Confusing Times

I try my very best to be truthful–to wrestle with the truth, to pursue truth, to let truth change me, to think truth, to write about the truth, and to live truth. I try to present the truth about myself too, both good things and bad, both strengths and weaknesses, failures and weaknesses. I’m not sure I am always successful, but I try.

When it comes to my family, I have tried to write what I think is the truth about what happened between us. However, if you talked to my family, they’d have a totally different perspective. Who is right? Every person’s way is right in his own eyes. Everyone thinks they do it right and the others are wrong. People can so easily deceive themselves. I have wrestled a lot over the years with how I can tell if I am right–or only think I am right. Could it be that my family is right about what happened?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

The problem I wrestle with is that I don’t always know when it’s time for one thing and when it’s time for another. When do I love and when do I hate? When do I tear down and when do I build? When do I search and when do I give up? When do I keep and when do I throw away? Look closely at the “a time to be silent and a time to speak”: In the past when I have felt hurt/wronged, I have tried to forgive without ever confronting the wrong. I didn’t want to hurt people, and I didn’t want to say something in anger that I would regret. However, my husband EJ was more hurt by my silence, which felt like punishment to him, then he was by my confrontation. In his family growing up, everyone used to get mad at each other and then forgive each other. Then there were times when EJ was mad at me, and I asked him why and he said, “You know. It’s the same old thing.” But I really didn’t know what he was mad about, and it drove me crazy trying to guess. I can’t fix what I don’t know is wrong. Yet, other times people say very hurtful things that wound…and that they ought not to have said. I try now with EJ (and others) to let many minor annoyances go unsaid, but speak up about the things that really cause me a problem. However, I have no strong understanding of when to be silent and when to speak up.

When it comes to problems in relationships, I always try to ask myself if I am looking at the situation correctly, or if I have any part in the problem, or if I ought to be silent or speak up. I never ask God to change someone else without FIRST asking Him to reveal my faults to me and change me. I try to be willing to ask for forgiveness when I am wrong or I hurt someone. I try to forgive others when they wrong me. When someone wrongs me, I try to remember that I also do things wrong that others need to forgive me for, and I try to be as patient with them as I want them to be patient with me. This probably have kept me from a lot of damaging actions, but I still make many mistakes.

In the matter with my family/friend, I try to see the truth. Obviously I see things through my perspective, and I think that what I see is the truth. However, I try to acknowledge that I might be wrong in my thinking–not all the time, but some of the time. I am sure that there are times when I have misunderstood them, or they reacted in pain and I just thought they were being jerks, or they reached out to me and I didn’t see their hand. I’m sure there are times when I reacted in pain and hurt them or that I didn’t reach out when I could have. I believe that no one is perfect, and we all fail each other–them, me, and everyone.

I believe that adults have the right to make their own choices, and that we all need to treat each other with respect. I believe that sometimes we need to compromise and give up what we want for the good of others. However, I also believe that we need to set healthy boundaries, and no one has the right to control the life of another. My struggle concerns how to tell where the boundaries are to be set, when to keep trying in a relationship and when to give it up because it’s too unhealthy. For example, I reached out to my Mom in 2010 and she rejected me. Is she now reaching out to me and I am rejecting her? There are people who are physically and/or emotionally abusive, and they keep a person off-balance and out of control through cycles of nice/angry/nice/angry. Is my Mom truly wanting reconciliation now or this another cycle to bring me under her control?

I am still trying to figure all this out.

  • I try to keep aware that I could be wrong.
  • I try to see if my Mom/sisters/friend are genuinely wanting to reconcile or not.
  • I ask God to reveal my sins and faults to me.
  • I have tried to ask for forgiveness when He shows me I am wrong.
  • I try to forgive if others hurt me and ask for forgiveness.
  • I try to set appropriate boundaries without being overly sensitive.
We have to live centered between extremes.
  • We must acknowledge that we are sometimes wrong, but that doesn’t mean the other person is always right.
  • We must forgive, but that doesn’t mean that we excuse wrong behaviors.
  • We must love, but that doesn’t mean we allow abusive people in our lives.
  • We must not be easily offended, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t ever tell people they have hurt us deeply.

