What I Wanted to Say

Here is a truth about life and relationships: We put up with it until we don’t.

When we were children, we had to put up with it in order to survive, but we don’t have to put up with it any more.

teapot 2 by you.We spend the first 20 years of our lives learning habits from the two most significant people in our lives, our parents. And then we take these habits and patterns and we apply them to the next 20 years. We apply them directly, by doing them. Or we apply them indirectly, by reacting against them and doing their opposite, or by inviting people and circumstances into our lives that will replicate original patterns to which we are accustomed. We tell ourselves all sorts of stories about these things, but pretty generally if a way of being is bad in one’s family of origin, it will plant bad seeds yielding bad fruit. If we do nothing to prevent it, we will naturally find ourselves in the midst of a wild habit-sowed tangle by middle age, trapped and unable to see anything but a patch of blue sky suggesting that something else is out there.

We can hack and burn our ways out, and turn our backs to the brambles and declare that we’re finished, but it’s not true. If you turn around, there it is. You just want to be finished. But you know you’re not finished when you resist people or events that point out, “Look here! Brambles!” and you shush them, or get angry, or look away.

But, still: “Look here! Brambles!”

Eventually, you realize that you’ve been putting up with whatever pricks, pokes, and draws blood, when There Is No Need. There is a Promised Land accessible and calling to to you, a Kingdom, and it’s pre-Pandora and pre-bramble and thorn. There is no drop of blood on the thumb or on the heel.

To get to that place, though, one must leave the briar patch far behind. Far, far behind. One must sally forth, seeking a new home.

Along the way, there are people who have thorns. They prick you, and you put up with it until you don’t any more. You know you’re getting closer when you don’t put up with the pricks any more.

You know you’re getting closer when you start to run, and your feet are unencumbered, flying along on joy.

The Biggest Thorn

The biggest thorn in your life teaches you to unconsciously avoid or attract people who are similar, so that the wound can be inflicted many times until you become a person who consciously deals with the wound.

dragon by you.There are thorny people all around me. Most of the time I can make use of their wounds, but sometimes not. Not too long ago, someone who reads my blog emailed me and challenged, “When are you going to do something with yourself?” or some such. This reader and I have been doing a sort of a choreographed dance in which we take turns being each other’s thorn. One leads, and then the other either follows or retreats. But because we know it’s a dance and we are as much part of each other’s healing as we are potential foils of it, we keep communicating. I love this reader because this reader is honest. This reader is a truth-teller in the most fantastic, beautiful, and fearsome ways. I have come to begin to love this reader and treasure this reader.

Another person in my life is a thorn who is very much like my old thorn: shallow, narcissistic, a pretender, a liar. Words and deeds do not match. An inflatable person. Someone to be avoided on one level and tolerated on another. And loved on yet another. It is like eating supper with Judas. You know who he is. You know what he’s doing. You even urge him to do it, and do it quickly. And you know he will hang himself afterward, because eventually he will have only regrets. And you love him and let him do all of it, anyway. It is just that clear.

bird by you.I appreciate getting my comeuppances from people I don’t have to live with, from acquaintances or even readers. I welcome their barbs, intentional or not (and mostly not), because if they did not come through those I don’t know very well, they will come from my family members, co-workers, neighbors. I take them among acquaintances because I know for sure that everywhere I go, there they will be. If I resist the thorn in a reader because I resist the wound in myself, I will find that thorn every old where. If I resist the faithful wound of a friend, I will receive only deceitful kisses of the enemy, and I won’t grow. I will stagnate in the middle of the briar patch and I am no Brer Rabbit, cleverly able to trap others there and escape myself and make a good story of it. This is not entertainment. This contains bloodshed and blood letting.

Letting people be thorns in your life is like growing rose bushes. We put on our gardening gloves and say, “Look at you! So thorny. Your thorns are painful.” It’s not enough to just put the gloves on. You have to go about gardening with intention. And if the thorny bushes resist, we garden anyway. You don’t just set fire to your rose bushes. You prune them, but you wear gloves.

What I Would Have Said

Growing up with thorny people, one learns to remain silent in the face of abuse, lies, dysfunction, dissembling. When hurtful words were said, we were children and didn’t know how to respond. Upon entering adulthood, we still don’t know how to respond. As we heal and grow, though, we learn that there are many things that can be said.

What I would have said, had I known what to say, or even think: I expect words and deeds to match. Don’t just tell me you’re a loving person and then act like an asshole. What bullshit! What hypocrisy. Either be loving, or don’t. Be Christian or Buddhist or Humanist or whatever your True Religion of Self is, and act like you mean it. But don’t you dare say one thing and do another and expect me to sit here and pretend with you. I won’t do it.

crystal by you.

