The Christmas break is over, and you may have done the obligatory visit home for the holidays. You did a lot of healing work over the year and perhaps hoped that your family would have changed when you returned home. However, the trip proved this theory wrong. Your family demonstrates the same destructive and harmful patterns as before, leaving you with the challenge of how to choose. Should you create distance or continue to maintain contact at the risk of your mental health.
Christian’s often struggle with the idea of what To do about the family that is harmful to them. They are tasked or feel trapped with what forgiveness means and whether they are good Christian’s if they choose to sever ties with hurtful families.
They won’t change
The critical thing to remember is the problem isn’t you. Your family isn’t hurtful, insulting and even psychically abusive to you because of something you did. They aren’t hot one moment and cold the next because of your personality or character.
Although they may try to tell you that it’s your fault, they will try to make you believe that you are at fault that it’s you that made them do the things they do.
This narrative may be in the family for so long that you believe this report and focus on changing you to become more agreeable and acceptable to them, but the truth is they are the way they are because they chose to be so. Nothing you did made them be who they are.
Part of the abuse is giving you responsibility for their actions and behaviour. That is a sign of an abusive person; they cannot take responsibility for their actions and blame you.
Every healthy person knows how to take responsibility for what they do and hold themselves accountable. They can apologise and not blame others. These are mature people who are also spiritually mature. They are not afraid to put their hands up and claim the things they have done and make efforts to change.
An emotionally intelligent and healthy person can be with their emotions. They understand what triggers a specific response and take responsibility for that response. However, in the same token, an emotionally unhealthy person with little to no emotional Intelligence will blame others for what they feel and how they feel.
They are unaware that feelings are rooted in the situations they experienced, and change is possible. However, emotions are so frightening that the only acceptable solution is projections and blame.
When you have been blamed your whole life by these people, whoever they are in the family, it’s second nature for you also to blame yourself. It’s not your fault, and remember you can’t change enough to change them.
Change is personal work. It’s one that each individual has to undertake of their violation. They have to see the need for this change and fix the things revealed. Without this internal work and the ability to self reflect and take responsibility, the harmful members of your family will not change.
What would Jesus do?
Many might pepper you with guilt-ridden questions of what would Jesus do. Often these are designed to push you to forgive and reconcile.
These people cannot hear or validate your story or the pain it caused. They are so focused on helping Jesus that they miss that part about His love for you and that he cares about the pain you are experiencing.
The focus of well-meaning people is often on forgiveness; however, forgiveness is rarely the problem when dealing with toxic family members.
The pain is often the critical issue, how do I stop them from hurting me, or how do I change sufficiently to fit into this family that I love and want to love me back.
The truth is you have forgiven more times than you can count, and thinking of ways to keep yourself safe doesn’t mean that you won’t ignore or that you have suddenly developed a hard heart. However, you are finally taking steps to protect yourself and build and maintain boundaries that will keep you safe.
This work of boundaries could help break a cycle that might be present in your family for generations. The scapegoat has long endured hardship and trials. Everyone knows wrong in the family gets dumped onto their shoulders. The question of what would Jesus do gets laced with guilt designed to keep you in the position of getting hurt. The question is meant to paralyse you and take away your freedom of choice.
This level of guilt can be challenging to navigate. No one would want to decide to separate from family, but when your mental health is at risk, it’s a question worth considering.
However, family is not just the people we are tied to biologically. They are also the people who can love you unconditionally. These people can honour and respect your boundaries, they are the people that share similar values to you, and they know and is comfortable enough in their sense of worthiness, so they don’t need to diminish yours.
Safe people will help to hold you accountable and are the ones that stay by your side when things get tough. They celebrate you and tell you when you are wrong but can repair the relationship whenever ruptures occur. In this setting, you are not carrying the weight of change to enable to relationship to work. The work of maintenance is shared. People who can respect boundaries and affirm are safe; they understand what it takes to keep a relationship healthy and safe for both you and them.
They have a keen sense of awareness and work to be safe for themselves and others.
New year new you.
As we approach the end of this year
Whatever decision you make, based on who you are now. The person you have come to know is the one you would like others to know.
Make the choice that protects you from a cycle of hurt and pain.