This was said in the sermon tonight. It’s such a common thing to say, and the implication is…what? That if a relationship is broken it’s never the fault of the person who did something bad, but the fault of the person ‘hanging onto it.’
But moreso…it totally ignores that *very *often, a relationship is not broken because of past hurts, but because of ongoing abuse.
Touchy subject for me, as I have finally separated myself from my family after it became obvious that the abuses would continue forever. Believe me, I have continually forgiven, let things roll off my back, been ready to assume the best, try again, and let bygones be bygones. It was only after my dad stood in my kitchen and made it absolutely clear what he thinks of me and that these things would continue to happen, that I finally walked away. I feel I became a better mother, more at peace, and my entire view of God changed and I was able for the first time in 40 years to see Him as a God of love, rather than a God lying in wait to trap me.
Sometimes, relationships CANNOT be healed because one party refuses to stop their toxic, abusive, harmful behavior. Yes, I know sometimes people really are hanging onto resentments over things that happened once, by accident, or whatever. But for those of us who have been all but forced to separate ourselves for the sake of our mental health, to hear things like this just feels like another slap in the face, and I can only imagine my parents sitting in the pew nodding and thinking they hope I hear the sermon and get my act together.
You are 100% right. We are called to forgive in our heart and hope one day in Heaven we will see these people again and it will be healed. But we are NOT called to trust the untrustworthy and get back in the cage with the lion
I agree w/ you and understand well what you state.People often say things meaning well which are quite inappropriate since they often don’t know what they are talking about not having experienced another’s situation.I have heard such sermons in the past that left me rather annoyed(in one case quite furious).
Mass is usually my most difficult hour of the week. I have two boys with ADHD/autism, and one of the ‘issues’ with my parents was that they and my sisters (including one with 5 whole months of experience as a mother) constantly felt free to tell me how I should be doing a better job as a mother to a large family, a whole bunch of boys, twins, and these two with a couple of special needs. None of which any of them has ever dealt with, not even remotely.
So even though my boys behavior IS getting steadily better, it’s a long, slow, hard road, and their behavior is NOT that of other kids their age. It just makes it that much harder, knowing my mother is bad-mouthing me at this church, and anything my boys do that is inappropriate for kids their age is only going to give fuel to her or to anyone who wants to listen to her. So tonight, they were actually VERY well-behaved, pretty much acted their age. And then this comment was made. It’s particularly hurtful at Christmas when my older kids are already unhappy that I won’t go near my family.
And btw, I LOVE this priest who gave the sermon. My complaint is more that this belief is so incredibly common, this assumption that broken relationships must be the fault of someone ‘holding onto past hurts.’ Why oh why is it not more recognized that the problems are very often ONGOING? But I repeat myself.
When it comes to homilies and such, remember that the priest or deacon is giving one to a group of people so it has be, to some extent, “one size fits all”—which of course does not work individual to individual.
That is why it’s good to have a good personal prayer life and to have a good confessor that one turns to…someone who will get to know the context of your life and how you are trying to live out your discipleship…
I can somewhat relate. When I was 20 I had a friend that I though was using me and didn’t treat me right. I went to mass one Saturday and the plan was after I would go to her place to watch a movie. I remember not wanting to go because I felt like she was not treating me properly. After mass, I asked to talk to the priest and he said ‘Go have fun, she invited you because she likes you’:banghead: Totally disregarding I strongly suspected she had just broken up with her boyfriend and had no one else to call.
People say often say what is considered to be the ‘nice’ thing at the expense of honesty. I also suspect that deep down, people are scared of loosing their security and stability sin so they preach ‘relationships should be healed’ to stay in their denial.
This thread hits the nail on the head. I have been thinking about this too. People give advice and most of them probably well, but sometimes their advice is not applicable to the situation. I read threads here on CAF and visit the Prayer intentions section often. There is a member who seems very discourage and hopeless due to his being underemployed/employed for years now. People would say, stop being so negative, people would not be attracted to you if you are like that, you cannot get a job because you areso depressing blah blah. I agree. However, I also realized that it is difficult to be optimistic when you are jobless and have a family to support.
