Round Two with “The Hammer.”

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!

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14 thoughts on “Round Two with “The Hammer.”

  1. mymendingwall January 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm Reply

    Strange that your friend would think it is her place, or anyone else’s, to tell you to make a decision about your marriage. Hypothetically, so what if you are using your husband? Unless our husband is a child, he is old enough to make his own choices. He could leave if he did not like it.

    It’s sad that when you attempted to establish a boundary, your friend could not accept that. If you had gone to her, unhappy, confused, bewildered, inquiring, I could understand her motivation. There is a line that should not be crossed unless invited, not matter how close and how long you’ve been friends. Your Christian nature keeps your love for her and keeps your attitude positive. Your grace is a quality many desire!

    What I have come to realize is that the opposite of acceptance is control. Either my friends accept me the way I am, or they want me to change. How people go about getting that change is usually through manipulation- overtly or covertly. This does not mean that my friends do not love me. It only means, like mankind, they have character flaws that drive them to certain misbehaviors. Love the person, not the action. By loving them, you aren’t condoning their behavior. You are allowing God’s grace to flow through you so that perhaps they can learn to heal, thus accept and not control.

    • ranthegauntlet January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am Reply

      Yes! Yes! I agree!!! You SO understand my thinking! What you say about control and change is so true. It is normal for us to want to see change when behaviors, thought patterns or situations are causing pain to those we love. But not manipulation, as you say. My friend HAS heard me be unhappy, bewildered, confused, inquiring about this issue, for a long time…and I have listened to her input. I was verbalizing pros and cons, and admitting my own issues – but calmly, with consideration. Her response came from somewhere other than the issues at hand.

      And, as you say also, my friend has drivers for her behavior. I think I understand some of that also. I really do forgive her, and don’t BLAME her. It could be MY choice to accept HER without controlling HER. The problem with continuing the friendship is that her choice of manipulative, controlling tactics is hugely toxic to me. If I was mature enough/recovered enough to calmly detach with love and maintain contact, I would probably do so. But using these tactics, knowing my history as she does, is like applying a match to a burn victim.

      I love this: “Love the person, not the action. By loving them, you aren’t condoning their behavior. You are allowing God’s grace to flow through you so that perhaps they can learn to heal, thus accept and not control.”

      Thanks for talking with me. I truly respect your perspective. I am CHOOSING my tribe, my pack, of contacts/friends who also choose healthy boundaries, non-manipulation, personal growth, peace. And I am very happy to be conversing with you!

      Diane

      • mymendingwall January 6, 2013 at 11:06 am Reply

        Wow! You can quote me on that! I’ve never been quoted by an adult before!!! LOL

        Your judgment sounds wise in that you know her past behavior, but I am sure that you are equally aware of your history of vulnerability and susceptibility to controlling people. Now that you are no longer willing to allow others to control your actions and thoughts, you are making a stand, and detaching from a toxic relationship. Your strength is growing ten-fold through your awareness so that you can take a preemptive stance to say, “No more!” But it is not just your strength and awareness that I admire. It is the your compassion and empathy toward her that is remarkable.

        Some of the people in my life would have easily said, “To hell with her!” Of course, these are people that I have chosen not to enter into a close friendship with anyway!

        Thanks for engaging in such rich, thoughtful conversation. It stimulates my brain. Please thank The Hammer for the topic of my next post and direct her to my blog!

        ~N

        • ranthegauntlet January 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm Reply

          LOL…OL! I think The Hammer prefers other reading material! But it’s a thought!

          • mymendingwall January 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

            Well… I didn’t actually mean her, but I meant friendship in general!

          • ranthegauntlet January 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

            Ok…Thanks! I misunderstood, but your comment is still well made!!

  2. MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com November 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Hi Diane (I think that’s your name), My heart goes out to you. I have been praying for you. I think I’m as concerned as JumpingOnClouds about cutting off a lifelong friendship. While you may be right about a superiority and condemning spirit, but still… loneliness is not the answer either. I think I know what you are talking about how you got the spirit of peace. But what comes after? Maybe loneliness. I have not gone through the abuse that you have, so it is impossible for me to relate to. I have gone through loneliness and depression and it is a purgatory. I hope you have other friends. The sense I get from your post is that this is your best friend. It sounds like she is a heartfelt friend. She lost patience and exploded while you are going through the crucible. I don’t grasp why she wants you to go back with your husband; the Bible says that because of our “hardness of heart” Moses permitted divorce. The hardness of heart can be in either of the spouses. It is not God’s plan; it is unfortunate; in some cases it may be necessary. Whether you go back to your husband or not is not my decision, but I certainly hope you can go back to your friend. Sometimes part of the problem for us pastors is that we become too dogmatic and worry about giving the right answer; what we have been told. We lose our God-given wisdom when we toe the party line. I don’t know if that’s the case with your friend. I can only know that I have done that. I am ashamed to admit that I had committed some of the pastoral mistakes you mention in your blog. I have been insensitive in the name of giving the supposed “right” answer. My heart goes out to you, and I continue to pray for you. I hope your crucible time does not prolong itself much more. May God grant you a refreshment after all this heart-rending…