What I would have said: Because you speak love but do harm, you’re not my friend. I would have said, “You’re not my intimate if you are Far Away both physically and relationally.”

What I would have said: I am lovable. I am good. I am beautiful and have a deep well of self. I’m not common or predictable. I’m not you, and I’m not who you imagine me to be, nor who you say I am.

I would have said I am not an object to be used. I am a person. I do not exist merely as your audience, your foil, or your object to be acted against, your prop. We are both fully human and I am fully alive. I invite you to be fully alive, too. I invite you to consider what you are doing. I invite you to look at this reflection. See? I hold up a mirror. What do you see?

What Would You Have Said?

breakfront by you.

17 responses to “What I Wanted to Say”

  1. Eve Avatar

    Librarian, how apt that you would share this. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the disconnect between what some people say is love, and what love actually does. It can be so crazy-making for a child to have parents say the ‘right’ thing, and even occasionally do the ‘right’ (love) thing, but to not really love the child. They can be confused for a long time, even a lifetime, about what love and relationship are really about.

    I never thought about that Neil Diamond song in this context until you shared it. He was one of my favorite singers back in the day, by the way, so it was kind of funny to see you quoting one of his songs. And better yet to get some insight into those particular lyrics. Thank you for that. I always thought that “and no one heard at all, not even the chair” was just to rhyme something and one of his silliest lyrics ever.

    But, now that you put it into context for me, I can see a lot more. For instance, my wanting to tell my thorns “I am not an object to be used” is like “I am not a chair.” Objects have utility; people are for love and relationship, not mere usage.

    My gosh, thank you.

  2. Eve Avatar

    Carmen, I love how OSHO says that love should be a reality in our lives, not just a dream or a wish. I so agree with that. It’s not theoretical! It’s real, love has hands and feet, and wings.

    Most touching about what you wrote (for me) was that you said, “I AM great…. I will love you anyway” (implied: even though you have tried to help me feel small and insignificant and always selfish, and even though I now see how small that was, I am great AND I will love you anyway.”

    The will to love… that’s beautiful and courageous. Thank you.

  3. Eve Avatar

    Irene, what a task you’ve had. How well I know it. How to get from being a brick or twig or pebble, or even smaller or less substantial, to gold bullion: that’s the question, isn’t it?

    I am only able to go to the gold standard when I go back and touch home base, which is (for me) what Jesus taught about God’s love for me. I’m not sure how I came to believe it, exactly, except that a hope was just always there. And I’ve thought and have read many who say that we all have that growth toward the light, and toward love.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this. How do you manage to get to the gold standard, though, when it’s not easy that particular day?

  4. Carmen Avatar

    I agree with the librarian. One of the most profound things I read was by OSHO in the book Being In Love. I think it was the first(ish) chapter and he said the first thing a person needs to do to heal is get away from one’s parents-not in the literal sense of running away but in a sense that is differenciation. It has taken me a few years to learn this but I am greatful the Universe brought it to my attention.

    What I would have said had I not been a child…

    I AM greatful.
    I am NOT always selfish.
    I will love you anyway.

  5. Jonas Avatar

    Very insightful, spot on… AND beautifully written.

  6. The Librarian in Purgatory Avatar

    It was Scott Peck who said, and I don’t remember if it was in “The Road Less Traveled” or “People of the Lie”, that the two biggest lies that people tell themselves is that their parents loved them and that their decisions for their children were motivated by love. And it goes from there.

    “I am,” I said
    To no one there
    An no one heard at all
    Not even the chair
    “I am,” I cried
    “I am,” said I
    And I am lost, and I can’t even say why
    Leavin’ me lonely still

    –Neil Diamond

  7. Irene Avatar

    I think my biggest thorn behaved in a way that allowed me to feel I may as well be invisible; that I wasn’t needed or wanted; that I wasn’t good enough, nor a capable person. And I was female. To be of value, one needed to be getting high grades, and become a doctor/lawyer/dentist etc.

    If I had been able to say it, I would have said, “I am made of gold bullion. I am a gifted child. I have a lot to offer. If you believe in me, you will be giving me such a precious gift.”

    (All week I’ve been trying the “Gold Bullion” out on myself. It felt such an extreme thing to say about oneself. Not there yet, but I’m going to keep trying it on.)

