Whose Cuffs?

Earlier this week I commented on a beautiful post by Stephen (LifeRevelation.wordpress.com). His post, Counting (http://wp.me/s2dWRG-counting), was about the grace and respect extended to him by a police officer who risked much to remove his handcuffs and honor him with friendly conversation and a meal en route to jail, and the effect that had on the author’s life. My simple comment rang true to him, and he posted again (http://wp.me/2dWRG Counting and Then Some), including the potential outcome of planting that type of kindness wherever each of us travels in life, using the phrase “I want to be one who takes off the cuffs.” Stephen encourages his readers to “take off the cuffs” in whatever way we can. Yes!

So his post – that prompted my comment – that prompted his next post – has now prompted this post. Got that?

I said that I want to be one who removes the cuffs, and I do. I also felt the check inside, the nidge of uncertainty, about…what if I do so and get hurt? The outcome for the police officer, had his trust been misplaced (which it wasn’t), could have been tough.

Which has to do with how much I trust myself to know who I can trust.

This is where I am with that:

My parents are very nice people. My mother (who will be 92 in a few weeks) quotes HER mother – who said that “when people are hardest to love, that is when they need love the most.” I was taught to give the benefit of the doubt – to choose to see a person’s actions assuming their best motives, rather than their worst.

A few scriptural ideas could be seen to go along with these: “turn the other cheek,” “do not resist an evil person,” “forgive if you want to be forgiven,” “love covers a multitude of sins,” ….. Depending upon interpretation and context.

I have to qualify these to navigate my own life.

I met Peter when we were in college. He was just out of prison, 3 years, medium to minimum security, for selling heroin. He told me this with fear and trepidation after a few dates. His sincerity and honesty impressed me. I considered what I knew of him so far (gentleman, REAL, calm, open-minded, diligently turning his life around with straight A’s in Civil Engineering, honesty, good attitudes, and that I really seemed to matter to him), so I continued to see him, aware but “giving the benefit of the doubt.” All the way  to the altar. I believed the best in him, left his past in the past, loved and respected him in the present. His cuffs were off in real life; I left them off in my mind, heart and deed.

But my trust was misplaced. My respect was not reciprocated.  My upbringing didn’t prepare me to recognize and run from the few “red flags” that were there in front of me – or to assess his trustworthiness.  Nor did it prepare me to set healthy boundaries, to know how to decide when my rights and preferences were allowed to trump his rights and preferences. So, in giving the benefit of the doubt, I usually catered to and made excuses for his many “preferences.”  I thought, “it doesn’t matter that much to me, but it seems to matter a lot to him, so….”

I left his cuffs off, honored him with my love and trust, and  then I allowed him to put cuffs on ME. I allowed the misuse of Christian principles, scripture and biblical authority to snug those cuffs a little tighter. I didn’t know better.

Now, I do…know better…but I have to learn HOW. I don’t trust my own judgment, which is very common for an abuse survivor. There is a lot of fear in that…(please don’t quote, “perfect love casts out fear” – it may be true, but I’m not feelin’ it).

I am learning healthier boundaries. From codependency groups, Al-Anon, counseling, books, bloggers, and some wiser family members, I learn concepts taught neither by my parents nor my churches: what healthy boundaries are FOR ME.

It is my responsibility, in order to live effectively, to learn what I can emotionally or financially bear, and what I can’t. If, by being who I am, I can bless someone WITHOUT self harm, I’m all over it. It gives my life meaning and joy! If not, then I hope there is someone else better equipped to fill that role….or perhaps it just won’t get done. I’ve tried hard to be the “creator of happy endings.” But I’ve learned I just don’t have that kind of power. Which doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying…

I still give the benefit of the doubt, but more carefully. I still know that a person may have motivators for their actions that deserve compassion, not judgment, but I can’t hang with toxic people. I still understand that when people are hardest to love, that is when they need love the most – so I love them, tell them I love them, and show them I love them – but try to care for myself, too.

In healthier moments, I give myself permission (this is a really recent change!) to sometimes let my wants and needs be more important to me than someone else’s wants and needs. It sounds harsh.  But I need to reword “love others as I love myself” as “love myself as I love others.”  It doesn’t feel right – to the point that I sometimes prefer my own company (just easier than figuring it out) – because I’m compassionate…a team player …codependent… want to be loved and loving…but I’m afraid of what I don’t know enough to fear.  However imperfect…boundaries come first; tweaking them can come later.

As I am able, I will still, enthusiastically,  “take off cuffs!”

As Stephen says so passionately that it made me cry (repeatedly):

“Yes I want to be the person who takes off the cuffs, the shackles, the things that bind, the things that keep us from being free. I want to be the type of person who helps others unleash their full potential, find themselves, be free, live gloriously, set their hearts aflame, live in Truth, be peaceful, live in harmony, be fruitful, be excited, live long, flow with compassion, race with the wind, breathe slowly and deeply, touch the outer limits, live within, know yourself. taste life. fall in love…do you get the idea yet?”

I want every word in that paragraph with every fiber of my being! Enough to keep sawing away at my own cuffs, too.

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14 thoughts on “Whose Cuffs?