And so on. Am I successful at living this way? I don’t know. It’s really hard. Sometimes I am able to live in great faith and love, and sometimes I struggle with it, and sometimes I totally mess up.

With my friend, EJ set a boundary that I believe was appropriate for him to make: It was NOT ok for  the girl to lie to him and manipulate him. We think he could have set it in a better way. We can consider that our friend was hurt. However, she could have been honest with us rather than lie that she was ok and then abandon the friendship. She could have been as understanding to EJ who was in pain, overwhelmed, and struggling, as she wants people to be toward her when she is overwhelmed and struggling. People have faults and weaknesses. People fail. If we only focus on THEIR mistakes and not our own, we will expect others to be perfect while excusing ourselves. I have apologize to my friend for hurting her, and asked her to forgive us. I have told her that I loved her. What more can I do? I do not know. I think it is up to her, now, to forgive and repent, or the friendship is dead.

In the case of my Mom, I have replied to her letters. I have told her that I acknowledge that none of us our perfect and we all make mistakes. I have asked her to forgive me for hurting her, but I have also set boundaries for future contact. I believe these are basic, foundational boundaries essential for relationship: 1. Let the anger/unforgivness go. 2. Repent of wrongs you do and forgive wrongs others do. 3. Respect each other. 4. Give each other freedom to make their own choices. I also 5. Let my Mom know how she hurt me–because if she doesn’t know how she hurt me, she will not be able to repent, and there will be a temptation to think she is perfect and place all the blame on me. There can’t be relationship if a person is thinking that she have been wronged for no reason. There must be a humility to recognize that everyone wronged everyone.

These boundaries I am trying to set are healthy. There, really, if you think about it, is nothing to get offended about with these boundaries. Shouldn’t we all repent/forgive? Shouldn’t we all respect each other? Yet people feel offended:

  • Wow. She’s accusing me of “……….”
  • You also did this or that to ME!
  • You aren’t so perfect yourself, you know!
  • You think I failed you? Well, here are ways you failed me!
  • Yada, yada, yada, and the anger continues.

When all that was REALLY meant was:

  • We all fail and we all need forgiveness.
  • Rather than keep getting offended, let’s just drop our weapons of anger and treat each other with respect.
  • Forgive the ways that others have hurt you. Repent of ways you have hurt others.
  • No excuses. No defensiveness. No blame.
  • Drop the weapons.
  • If you can’t drop your weapons and give respect, the relationship is over.

This is all hard to understand and live. It’s not easy to know when to be silent and when to speak, when to compromise and when to set firm boundaries, how to love others while also living in freedom. Our emotions get mixed in.

I’ve heard some people say, in conversations about relationships, “I NEVER give up on a relationship.” I think that SOUNDS really loving, but I always wonder if these people have ever experienced truly difficult, abusive relationships or if they know how to set healthy boundaries. I wonder if they’d think that a person should stay in a relationship in which she was being frequently beat up? How about if she were being emotionally beat up? How about if contact with a person caused constant pain, turmoil, confusion? How long should people remain in difficult relationships? When, if ever, should a person say “Enough!”? It’s not so simple to figure out.

When I was in 6th grade, I had a friend who was being bullied by another girl. I have always been introspective and quiet, and I rarely stood up for myself. However, I went to the bully and I said, “No one likes everybody. It’s the way it is. You don’t have to like my friend, but you don’t have to pick on her either. If you don’t like her, why not just go your way and let her go hers? Just leave her alone.” If I remember correctly, the bully left my friend alone from that point on. I guess I still feel the same way: No one likes everyone. If you can’t resolve difficulties, if you can’t reconcile, then I think  it’s ok to separate and go your separate ways. I think that’s when the friendship ends.

I could be wrong.

Relationships are messy. Most of the time I am pretty clueless about what to do, but I try to do the best that I know how, while also being willing to change if I am wrong.

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One thought on “Confusing Times

  1. thewomanatthewell says:

    TJ,This post was incredible. I really like the lists. You gave me a ton of stuff that may help my husband with his parents(my in-laws) Thank you that you allow us to see your humanity and how you are trying to overcome it. May God bring peace to your life in your relationships with these people you struggle with. -WATW

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