    So I’ve always been nice to everyone, always tried to do right by others so they won’t dislike me or be hurt by me. Because I personally find rejection physically painful. (Such an oversensitive child…) And it has been a lot easier to not be too close to others, be in control and be alone more often, concentrate all my time on my work and … oh, I think I’ve become a little thorny, like the one that went before…

    I have found with the Big Thorn, if I understand where he is coming from, what made him behave the way he does and did, and see the child in front of me that he still is, so insecure and unable to empathise; and honestly see that he does not owe me anymore (to make up for what I needed from him), well, then in those moments I am free.

    So yes, I would say, “Please believe in me; please, see (the real) me.” And then, I will play those words back to myself, over and over and over again, because I must also free myself of needing appreciation at the cost of my own integrity.

  8. Eve Avatar

    Scott wrote:

    “I’ve noticed that in myself; when I feel insecure the armor comes out and I’m defending myself, and that’s when it’s more likely one will lose vision, and sacrifice integrity for self-protection.”

    I thought this was such a wonderful stroke of insight. I think that most of us lose vision when we’re willing to give up our integrity, for we’ve abandoned the goal or the bull’s-eye.

  9. Eve Avatar

    RG, what a good question. I have been thinking about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples he sent out to “shake the dust from your feet” in every town or city in which people had no interest in the gospel. In that situation, time was of the essence. His time was limited and perhaps he wanted the message to be heard.

    And yet later, in the epistles, we see similar attitudes of “don’t waste time.” I think of Jesus saying “don’t cast your pearls before swine.” I think that the consciously spiritual are never to try to forcefully convert the unconsciously earth-bound. I think we were always to convert through example and by our love for one another, first. But being honest examples and truly loving others ‘within the body’ is so much more difficult than forced proselytizing that we have much more force and very little actual power in our lives. This is true, I think, whether we have religious zealots trying to convert others, or whether we have totally non-religious, secular humanists trying to force others to save the whales.

    So to answer your question, my personal opinion about whether it’s right or wrong to “shake the dust off” one’s feet when one encounters those who don’t want our gifts, my answer is that it’s correct when we’re sure that what we have is truly unwanted.

    It reminds me of the old Fleetwood Mac song, “Go Your Own Way.” Some of the lyrics are:

    If I could
    Maybe I’d give you my world
    How can I,
    When you won’t take it from me?

    You can go your own way
    Go your own way
    You can call it
    Another lonely day
    You can go your own way
    Go your own way

    We must be able to let people go their own way and experience the full effects of the choices they make in their freedom. And if they are slaves and resist every effort to be set free, we have to move on to others who can be liberated by our actions and love; we have to leave the stuck person for someone else to help, another time.

  10. Scott Erb Avatar

    Every hypocritical person I know is driven by inner demons if you will, or the ‘thorns’ that Eve talks about. I’ve dealt with students who openly lie about cheating, colleagues who I catch trying to cover up being wrong about something, people who are basically meanspirited. When I look deeper into them I tend to see insecurity driving their hypocisy. I’ve noticed that insecurity drives a desire not to be wrong — to think oneself right in every act, belief, and choice. I’ve noticed that in myself; when I feel insecure the armor comes out and I’m defending myself, and that’s when it’s more likely one will lose vision, and sacrifice integrity for self-protection. I think we all do this at times, though some people are defensive than others — the kind who are loathe to admit an error or to be wrong about something.

    So should one waste time on a hypocritical person? To some extent, I think none of us are perfectly sincere all the time, so it’s a matter of degrees and intent. Insecure people close to me who I care about, I’ll accept hypocrisy from and try to figure out if I can help them feel more secure. But from people not close to me, or who seem to be willfully desiring to hurt, yeah, it’s usually not worth the time.

  11. renaissanceguy Avatar

    I usually say, “I don’t have time for this.” And I don’t. I’ll put up with anything from a sincere person, however burdensome or hurtful the person might be, but I don’t have time to waste on a hypocritical person.

    I would be tempted to literally shake the dust off my shoes.

    That’s probably a sinful attitude. What do you think?

  12. Eve Avatar

    Scott, excellent point, for a collective has its influence too–in fact sometimes even greater than that of one-on-one relationships such as parent-child or marriage, partnership etc.

    Just thinking about all the “thorn” messages our society gives us is remarkable. I think of messages such as “you are your stuff” or “you are valuable if you are beautiful” (or famous, or notorious, or whatever the group values).

    It’s hard to say which is more influential, large group or family culture. But you certainly make a good point.