    • ranthegauntlet November 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm Reply

      Hello, my friend Mike! Yes, I’m Diane. Thank you for your prayers! I guess a 15-year friendship is almost a lifelong friendship! She is one of my very few best friends (no best bestie – apples and oranges, you know, each wonderful in her own way!). She wasn’t suggesting I return to my ex – that divorce was 12 years ago, he was remarried 7 months after our divorce, and she was one of two who encouraged the divorce. And I also remarried 8 years ago to a calm, peaceful, generous man who is the salt of the earth. It is this man she wanted me to fight with – to, accomplish what? – I guess to push him to change his mind about some things to help me with my decisions? I’m not sure. One way or another, it was a call to use a type of controlling and force. My husband and I have discussed the issues directly and honestly with love. I respect his choices as he respects mine, even when it hurts to do so. To me, this is honoring a husband and loving a wife.

      You’re right about becoming dogmatic – not just pastors, not just Christians – we all do it one way or another. What it comes down to, however well-intentioned, is that we clearly defend the doctrine rather than attending to the wounds of the soul before us. I have done it as a lay Christian. I also feel for you, as a pastor, because you are called to defend both the Word and the soul (talk about running a gauntlet!). But, you couldn’t have said it better: “We lose our God-given wisdom when we toe the party line.” This is where a Christian can really do harm to faith. If a person is weak in faith, or in such pain they can’t hear a trumpet, let alone a still-small-voice, and they come for guidance, and real “God-given wisdom” isn’t the primary force, then this person is getting a message that is either NOT FROM GOD (as in WRONG – not what God wants this person to hear from HIM), or diluted/replaced with the counselor’s “flesh” as they pick verses and priorities based on their personal information or lack of. But it is presented with authority, as fact. The hurting soul is sent on the wrong track. often more wounded than when he/she came in. No one is perfect, but if Christians are spirit filled, and in prayer, and have their wills attuned to God’s, then why should this be? And I wonder if Matthew 18:6-7 (If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!) applies here? If someone leaves, loses faith, or takes their own life from such counsel, most would say they will go to hell. How about that Christian who has just used their authority (or friendship) and the Word of God unwisely?

      I have been lonely, both alone and with others. Loneliest of all is losing faith. But my friend, with all benefit of doubt given, abused. The same way my ex did. I don’t blame her. I just won’t participate, or ever open myself again to the possibility, with her. There are many healthy, positive people to be friends with, who won’t EVER use those tactics. If you had a best friend who had a tough year and fired a gun past your head, you would forgive him, but would you trust him again – would you want him hanging around your school? If you were newly sober after a long run with drugs, and your best friend tried to shoot you up, would you still be his friend? Or would you bag it and find someone healthier? That’s my choice. Has to be.

      I don’t have answers, either, good Pastor. I love your honesty and humility. You are truly compassionate and wanting to serve well. I see your pure heart. Your faith gives me hope, because you are real.

      With total respect and blessings!

      Diane

      • MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com December 1, 2012 at 9:08 am Reply

        So I have pieced together a wrong picture based on partial information. So you have remarried? Praise God. And you are not fighting with your husband? Praise God. I guess all I can say is that I rejoice in these things. As far as your friend, I would still recommend that you pray about her and not cut her off forever. Give her some time. Losing such a good friend of 15 years seems tragic. Friendship, for me, is to be treasured. Fogiveness covers a multitude of wrong. In regards to loneliness, maybe you’re not in danger. In regards to losing your faith in God, I don’t think you have. Maybe you have lost your faith in the network of Christians who have failed you time and agian. Did you ever read the long version of Humpty Dumpty? All the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Strange that its considered a child’s story because a child wouldn’t understand it. It’s a parable for adults, and it is an accurate description of the churhc. The churh is supposed to be a hospital (I have come not for those who have no need of a doctor) but instead casts itself as the cladiron guardian of pure doctrine. If we could only learn to protect people, not dogma…

        • ranthegauntlet December 1, 2012 at 11:06 am Reply

          You are a class act, Mike! I Googled Humpty Dumpty, and got three different versions. Not important, I get your point. And I agree with and appreciate your comments. Back to Humpty, though! There was one about a canon (probably the oldest), one ended as follows:

          Humpty Dumpty counted to ten
          Humpty Dumpty got up again
          All the King’s horses
          and all the King’s men
          Were happy that Humpty’s together again

          But if one can “claim” a nursery rhyme, this one is mine:

          Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
          Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
          He didn’t get bruised, he didn’t get bumped,
          Humpty Dumpty bungee jumped

          Rejoicing with you in a good laugh!