I remember a homily which left me feeling annoyed (I guess it is also me, I think I easily get annoyed). The priest is in a parish which has a school beside it, run by the same order. He told us that during sports events, he noticed the mothers " babying" the children, like putting towels on their backs lest they get sneezy from wet clothes. From the way he said it and his comments, you could tell that he thinks such behavior from parents is inappropriate and reeks of helicopter parenting. Some people chuckled. It is not just him. Parents and people everywhere love to give parenting advice, stop babying your children so that they would be more independent, bla blah. Perhaps they do not know that children are different. What works for one does not work for the other.
Some people tend to blame parents if the children did not turn out ‘well’. Well, let them parent that person, perhaps that would give them an idea that the parents are doing what they know best, and are also hapless when it comes to dealing with their children.
I also hate it when people blame the victim. Yes, there are people who play the victim, when in reslity they are the aggressors ( I have known and know several :rolleyes:). However, there really are people who are he victims of toxic people. If they had any idea how difficult it is to be around toxic people, maybe they would understand.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I cut ties with one side of my family after almost 20 years of consistent mistreatment and abuse of me, my wife and our kids. Nobody in the family has ever denied that at least most of what I said happened actually happened (some of the stuff is so improbably awful that they either don’t want to admit that a family member could do it, or don’t want to acknowledge it because doing so would make them look equally terrible when they defend these people). At the same time, nobody can point to a single thing we’ve ever done to wrong these people, and if asked, they’d all have to admit that we’ve done as much if not more than anyone else in the family over the last ten years to try to bring us closer together. When we finally cut ties nobody questioned our motivations, said we were in the wrong or reached out to us in any way. The ones most responsible even made jokes about it on Facebook and compared notes about which of their actions might have been the final straw. At least one of them continues to harass us on a regular basis. Despite all that, we’ve been told repeatedly that we’re the ones who are at fault. Sure, what they did was awful, but it wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t so sensitive, didn’t let it bother us so much, didn’t bring it on ourselves, or let bygones be bygones (even though they’re not bygones because the negative treatment continues). For the worst of the behavior, they come up with ridiculous, unreal, convoluted excuses to explain how the people who did these things weren’t actually responsible for their own actions. When they finally can no longer stand either their conscience or logic screaming at them telling them how idiotic their theories are, they instead claim that we’re making those things up and we shouldn’t be bothered by them. Some of the treatment that everyone admits to (they were there when it happened and watched it occur) was so harsh that our girls’ counselor and one of their teachers told us that if our daughters ever told us they were exposed to it again, they’d have to report us to CPS for allowing them to be put into such an abusive situation. When I mentioned this I was called a “drama queen,” told that the counselor and the teacher were manipulative liars, and that the person who acted that way is just “that way” and we need to accept them for who they are and get over it. I’ve also been called a hypocrite more times than I can count. My family is fully aware that I’ve grown a lot stronger in my faith over the last several years (although they’re now telling me it’s a phase I’ll eventually get over). As a result, they say that I should be more forgiving, and that as a Catholic I’m obligated to crawl back to these people and apologize for what my wife and I have done. We need to quit holding onto these past wrongs and make amends with these people who have worked so tirelessly to harm, disrupt and break up our family. I should point out that, even though we’ve been told a lot of this is our fault, in our heads and nowhere near as bad as we claim, these spot-free, guiltless people have all told my immediate family that they’ve changed their ways and are much kinder, compassionate, caring people and that we no longer have to worry about being treated the way they’ve been treating us over the last couple decades because they’re not like that anymore (if you’re following along then, like me, you’d wonder why they felt the need to say they’d changed if they hadn’t been doing anything wrong in the first place).