  13. Scott Erb Avatar

    I understand the personal approach you take here, but I also think we are shaped by our culture in similar ways. For instance, I know I am addicted to my materialist ways even thoughI rail against our consumer oriented materialist society. I know in my heart and even in my mind that material comfort, while nice, is fleeting and delusional. Yet I find myself constantly wanting, putting some kind of material possession above helping others, not giving enough of my time and money to others because I want material stuff myself. Yeah, this is partially from parents, especially my mom. But I think our culture — materialist, looking at others as abstractions, means to use rather than ends themselves, and hyper rational to the point that sentiment and love becomes distrusted — also shapes us at numerous levels. It’s sometimes harder to speak back against ones’ culture because it is so pervasive that it seems natural.

    As raising children, I try to figure out how to balance the line between having them ‘fit in,’ but getting them to think for themselves and not simply adapt to the culture. This isn’t more important than the issues you bring up — quite the contrary, I think the personal traits and habits are far more influential on ones’ ability to experience joy and love in life. But the culture is there too, a bit more sneaky, pretending to be simply ‘the way things are.’

  14. Eve Avatar

    Deer… some mean people must be loved from afar, theoretically, where they can’t batter your soul or your body.

    I am all for Getting Away from Mean People. In fact, when I encounter one who’s mean, I will wait a bit to see if I am merely reacting to my own projections, or if others notice it and recoil or react, too. One interesting Old Testament type law was that, in a trial, every fact was to be “confirmed by the mouths of two or three witnesses.” No one could be judged guilty on the basis of only one witness.

    I use this as a general rule of thumb when making judgments (decisions), too. I always leave room for the possibility that a person may change. We can change until we’re dead, and after that I suspect change is forced by inevitability. But in this life, we have to choose. So I watch for choices that I make, and that others make.

    When someone is so mean as to be hurtful, dangerous, and as you described I confront the meanness and I use principles that I’ve learned the other person accepts. Some of the worst abusers I’ve met, I’ve met in or through church, people who claim to be Christians. They’ve acted like anything but. What’s helpful about religion, though, is that every religion has its play book. You can always go to that.

    If you tell a person, “Ouch! That hurts!” and they redouble their abuse, that’s when you step back and reconsider the situation. You give them more chances, or you watch what they do to others. Look for your “witnesses,” so to speak. See if their deeds as a whole condemn them.

    You mentioned forgiveness. Forgiveness is good and right, but it’s God’s business. We can only forgive through spiritual-mindedness that doesn’t come naturally. Jesus, for instance, no doubt forgave Judas his treachery and betrayal. He no doubt gave himself up even for Judas. But Judas had a response on his side, too. His response was to kill himself. And who knows what happened after that?

    I forgive when I have come to see that the same behavior I am judging a Thorn for resides also in myself. Forgiveness is to suspend judgment in the face of truth. Judgment as in sending a person to hell or destruction in one’s own mind. “Leave room for the wrath of God,” one of the apostles cautioned.

    Rather than directing it all at the hurtful person, we can use our wrath energy toward healing our own wounded, abandoned selves. The level of anger tells the story of the level of pain that hasn’t been relieved yet. I say “yet” because that’s the whole purpose of the pain: telling us “something is broken.” Not “punish that other person.”

    However, my caveat is that there are just so many people who will not raise their children. They will not be role models. They’ve gone to the dark side and they’re living there. The fact that they’ve already created a wound in you makes it less likely that you can ever be the healer for that specific person. Many times, stepping out of the system and letting the power of spiritual sowing and reaping take its course is the most loving thing you can do, because we all react out of our wounds until they are healed enough that we’re non-reactionary.

  15. Eve Avatar

    Heni, how beautiful. I know you felt loved and wanted, growing up and that you have pretty good parents. Yet there’s still room for growth. I like what you would have said as a daily observer of the lives of the adults around you.

    I especially liked, “I need you to show me…because you are my role model.” This is so true. In childhood, role models surround us at home and at school. But what are they teaching?

  16. woundeddeer Avatar

    I would have said “Please somebody get me the hell out of here!”

    O.K this is a wonderful post, it is coming on the heels of last weeks sermon on forgiveness at the church I attend. Tricky stuff pruning thorny bushes. I am very stuck when I get to this place of seeing the Person behind the mean, dangerous often psychotic parent that I am dealing with………….

    I would have said, “I deserve to be protected, loved and appreciated. Please stop killing me emotionally and mentally. Please stop battering my body. I am exceptional, unusual and full of uncommon potential, your neglect of me is criminal and wrong. I love you and I need you to raise me.”

  17. henitsirk Avatar

    I would have said:

    Please don’t be afraid to be real. Please don’t be afraid to feel pain. Please remember that there is joy in all things, even the mundane or even the painful. I need you to show me how to do those things, because you are my role model.

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