“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.” ~Rachel Wolchin
The month of June we’ve summed up with the phrase, “the shit show.” There were a lot personal things that happened to us as a family. Things that I’m not at liberty to discuss because I would never out someone for personal satisfaction. I will, however, talk about us during the shit show.
Dom and I have always felt we had much to give. At times we give until it hurts, and then we give some more. But we don’t give blindly. We give to others based on patterns we see in their lives. If we feel they are doing all they can but just can’t seem to get it all together, we’ll come alongside and help in whatever way it might be. It could be a construction project, helping to pay a bill or two, a listening ear, a meal, or even just some coffee to let them know they’re thought of fondly. We give as we see the needs open up. It’s in our nature.
It led us to Maine and on that crazy odyssey I’ve written about on our website. Helping others. Yes. Being taken advantage…yes, that happened too.
But this isn’t a sob story about how others have wronged us. This is a song of victory about how we find out who our people are and who is just using us. Sob stories always involve someone who was “trying” to help someone and got burned. They got bilked out of their money or life savings or some other story like that. It’s the little old lady who’s pills were taken by the unsuspecting drug addict posing as a kind neighbor. Or the lovely but lonely person who had their things stolen by someone who claimed to be a friend.
Crimes happen most often by people the victims knew.
This is similar to what we’ve been through. However, the difference is that as we came to understand we were being taken for a “ride,” we put our foot down and said no…no more.
But does that work? Nope.
We blame ourselves only and take full responsibility for our actions that led to others taking too much from us. No one else is to blame. As soon as we saw that our time and money have been siphoned away from us, we put a stop to it.
There are patterns that we’ve learned over this last year that I feel have helped us reach the end chapter of our four-year odyssey. These patterns are important to understand especially if we want to move forward in our lives.
These patterns don’t look like patterns because it takes time for them to form. When friends and family are involved, the lines to those patterns become fuzzy, blurred, or missing altogether.
How do we really know who needs our help? How do we help without becoming jaded and losing all faith in humanity when we get burned?
The answer, we discovered, has more to do with their conduct and less to do with how we want to help. We used to help others because we didn’t want to see them suffer. It seems noble right? Well, I’m here to tell you that in our case it was nothing more than not wanting to feel BAD or guilty…especially if it was in our power to help. Did you get what I just said? It would seem that our desire to help certain people was really done out of an alterior motive of not wanting to feel bad. It really had nothing to do with the other person.
Now, add to the mix, someone who has done something terrible to your family. They lied, they stole from you, took all your time, and then cried and flipped it all on its head to make us the bad guys. What do we do in that situation? Do we cave in and just let it go? Or do we love ourselves enough not to do something because we feel “bad.” Emotions are powerful things. When people start using your emotions against you, that should be a red flag.
Let’s talk about red flags!
Red flags are those almost invisible things that warn you someone is trying to pull one over on you or isn’t who they keep claiming to be.
My list of red flags:
- Someone who never quite gives you all the details, but claims they were wronged. They need help, but you can’t seem to get the truth out of them.
- A person who at first seemed to hit it off with you, but over time they pull away and you are left as the only one who communicates with them, and instead of good communication you get a vague sentence or two about nothing at all. You might be willing to chalk it up to “hey we all get busy with our lives” but don’t go there. Just because YOU get busy, doesn’t mean that person who is always on their phone or computer, is busy.
- The time suck. This is a HUGE red flag. If a good majority of your own personal free time is taken up with someone else’s problems, which they refuse to handle themselves, you are being taken for a long hard ride down victim ally. Don’t go there. Examples would include doing hard physical labor for someone who could do it themselves but want you to do it for them for free. Driving them places because they no longer have valid insurance due to nonpayment. Paying their bills because they spent their money on “wants” not needs and don’t even have a job or work schedule is sketchy.
- Someone asking you to be responsible for their _________ fill in the blank, because they can’t do it. They don’t want to face the consequences for their actions, they want you to be responsible for their stuff or life in general, and will make you feel guilty if you don’t do it. This has a LOT to do with paying for someone else’s lifestyle choices. BLOOD SOAKED RED FLAG.