For us, it’s clear that this treatment is never going to change. No platitudes, admonishments or claims to have changed by notoriously dishonest people are going to change our minds. It’s upsetting that the people we’d still like to have in our lives are essentially guilty by association, but there’s no realistic way we can continue to be around them without having to expose our kids and ourselves to the ones who have worked so hard to make it clear that they have it out for us. It’s also upsetting to be told repeatedly that this would all be better if we’d just let go of these things and allow us all to heal, which would require us to capitulate to these abusive people and continue to put our kids in harm’s way. As much as others want to fret about it, there’s really no other choice for us.
I’d define it as someone whose very nature is so willfully directed toward causing harm to you that you can’t be around them in even very small doses without suffering some damage. The people I have issues with grew to be so hateful and hurtful on such a consistent basis that, for the entire final year and a half we still associated with them, there wasn’t a single instance when we were around any of them that us or our kids weren’t harmed in some way. We knew that if we went to family gathering we were either going to shunned entirely (imagine sitting in a crowded room, surrounded by family and not a single one of them will speak or respond to you or your kids), ridiculed openly or bad-mouthed while “accidentally” in earshot of us and our kids, or our kids would be pulled aside and filled with all sorts of lies and hateful comments about us. If we failed to show up, they took their dog & pony act to Facebook and email. It was as though causing us misery had become one of their primary goals in life, and enough of them were involved that there was no way we could show up to a family gathering without being subjected to it. Even worse, they’ve even retaliated against and mistreated other family members simply for defending us or refusing to mistreat us. It’s that sort of unrelenting, hateful behavior that causes me to identify someone as toxic.
Thank you for saying this. I struggle with the same thing. The mistreatment by my toxic family member has been going on for decades and has only gotten worse over the years. I, too, have had to distance myself for sanity sake, but everyday I feel like I have let down Jesus. I fear that in protecting my sanity in this life, I may be forfeiting heaven in the next life. I know that fear is not the reality, but sometimes, when people assert things like what you heard in the homily, I become very upset and afraid. I have yet to find any Catholic resource that explains how to deal with abusive or manipulative family members. It is very hard.
My priest’s advice (and I’ve gotten the same from several others) has been to put even more distance between ourselves and the negative circumstances. I’ve been told repeatedly that while I need to forgive these people, there’s no reason to forget what they’ve done or to continue to open myself and my family up to abuse. Not only is it sinful to continue subjecting my family to this treatment, but one could argue that I’m giving the others a near occasion to sin by putting us in a position where they’re tempted to mistreat us. As for the ones who continue to harass us on their own, there’s nothing more I can realistically do to avoid that, so they’re fully culpable for their own actions. My biggest problem is that I can’t cut myself off from my immediate family so we continue to get the reminders of these other people, which is a huge source of stress.
Thank you for your comforting words. One thing that jumped out at me, which I posted about here long ago, was that my entire view of God changed shortly after cutting contact with my father. I had spent my life feeling that no matter how hard I tried, when I died, He would confront me with a long list of rules I’d missed, misinterpreted, etc., with a GOTCHA! attitude. On cutting ties with my father, I realize it was his face, his gloating, his attitude I always imagined, and after cutting ties with him, I was able for the first time in my life, to really feel God as One Who loves me and wants me to succeed.
This feeling has been especially pronounced these last few months as I do more of the early driving with my 16 year old son than I did with my older kids, and I look back to my own days learning to drive, and it becomes even clearer that my dad was looking for reasons to shout, to yell, to prove he knew better, to say…GOTCHA! You screwed up AGAIN!
This is a powerful lesson to me on how strongly we, as parents, teach our children about God by our treatment of them.
I have long suspected that some of it, too, is that they instinctively know who isn’t going to change, so they push for the person they think they can get to listen. It’s not going to be the dysfunctional ones, or the alcoholics. So they strive for peace anyway they can, by going after the one person who can’t make it happen, but seems the most malleable.
My parents are both the type who would inform anyone that clearly the doctors don’t know what they’re talking about, either, and there’s nothing wrong with my boys except my parenting.