  3. jumpingonclouds November 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Oh my. I’m in tears over this one. Friendships like yours with The Hammer are so important in life, and unfortunately we can hurt each other along the way. I LOVE the questions you asked of your friend (even when you’d been so deeply ‘trashed’) and the beautiful display of logic you had in such a highly emotional exchange. I pray those questions will ring in her ears, and we never know how God will use them to move her, convict her, or lead her to say she’s sorry. We can hope, right?

    I’m probably not the right one to comment about the abuse of scriptures since I have been so thoroughly wounded by that phenomenon, but I’ll go ahead and weigh in here. It’s been awful to have scripture thrown in my face. When I struggled with a 20-year eating disorder I confided in an older Christian woman and she told me “it’s just sin and I need to stop giving into temptation.” BAM! You can’t imagine the condemnation I felt. I was at my bottom. I tried to so hard to stop bingeing and purging, and I cried every time I gave in. That comment widened the chasm between me and God for many years and it left me with no hope. I just couldn’t ‘give it up’, turn it off, or say no. I was powerless, and her words simply put another shovel full of dirt on my half-buried coffin.

    Was my eating disorder a sin? Well, technically, yes. Anything that ‘falls short of the glory of God’ is sin. But what I needed was a hug, encouragement, and a huge dose of love. I needed someone to stay with me long enough to help me unpack the deep wounds I had buried in childhood trauma. I had so much trauma trapped inside me and that was fueling my eating disorder. Once I opened myself up to Jesus (literally on the brink of taking my life), I was able to feel His awesome, overpowering LOVE. And it was HIS LOVE that healed me from what I couldn’t stop myself. It was His love, not His judgement.

    We cannot heal ourselves and we certainly can’t heal anyone else. But we know who can. And He is LOVE.

    Hugs and huge love your way, my friend. You’re doing great. Forgiving your friend (releasing her from punishment) is tough to do, but it seems to me like you’re on your way. If you ever want to talk further, please email me. I’m a PTSD survivor and I’d love to share any resources I can with you. It’s totally treatable.

    • ranthegauntlet November 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm Reply

      Thank you again, “J,” for your encouraging feedback. I feel for you,too! I just eat too much of the wrong things, but even if I had an eating disorder, I would not be qualified to judge you because I am not you, with your unique past, biology, and …whatever. I have been guilty of simplistic judgments of others, although in bigger issues, like eating disorders, etc., it is my wiring to want to understand better – it is IMPORTANT to me to GIVE HONOR, RESPECT, by listening and learning. I am so GRATEFUL that you experience Jesus’ love. I have, with no sour grapes intended, experienced as much BAM as LOVE. Through this experience with my friend (I can’t keep calling her Hammer!) I have come to the absolute end of BAM. I choose to focus on the LOVE. I’ve wrestled with mercy AND law/justice forever. I need the MERCY. Your experience of love shows, and it is far more contagious than any doctrine! Regarding the questions I asked. I had 20 years of being hammered by my ex, and falling into the trap of explaining my good motivations, which sounded like defending myself, weren’t believed anyway (which basically was calling me a liar) and really just escalated the negative dialogue – which produced the learned helplessness that is the lasting curse of the abused. I learned to use “I feel” statements, which does work with non-abusers. Even better was asking questions, repeating back exact words if possible, for clarification, which 1) clarifies if you heard correctly, and 2) allows the other party to reflect on what it was they SAID. I see it as ACTING (to understand the real deal) rather than RE-ACTING (defense, offense, judgment, escalation). I will be in touch about the PTSD. Blessings!

      • jumpingonclouds November 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm Reply

        Wow. Wow. Wow. I love how you described learned helplessness as the lasting curse of the abused. Perfectly stated.

        You’ve clearly broken out of that helplessness and instead of remaining a victim and become bitter, you’ve developed compassion and acquired wisdom.
        I’m so glad we’re connected!

        • ranthegauntlet November 30, 2012 at 11:58 pm Reply

          I’m still working on the breaking free, hence the immobilization and faithlessness. Working every angle to get healthy. It comes and goes. I have spent the last few years bitter and angry. Forgiveness and non-judging feels SOOOO much better! Back at you about being connected!

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