in the mud, ignorant, and know-it-alls. I’m sure I’ve left out a few. The thing is, just about any person moving down the street has been seen in one or more of these descriptions by someone they’ve encountered in their life. I know I have.
I’ve also been cut off. After years of cycling through my depression, being on and off meds, and going in and out of my crazy, chaotic, toxic relationship with Jerry a very good friend, whom I considered to be my best friend, just stopped returning my calls. It took me a while to get the hint, but I finally did get it and stopped calling. It still hurts every time I think of her. The thing is, I always judged her to be better than me. I valued myself less than I valued her. I questioned what she saw in me and why she stayed friends with me. I openly admitted that she was a better friend to me than I was to her, but that wasn’t for lack of trying or intention on my part. I get it. I completely understand why, after a while someone would just give up on me and stop dealing with me. But, it hurt, a lot.
I’ve latched onto people I considered better than myself, hoping to learn how to be a better person from them. Women who were better moms, more connected spiritually, who enjoyed the domestic arts, or seemed stronger at being self-sufficient and independent became my unsuspecting targets. I earnestly and sincerely wanted to be like they were. I wanted what they had ~ lives that seemed more integrated and interactive with their families and the world at large. Somehow, because I knew I was damaged goods and was constantly living a life of chaos and conflict, I was less than and these people were better than me. If these better than me people could just help me to learn and be more like them, then I could be better too. After a while my life would inevitably separate from theirs. Usually because I fell back into my damage.
Over time, the only ones who seemed to be consistent, or at least intermittent, are those who are as difficult and challenging to deal with as I myself am. How painful and exhausting that has been. However, I’ve started noticing something, the longer I stick with these relationships and the more I continue to work through my own healing and recovery issues, learning how to separate myself and my issues from them and their issues, while staying in relationship with them, my healing is progressing. I’m a stronger, more emotionally capable, compassionate, and stable person than I’ve ever been before.
Part of the reason for that is I’m beginning to trust and believe in my God given identity as someone who is fearfully and wonderfully made. I remember various slogans and cute images from the 70’s:
God don’t make no junk.
Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.
I’m not junk and I am a work in progress.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have life everlasting. John 3:16.
I’m loved. I was loved before I existed, I am loved because I am loved.
Romans 8:38-39 ~ Complete Jewish Bible (CJB): 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, 39 neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.
Gaining my sense of worth and value from a God who loves me means I don’t have to abandon and reject painful relationships with people I love who are as wounded and hurting as I have been. It gives me the strength, the fortitude, and the courage to keep trying in spite of what others believe I should do or conventional wisdom dictates is necessary for mutual growth and healing.
Remember this: Stone sharpens stone and rocks are polished by being spun around in a closed environment and knocking the sharp and rough edges off of each other.