Here’s one thing I learned since moving home: my mother is an entirely different person around other people. I was shocked the first time I saw her at a holiday with my sister, laughing it up, drinking, cheerful. When she’s with me, all she does is say nasty things about other people, complain, tell stories about her evil mother in law that I’ve heard a thousand times, and get on her soapbox about all the awful people in the world and all the immorality.
My mother spent my childhood telling me that I must behave differently with other people than I did at home, if they liked me. Apart from the slap in the face (who could possibly like you?), it really confused me that she would keep accusing me of that. But now I understand. People think everyone is like them. My mother does behave very differently around me than around other people. They would never understand why I don’t want to be near her, because she’s pleasant around them.
About five years ago, when things really got bad, and I finally started to understand what I was dealing with, it was advice on CAF that helped me. It was here that I heard unanimous voices strongly saying, “The only answer to toxic people is to put as much distance between yourself and them as possible.”
Although the question wasn’t directed at me, I’ve had the experience of calling the police on a family member for physical assault, and lo and behold, my dad was actually angry at me for doing so, rather than at the man in question for hitting me. He was determined that I was going to rescind the charges, no matter how often it was pointed out to him that I did not press charges–the state did. At one point, my dad called while I was in the middle of a business call and ordered me to hang up. When I said I’d call back when I was done, he started swearing at me. When I hung up on him, he called back so often that I could no longer make my business calls, with caller waiting constantly beeping in my ear. He ended up leaving a dozen voicemails, not only calling me vulgar names, but threatening to show up at my work and cause trouble for me.
I spent several weeks living in fear of this, and fearing he’d turn up at my house and force his way in. Recently, he sent me another Letter, and I once again started having these fears he’d show up at work or at my house to force the issue.
My friends, of course, tell me if he does, call the police. Get a restraining order. Both of which I would do in a heartbeat.
But what living in a family like this means is knowing full well that no matter how justified I am, I will once again be viewed as the trouble maker.
I appreciate your post, especially since I am in a similar situation with my own family of origin. When people make comments about healing past hurts I always assume that they mean well and are speaking in very general terms. As you mentioned some family situations are too toxic and abusive to be easily corrected. In those situations we can keep our distance and while being in a safer place we can increase our faith in God and through that renewed faith even offer prayers for our abusers. Our suffering, prayers and act of forgiveness are powerful and very pleasing to God. The graces will flow. God Bless and may you have a peaceful blessed Christmas day.
“Set aside those past hurts and heal relationships”
I can’t really add much to what has been said, agreeing that this a general statement and each of us have unique situations.
I would take the priest’s advice … but from this point of view:
"Setting aside those past hurts" — do whatever it takes to prevent those hurts from controlling and dominating your life. Therapy, prayer, removing yourself from hurting situations – all you (or anyone of us) have control over is what happens from this day forward.
“Heal relationships” – the relationship that needs to be healed in most cases, is our relationship with God. From there, all relationships will sort themselves out. If reconciliation with toxic people, is what God wants… it will happen. If it is not, it won’t. Our task is to trust in God.
Thank you for this post holyrood - this part especially says it so well. I’ve experienced this and really it’s a kind of victim blaming. It may not always be said straight out but the message is “If only you were more loving or patient or understanding (insert whatever quality sounds good or seems to be lacking in the OTHER party), he/she/they would change. Try it and you’ll see. It might take a while but you’ll just have to be patient and he/she/ they will come round. This is your husband/wife/family - they deserve that from you don’t they?” Makes the person who is being hurt or abused the one who is failing.
I’ve seen this time and time again and it’s so completely unfair. Sure, in a ‘normal’ relationship, with reasonable people, it’s probably not bad advice (because there ARE people who need to set aside past hurts and heal relationships), but in situations like the ones you’re talking about, one side is NOT reasonable, and will never be reasonable. The trouble is that it often doesn’t seem that way to those looking in.
I do think it’s one of those things that are almost impossible to understand unless you’ve experienced it. People who are in these situations tend to blame themselves anyway and comments/advice like you’re talking about only make for more despair.