Friday, January 1, 2016

Dear Survivor

Dear Survivor,

I'm not going to use the "v" word here, because you are nobody's victim. You are a victor! You've survived so many battles no one knows anything about. 

All those people see is you divorcing a spouse, estranging yourself from a relative, or kissing another person in your life goodbye. People may say well-meaning {albeit idiotic--or, at least ignorant} advice of "is this what God would want?" or "just pray on it" or "God can heal anything" or "you'll regret this" or "blood is thicker than water" or my personal {least} favorite: "life is so short, don't you want to heal it while there's still time?" 

Here lies the problem: all they see is your choice because that is the only part that went public. You chose to survive. You chose to start breathing again. You chose to keep your head above water. Except… all anyone can see from the outside looking in is that you're a quitter. 

But what they don't see could fill an ocean, couldn't it?

The person you're walking away from has rarely, if ever, been kind to you. They didn't actually want you, per se, they wanted the idea of you. Maybe they wanted arm candy, maybe they wanted a fat wallet to hitch their wagon to, maybe they wanted a picture perfect child to brag about, or maybe they simply wanted someone to blast out fake happiness about on Facebook. But home… Home was something no one else saw but you. No one knows better than you how perfectly polished the lies of public perception can be. The person you're running from is a hero to many, beloved by all. But only because they groom their public persona very, very carefully. A lot of them are philanthropists, deacons in churches, and so good to their communities, but behind closed doors… Another persona lurks. No one else sees both, except you. The public sees someone who works overtime at convincing the world that they are someone who helps and doesn't hurt.

You couldn't take it any more, could you? You couldn't take being their punching bag while people on all corners God's green Earth cheer wildly for them. I know, dear one! Believe me… I know

The life they're pedaling around town isn't even close to real, is it? And because deceit is already this person's drug of choice, the lying will only escalate after you leave. You've now become a loose end… a liability… so now a public relations campaign must commence. The person you're running from will flip the script on you, and what was a closely guarded secret will now become oh-so-public and oh-so-ugly. The story will be stood on its head, and the "v" word will now be cast as the abuser, so the abuser can wear that victim badge of honor oh-so-proudly. They thrive in that victim role. The abuser fought hard to spread the message as having a happy family, and they'll fight so much harder to run their character assassination. Their smear campaign is necessary to protect their image as the perfect mother, father, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, friend, etc. They are ruthless, and there's no person off limits for them to spread their lies to. There's also no limit to the lies that will be told. You will be provoked into acting sad, mad, upset, and then that person will stand back and act surprised that you are. They'll frame it to others and package it up that you're crazy, vicious, mean, etc.

Their pride wants to protect that perfect image, and will stop at nothing to do just that because they aren't capable of respecting boundaries. There's typically no accountability to an abuser's actions. They will never, ever accept the truth. Wait, I don't want to say never, because God can heal anything. However, it's not your job to make that happen. It's not possible for you to "fix" them. Only God can do that.

I'm not saying you've always acted perfectly, and there aren't some things that you would've done differently if given the chance {trust me, I get that too}. Make amends where you can for where you messed up. However, if you aren't provoking chaos, creating turmoil, and you're running from {not to} conflict, it's time to rewire your brain. Start peeling off the labels placed there by people who want you to believe that you're the problem. Here's a select few of the labels I'm removing: 
  • dramatic
  • crazy
  • difficult
  • uptight
  • bitch
  • annoying
  • nasty
  • stupid
  • idiot
  • psycho
  • heartless
  • liar
  • weak
  • rebellious
  • broken
  • damaged
  • not worth it
  • selfish
  • burden

In the church world, we talk a big game about "Honor thy mother and father" and "God hates divorce", and these things are certainly true. I'm not here to suggest that you should cut everyone out of your life when your feelings get hurt over minor issues, and I recognize that not everyone who deletes family members from their list of Facebook friends is justified in doing so. But in my experience, it is assumed if you remove yourself from a marriage or a destructive family situation, then you must be mean, crazy, awful, disrespectful, and most importantly: unChristian. 

Not true, dear one, not true. In response to the above advice tag lines: 

  • "Is this what God would want?" God doesn't want abuse for His children, He just doesn't. See hereherehereherehere, and you know what? I could go on all day. Let's just agree that abuse ≠ love.
  • "Just pray on it." I have. Oh, how I have. So many sleepless nights. So much desperation. So many times of begging God to heal it. So much forgiveness. But forgiveness ≠ fixing the relationship. Forgiveness also ≠ an invitation for "loved ones" to wipe their mud caked boots on you. Forgiveness means wishing them well in spite of the mud they've wiped on you, it's not continuing to allow it!
  • "God can heal anything." Absolutely! --BUT--if {and only if} both parties agree to let Him.
  • "You'll regret this." Maybe I will. But I'll also regret getting run over, violated, cussed out… I'll regret the self loathing, depression, and not fully living. I can't say that I've ever regretted saying "no more" to being someone's doormat. I am worth more than that, and I don't regret realizing it.
  • "Blood is thicker than water." What does this even mean?
  • "Life is so short. Don't you want to heal this while there's still time?" Exactly. Life is so short. Life is far too short to put up with abuse and maltreatment. There have been attempts by other parties for me to re-engage in a relationship around holidays, but never a real attempt to resolve the underlying issues {or even admit to them}. 

I so know your pain. I know what it is to say that I've severed a bond, and I know what it is to watch the smile melt off faces of people I tell that to. I can see it in their eyes. I can see their judgement right in front of me. Only someone selfish, mean, or heartless could do what I did, right? I've just had to accept that people believe this about me. I'll never be able to change their minds. Neither will you. You're just going to have to let some people go. It'll feel like grief. Sometimes you'll be fine, sometimes that loss will hit you like a train. Just realize that it's not your fault that those people have bought into a lie. You know your truth, and you know your God. Make peace with the fact that this is the only validation you need. 

I wrote this letter to you so you'll know you are not alone, and you're not crazy. You're doing the best you can. You've got this. You survived the abuse, and you'll survive the recovery. 

All My Love,


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