- Someone who claims they have done so much for you, however, nothing was given freely. Instead, you paid fair and square. It would be like if someone sold you a car for $12,000. The car had great sentimental value to the seller. You purchased the car from them. You go on your merry way, and later on, the seller comes back to you wanting something, and when you refuse, they claimed they did something great for you. What did they do? They sold you a car, you purchased the car. It wasn’t given to you. You purchased it with your hard earned money. Don’t ever let anyone make you believe that they gave you so much when there was a price tag attached and you paid in full.
- Someone who claims to be one way and talks all the time about being honest, ethical, moral (fill in the blank), and by their constant actions prove they are liars and the opposite of what they claim. Liars always tell the truth…remember that! They’ll tell you with their actions when their words betray them.
- If you’re investing more time and money into a friendship and it doesn’t seem that it’s a reciprocal relationship, it might be time to reprioritize. What is happening is that you are allowing yourself to be used, and it isn’t a friendship at all.
Those are just a few red flags. There are many more that I could write, but this post isn’t about red flags. It’s about understanding ourselves and how we move forward despite having our asses handed to us because of the decisions we made.
I refuse to be a victim. One thing both Dom and I say to each other when we feel wronged is, “Victim is not a good look on you.” That is code for change your attitude, you did this to yourself.
It doesn’t mean that we sweep being wronged under the rug. No, on the contrary, it means that we hold those who have wronged us responsible. To not hold them accountable is to remain a victim. We hold them to account for what they have done to us. We do this because we love ourselves and each other. I would never allow anyone to take advantage of my husband’s generous nature. If I saw it happening, I’d nip it immediately. But when we have together made decisions to allow certain people into our lives or to give when we don’t know the full story, we invite uncertainty and become vulnerable. There’s strength in vulnerability and we’ve learned to embrace it. It says to the new person in our lives, “We have no reason not to trust you, but if you give us a reason we will have no choice but to let you go.”
Letting go of people or situations is difficult for some. In a way, it means giving up. But not to us. Letting go is how we say “I love you” to our own souls. It dares us to allow our souls to shine. It dares us to keep our hearts soft and malleable when all our emotions want us to recoil in bitterness and resentment. Letting go also means that those you’ve invested your time and love into are being released from your life. It’s like grieving the loss of a friend or family member while they are still alive.
For us, letting go of friendships have been difficult. We love deeply and fully, and when we need to say goodbye, we realize just how much we’ve invested. When we realize that we made the right choice in letting go of someone, we get to see what they are really made of.
This brings us to the chorus of our victory song, so to speak….
When a friendship or relationship ends, you get to see their true colors unless their true colors were there all along hiding in plain sight. No, the chorus of our victory song is about making the correct choice in ending a friendship and watching that person become destructive, vindictive, and violent as a consequence of our decision. These are all real actions. The person who says they love peace, truth, and love, but destroys your property and puts your child at risk…which would be more accurate? Their words or their actions? It doesn’t feel good while something violent is being done, but it becomes a solidification that you did the right thing in letting that person go.
I might strike a nerve with some in what I’ve expressed. Mostly because we all want to give. But you are responsible for your giving. You might believe that you are doing it out of good will because your heart hurts for this person in need. Just remember, regardless of the outcome of your giving, you are still responsible for your actions. Giving to others never absolves you from being accountable for your actions. Giving to others is very similar to making an investment in something. Would you invest in a company on the stock market that would lose all your money or would you invest wisely? What would happen if you invested and all your money was lost? Would you blame the company or your decision-making process? I know that I wouldn’t blame the company if they lost money, I’d hold myself accountable for not doing the do diligence it takes to make a wise investment.
Relationships are almost the same as investing in stocks except that with bad relationships if you’re not careful you could end up losing your integrity if you don’t stay true to your soul. And that is more costly than any dollar figure you could throw out there.
As we close the last chapter of Our Nightmare Four Year Odyssey, I can say with all certainty that investing in the right relationships will help heal the wounds from bad investments. Forgive yourselves for making the wrong choices, and love yourself enough to make new friends. Invest in yourself by being a true friend to your soul. You won’t be disappointed and it will help you recover from the emotional pain of being personally accountable.