  1. Whose Cuffs? | Living In Your Joy February 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm Reply

    […] Whose Cuffs?. […]

    • ranthegauntlet February 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm Reply

      Thank you for the pingback. Blessings, and I so enjoy your blog! Diane

  2. Barbarabarbarastanley January 20, 2013 at 10:11 am Reply

    The perfect love that casts out all fear refers to your relationship with God, not mankind. We don’t possess the ability to love, ‘without fear’ each other. “To know” the next man you are attracted to, you must know his family and community. Walk in his footsteps by looking through photo albums with his mother and father. They will tell stories about the man when he was a boy. Talk to his friends. Not an interrogation, just questions such as, “I bet Tommy was fun to be with when you guys were growing up. What did Tommy enjoy most?” Observe his behavior: Does he kick the dog or cat, or does he gently pet them and ignore the shed hair? Does he help his fellow man when he sees someone needs help or does he walk or drive away, saying “It ain’t my problem.” In other words, know him before you commit. It may take two years, it may be never, but read the entire book before writing your book report. Don’t just read the first chapter, flip through a few more, then skip to the end. A real man will be patient and gentle with you. Anyone who isn’t is not worth your time. You are beautiful, intelligent, and loving. You gave your marriage 120%. Let it go now. The problem wasn’t you. But do know yourself and love yourself completely before beginning another relationship. No one can know without a shadow of doubt that any man will be who he presents himself to be, but you can get mighty close. That is where perfect love comes into play. If you have asked God to lead you to your next relationship and he puts someone in your path, after you have done your homework on him, have that perfect love in God that pushes out all fear. Love you, sister in Christ.

    • ranthegauntlet January 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm Reply

      Barbara…what EXCELLENT counsel. I believe that such information about ways to get to know the real person, and how to evaluate a person for relationship or marriage should be consciously taught by every parent, grandparent and church leader. Teaching this early could save so much grief – in relationships, avoided abuse, avoided trauma to children, avoided damage to faith and hope.

      I divorced “Peter” over 12 years ago, and have been remarried for 8. I worked at the same place as my husband, and saw his character clearly from how he was on the job; his family, his thoughts, and all else confirmed that he is a very good, kind, steady person.

      Regarding love that casts out fear. I know this relates to relationship with God, and I want to have that perfect love that pushes out all fear. But it does come down to my trust in God, which isn’t immense, unless I can believe a view of Him that is different that what I have seen/felt/believed to date.

      Thanks, my friend. Blessings!! Diane

  3. MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com January 17, 2013 at 11:02 pm Reply

    The cuffs you are taking off are not the cuffs of the abuser but the abused. Keep it up!

  4. Jane Fritz January 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm Reply

    Powerful post. Thank you for sharing.

    • ranthegauntlet January 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm Reply

      Thank you, and you’re welcome! I enjoyed your blog when I visited you, also!

  5. stephenedwards425 January 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on LifeRevelation and commented:
    Every once in a while someone will cross your path and there is this spark…not a sexual or romantic spark…but a flash of “ah ha”…that lets you know you’ve met another kindred soul…this is what happened when Diane responded to my post entitled, “Counting.” She is a wonderful breath of fresh air, cool water, and refreshing wisdom that brightens my day. She writes with a complete honesty and compassion coupled with power that brings tears to my eyes and hope in my heart. Read her slowly…meditate on her thoughts…let the totality of her wisdom sink in…slowly…and of course, as always…be encouraged!

  6. stephenedwards425 January 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm Reply

    I think taking off your own cuffs is far more difficult than releasing them on others…sort of like forgiveness…it is always hardest to forgive yourself. But the good news in all of this is you are making progress…no matter how small or insignificant it is still progress…and after a while they begin to add up…the good begins to outweigh the bad…the courage begins to take control over the fear…the wisdom becomes real…it isn’t overnight and it isn’t easy…there are no quick fixes…nor should there be…we grow stronger when we struggle.

    Susie and I cherish you…the words you wrote to me have been repeated in nearly every conversation I’ve had…in fact…as long it is okay with you…I’m going to include them in a book I’m writing…with the appropriate kudos to you.

    Much love and many blessings from Susie, the Gang of 5, and yours truly.

    Be encouraged!

    • ranthegauntlet January 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm Reply

      Hi, Stephen! Thank you…I’m encouraged 😉 – which is much needed lately. Of course include the quote in your book! Very cool, in fact. Blessings to you, Susie and the gang!!

      • stephenedwards425 January 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm Reply

        Thanks Diane…you are the best…Susie and I look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with you…much love from all of us and of course as always…be encouraged!

  7. mymendingwall January 12, 2013 at 11:34 am Reply

    Perhaps you have to take off your own cuffs, first. After being bound so long to someone whose intent was to keep you prisoner, sometimes we learn to survive through life with the confinement obliviously, sort of like someone who walks with a cane and becomes used to it. Although in this situation, the tool that constricts us is not there to help you find freedom, but to take it away. I’ve found when I shed myself of those unhealthy relationships where someone was holding me back from my true potential with fear is that I can let go of the person a lot easier than letting go of the fear and its effects. Just a thought.
    ~N

    • ranthegauntlet January 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm Reply

      You are absolutely right. That lingering fear is so startlingly, unexpectedly intrusive…beyond what I can think, or wish, or “formula” away. I do need to take the cuffs off first. But meanwhile, I hope I can do the little stuff to bless others, that doesn’t require going out on a limb – the smile, nod, wave, word of encouragement. You seem to be working effectively at recovery, and I know you avoid giving advice. But is there anything, or any resource, you have found particularly helpful? Just thoughts? 😉 I always appreciate your insightful and real comments! Blessings! Diane

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