Question: When a person gets caught behaving in a way that threatens or hurts another, is it EVER okay to punish the person who does the catching? Is it ever okay for the offender to expect the offendee to make things right? My answer is “no” twice.
When little girls, I encouraged my children to fess up, own their behaviours and take responsibility. They learned to say “I’m sorry” when it was necessary. They are stronger and more forthright than I am and their power fills me with pride. Still, they are learning all the time that standards are indeed, double.
Examples of good and right actions by adults are inconsistent. People say lots of things only to hide behind the words when it comes time for them to “put their money where their mouth is”. Broad promises are made with a convincing flourish when things are going as they wish them to go but quickly rescinded if their duplicity is exposed. When that happens, they retreat to concoct a story so twisted as to be unrecognisable by the actual victim – the person dependent on the promise at some level. Feigning benevolence, they share their guilt, suggesting the person wronged is partly to blame. The victim reels. The perpetrator emerges as the wounded party. Scapegoating is their only recourse, you see. To do otherwise could be seen as being responsible in some way.
But what of our role? Should we demand satisfaction, ready our pistols? A hearty (and figurative, of course) yes! Bad behaviour is, always and everywhere, bad, and should be called out. However – and this a big ‘however’ – the caller-outer needs to be detached from any outcome. If change, acquiescence, or even a sincere apology is expected, you’re likely going to be disappointed. So ask for the duel, but know when to put your weapon down and walk away.
Setting the bar higher is quite a task. People don’t want to take responsibility for themselves. I, for one, am exhausted by years of supporting folks with hidden agendas whose tongues are deeply forked. I remained quiet when I should have spoken out, my silence merely affirming the notion that someone else’s sketchy behaviour is okay. It is not.
It’s easy to look back and see what was what. Blinded by a ton of stuff – a perceived need, a desire to please, or fear of retribution – I holstered my pistol. I can see it all so clearly because I straddled with the masses on that fence, too, once upon a time, not realising my actions spoke far louder than my words. Thankfully, a voice deep in me kept nagging. It begged me to be better, try harder. It pleaded with me to bask in the light instead of hiding in the shadows. Eventually, I found out that my shame was not someone else’s responsibility to heal. It was and will always be, my job.
The dreamer in me wants to believe everyone would prefer to think of life as a divine second chance. The realist knows that is not the case. People wear their “poor me” stories like armour and hold tight to debilitating, limiting beliefs. In so doing, they miss out on the opportunity to raise themselves. They perpetuate the darkness on this planet by refusing to see their own. Regardless, I’ll keep dreaming.
Owning my flaws and coming clean has been a bitch, but it’s the best of my journey so far in immeasurable ways. And, it’s ongoing. Now, instead of wallowing, I am humbled by each misstep and anxious to continue on. I can face and let go of any resistance. Each day, I have the chance to try again. I can choose love and know that each time I do I become a lighter, happier, Frances.
So, what would I say to those whose actions lack honour, whose refusal to address their own culpability hurts so many? Well, they’re probably too busy defending themselves, too busy complaining and finger pointing to really listen, but I do have a wish for them.
I wish them love, the fearless kind. It’s the only thing that can help them.