I “Ran the Gauntlet.” I am no longer RUNNING the gauntlet. I can choose. I took hits leaving two jobs because I chose not to deal with abuse. I don’t have the resiliency. Just like accommodating a gimpy knee or weak back, I accept and work with what I’ve got. In time I hope to be stronger; this IS the real world. But NOW, I experience out of proportion anxiety and confusion when I encounter: yelling, forceful in my face YOU statements, chronic interruptions, too much too fast (of anything), noise, clamor, intensity, meanness, lying, drama games, rigid dogmatism, entitlement, arrogance, forcing, shallow character judgments.
May I tell you about my friend?
We’ve been close friends for 15 years, through my divorce and her 3-year separation. Through times of mutual devout faith, and times when her faith continued and mine waned. Through my anger at God and her defense of Him. We’ve laughed a lot and been able to discuss anything. All the forbidden topics – politics, religion, relationships. We have made annual pilgrimages to hyperventilate over glitzy Christmas decorations and fabric.
I have known her to go half-cocked on some things – to easily embrace “facts” I didn’t see evidence for – and to be very confident of choices, changes, opinions she makes quickly and decisively. She is a hero, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, infidelity by a husband she adored, addiction, homelessness, domestic abuse. She was raped, conceived, and raised a beautiful daughterwho is now a missionary. She adopted and raised a child from another country. She was an actress and a businesswoman. She has re-started with class over and over. She believes God speaks to her often, clearly, and that He is preparing her for a great ministry. She believes she has the gift of discerning illness and healing. One of her favorite quotes is part of Job 13:15 – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I think we have seen each other’s flaws through rose-colored-glasses of friendship.
Until last week.
Last week she gave me this counsel: You are a USER, USING the people waiting on you (“No, I’m not”) Yes you are, a USER. Everyone is walking around the elephant in the kitchen, but no one is telling you the truth you need to hear (“what is that?”) You need to make a decision (“I’m trying but the stakes are too high to make a mistake”). You need to just do it, just make a decision. Do you fight with your husband? (“No.”) Go home and fight with your husband – he’s the most passive man I have ever known. (“No – I’ve controlled with anger in the past – it doesn’t work”). Then divorce him – you’re using him. (“He can make his own choices”) Blah, blah.
I went home stunned. I felt hammered, cornered, like a failure, more immobilized, anxious, afraid. I looked at my bottle of Lorazepam (recently prescribed – I’ve only taken 1 1/2 tabs in the month since then). I looked at the WHOLE bottle, and thought of the frozen lake a few miles away. How it would be a relatively tidy way to make a decision. (Sorry, really dark). I took one tab and went to bed.
Since then I have gone from utterly fried to surprisingly calm. Like something burned out and clean. I’m not angry, not shocked, not hurt, not even sad. Shut off like a faucet.
I talked again with my friend, The Hammer.
I wondered if she would have anything to say about her proclamations to me the week before. Nope. Small talk.
So I brought it up.
Me: The way you talked to me the other day – I don’t want to do that again. (Friend: OK) I reminded her of how she felt before her separation – totaled by depression, unable to think or sleep, feeling overwhelmed and trapped and on-the-edge, and under condemnation from her spouse and church. (Yes.) Do you think maybe I am feeling similarly? (I think you need to make a decision.) This feels like the same energy as pushers/abusers Peter and C***, and V****. ([Silence with authoritative stare]) Do you think your counsel to me was Godly? (Yes! My pastoral studies teach that….blah, blah, blah, blah.) You believe that telling me to go home and fight with my husband is Godly counsel? (Yes.) Do you think you were telling me the truth with love? (Yes! Jesus says he came not into the world to bring peace, but division [paraphrase from Luke 12:49] ….and I think you have PTSD, your emotions are all over the place, you have no control of it….). I think so, too, maybe. Do you know anything about PTSD? (No.) Do you think the way you pressured me is the way to help someone who is dealing with PTSD? (Yes.). So you don’t know anything about it, but you think you know how to address it? (Yes.). Anything else? (Everyone is walking around the elephant in the kitchen, and I am the only one who loves you enough to tell you the truth. Enough to risk our friendship for it!). I see. You know, I believe I’m done here.
“OK.” she said. (Direct gaze, firm chin, head high) I left her house with her calling out “You are walking away from the one person who loves you more than anyone else in the world!”
How weird is that? Yep, studying to be a pastor. In my book, those are the same old “gauntlet” weapons: pride, ignorance, entitlement, scripture, and verbal assault – and tolerating that #&% is not in my best interest. No resolution with calm communication. No openness. Just hammer away with the Word of God in a spirit of righteous entitlement. Been there done that. Motivation is irrelevant. History is irrelevant. Her integrity is irrelevant. Giving the benefit of the doubt works both ways. It’s OK. Not my deal. Shut off like a faucet. I don’t hate her, don’t judge her, don’t even feel sad, just know this is too toxic. Acceptance. EXIT in peace.
And I AM more peaceful. I have my own decisions to make, in my own time, as I am able. Between God/ the universe and me. I will honor others needs, AND mine. Without guilt and forcing. Without pushy, strident voices. I will do the best I can, listen to my heart, my conscience, and God, the best I can. I choose to neither control nor be controlled. To neither judge nor be judged. Health. No more gauntlets. I CAN CHOOSE!:
Galatians 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Life looks beautiful today! Blessings and Peace!
Tagged: abuse, advice, Bible, church, counsel, decisions, divorce, Domestic Abuse, faith, Healing, judge, Mental Illness, pastors, prayer, Psychological Abuse, PTSD, religion, respect, scripture, Survivors