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No such thing as “bad” or “good” people

Last updated on February 1, 2023

Accountability and judgement are two different things. When I call a spade and spade and it scandalizes someone I’m not shocked any longer. I am still hurt though.

Why must I carefully walk a tightrope when describing what is done to me, making sure to fill in how much grey is involved to mitigate the shameful title of abuser?

Why must the fact that I participated in the cycle of violence and was in no way a “perfect victim” make a revelations like I shared in my last post “shocking” to someone who has known me for years?

One of the giant disservices done by “good church people” to those who come out of abuse is to assume that there are “good guys” and “bad guys”! This is my HUGE pet peeve with all these info-graphics listing what is good and bad behavior, what “narcissists do” or what “abusers say” etc etc. I want to see “what the cycle of abuse looks like” when two adults act from similar scripts together.

See, I am the common denominator in all these relationships. I repeated patterns I learned from childhood. I was attracted to crazy and lived from the script of crazy too. But no one held a gun to the head of those who stepped right into the dance and played the part of my abusers from their own coordinating scripts that were formed long before.

To have compassion and forgiveness for those in the dance with me is essential for my soul. But frankly, I’ve spent so much time and effort on forgiving that I haven’t detangled the responsibility and accountability pieces very well.

Only now that I’m safe from all power-plays, all pay-to-play relationships, ALL approval-based connections, am I finally clear to untangle what I did and what was done to me.

The odd part of recovery from abuse is that the truest-victim usually gets way more hung up on shame and misplaced guilt than those benefiting from the power-differential. And I have a hairs breadth trigger to jumping back into taking more blame than is mine.

For a long time—years—I’ve maintained that all I can do is take 100% of the responsibility for my own actions. Recently I’ve begun to identify that this statement doesn’t adequately describe the wrenching pain of making the best of bad options. When an abuser holds the upper hand financially, practically, in reputation, or connections the power-differential adds an extra punch to every threat and every hurtful action.

Not knowing how under-their-thumb I was…it was as if I married the same man 4 times…I wasn’t asking questions of priests or counselors in a free and open context.

I’ve just come to this awareness after two decades plus of trying to recover from my childhood while I was rebuilding a dysfunctional family over and over with help from the men who took advantage of me and my dysfunctional fawning, obeying and then rebelling scripts.

Now do you see how commenting on anyone’s marriage from the outside is impossible?

You wouldn’t allow a child to agree to a relationship with an adult! And there is no way to know if the woman or man you are talking with is someone as crippled as a child, in no way free to choose. Just because two adults look equal, look like they both contribute to chaos or “play games” the pressure is put on the complaining party to stay. Keep trying.

Be gentler. More respectful. Kinder. Give him reason to be with you and not his addictions. All these may not be interpreted through adult eyes!

I know. I keep harping on it.

I am just having the toughest time getting past the pressure on me to “make it work” when it couldn’t possibly without TWO FULLY HUMBLE and 100% PARTICIPATING adults. I was never a fully participating adult.

Whether either person is hurting the other out of their own wounding and whether they each deserve compassion isn’t the question.

Insisting that two people continue to dance when they are injuring each other with their very proximity continues the harm. This is the problem.

It’s incredibly interesting to me that in Christ’s interactions with immoral women—the Samaritan woman, the women being stoned, Mary Magdelene for some—he didn’t tell them to go fix their relationships. He addressed their deeper need. Their individual desperation.

What if those asked to comment or who have cause to comment on someone’s relationship asked about my deeper need? What if empowering recovery and connection and healing was the focus of all those pivotal conversations?

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