I have a situation that has me filled with anxiety, anger and fear. Several months ago, someone with a mental illness, “ripped me a new one,” but has now decided they want to put the past behind and start fresh. Sounds nice, right? We all know someone who has gone through tough times, or have moments in their lives where they acted out of character and burnt some bridges. We have a choice to give them a second chance.
I know I have hurt people unintentionally. I know I could do it again. I would hope that those who know and love me would forgive the transgression; some do and some don’t. But what happens when that second chance is now the third or fourth and so on? What happens when you realize that instead of forgiving that person you are actually enabling them? I am very familiar with this place too. I tend to be forgiving, maybe to a fault, and in the end, I find myself feeling resentful and used. I find I haven’t respected myself and failed to enforce my boundaries.
When dealing with someone with a mental disability there are exceptions to be made. We allow the person a little bit extra space to screw up because they can’t help the issues they were either born with or developed because of a crappy childhood or poor choices they made as adults. This, however, does not mean we need to allow them in our lives if we are constantly feeling abused or taken for granted. It does not mean we should give them yet another chance to hurt us.
I know myself well enough at this point to realize that once I have forgiven I also forget. It is too much work to try to maintain vigilance and to hold up my guard when around the offending person. I just want to live a happy peaceful life and as they say, “live and let live,” yet when dealing with individuals as the one mentioned above, I cannot be around them because I will likely get sucked in and hurt… again.
Perhaps I am a weak individual but I like to think that it is far better to be open to possible pain rather than always keeping others at a distance so I don’t get hurt. I prefer to allow second chances and sometimes third chances for those who generally are good people and have done the same for me. The ability to see past the external rebuffing and look at the person’s heart is a talent that requires patience and love. Most of the people I have in my life fall into this category, we screw up, we have drama, we are mean, nasty and cruel… yet we also act out this way because we are suffering somehow. I know this. I understand this. I want to see the beautiful person that is inside everyone.
Sometimes that beautiful person is so smothered by psychological issues or a rock-solid wall of defensiveness we are never allowed entry to their soul. It is then that we must walk away. It is then, I must walk away. And this is the choice I have made with the person I mentioned earlier.
The outcome of this situation will likely take one or more directions due to my refusal to accept reconciliation:
- This person will be offended and strike out again.
- This person will be on the best behavior to prove me wrong.
- This person will attempt to manipulate others to exclude me.
- This person will attack someone else.
- This person will resort to harsher attacks on me or others.
Although the person’s reaction is actually outside of my ability to speculate; what I do know is that by maintaining my boundaries I am respecting myself. I will have gained the approval of my own soul. I will have confidence in my choices. Is it possible I am wrong? Yes of course. It is just as likely I am right. That person does not have the right to abuse me or anyone else just because they are mentally unstable and/or in a bad place. Paraphrasing the popular quote, “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose,” comes to mind. No one has the right to be abusive to you… ever. And if they do, we have the right to protect ourselves.
I would be interested to hear from you. How do you handle people who are consistently abusive? What was the outcome? Did you listen to your gut?
Photography and photo quote by Tanya K. Ehlert all rights reserved.
The “someone” in this post is a real person I do not wish to identify in any way thus please forgive the awkwardness of using gender neutral terms such as “this person.” I may not like how they have treated me but I do not wish to slander them in any way.