Morning friend, I’m still recovering from the tail end of the Rona virus. Doing much better though. My energy is back and that is huge. Thanks for your prayers.
I’m going to do something a little different today. Instead of answering a question, I’m going to respond to a comment from someone who believed I was shaming and blaming a victim for being a victim. This is what she wrote in response to my blog regarding a husband treating his wife like a child.
“Stopped reading after you said that she is responsible for the way she has allowed herself to be treated. Yikes!! Really really awful.”
Response: This reader’s comment didn’t surprise me. I see it often. When I tell a woman she has to take responsibility, it’s interpreted that she has to take the blame for what happened to her. That’s not true, nor is that what I mean by taking responsibility.
Let me give you an example. When I was a child, in a fit of rage, my mother threw me to the ground and I chipped my two front teeth. She never got appropriate dental care and my two front teeth looked awful throughout my childhood. That was not my fault even though I probably was doing something wrong that provoked her. It was her responsibility as my mom to discipline me appropriately and get me dental and medical care when I needed it. She was the adult, I was the child.
But when I became an adult and she still treated me harshly, whose responsibility is it now to take care of me? Mine. I’m not to blame for the way she treats me, but I am responsible to steward my body, my mind, and my health. And if she’s harming me, what am I going to do to get safe, stay healthy, and live in peace?
Also, as an adult, my teeth were still a mess. Clunky yellowed caps were all I saw when I smiled. It wasn’t my fault my teeth were a mess, but it was my responsibility to get them fixed if I wanted my teeth to look better. Otherwise, I would feel helpless over the way I looked because my mom did something abusive to me. I couldn’t change my mom but I could do something about my teeth and the way I looked. I call that taking responsibility, or another word for it is ownership.
Did I like the fact that I had to go to multiple dentist appointments, pay a lot of money to get my teeth to look normal? Did I think that was fair that I had to do it even if I wasn’t at fault? I toyed with those ideas a bit but believing that story wasn’t going to get my teeth fixed (or change my mother). It would keep me stuck, spinning in a victim/helpless mindset. I don’t believe any adult in her right mind wants to be there for long.
You were at the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong person and you were harmed, fooled, bullied, degraded, raped, lied to, robbed, or beat up. A multitude of horrible things can happen to women. But even when this happens to a woman, if you want to recover from such a traumatic event, who is responsible to do that? You are. Otherwise you will stay broken by awful things that happen to you. Is that what you want? Of course not.
When we’re in a destructive relationship with someone the destructive elements don’t usually show up right away. It’s often a slow erosion of our being, our God-given personhood. A woman begins to lose herself to save the relationship. She gives up her own goals to support his goals. She gives up her own vision for how she wants things to be to rally around his vision. Isn’t that what good Christian women are taught to do? Defer. Accommodate. Submit to their man?
To do otherwise is labeled “selfish” and “sinful” in many conservative Christian circles.
And if you marry or date a healthy, caring, loving man, he will not allow you to erase your personhood in deference to him. He will encourage your voice, your choice, your thoughts, your vision. He will support your growth to be all you can be, as you support his.
But in a destructive marriage that doesn’t happen. An unhealthy, destructive person is a prideful, selfish person. He wants his way. He believes it’s all about him and you as the good wife silently, passively, go along. Maybe inside you know somethings wrong, or maybe you believe this is what God asks of you, but sooner or later you begin to feel flattened out, depleted, dead or like a child inside. You’ve lost yourself. You don’t even know who you are anymore. Or if you begin to speak up, you are silenced. If you start acting out, you are shamed.
Now you’re in a perilous place like many of the women who write to me for advice. You’ve lost your vision, your goals, your voice and your choice. You’re scared, stuck, confused, and angry.
You have no power over him. But I’m reminding you each week that you do have power. That feeling of power starts with reclaiming your God-given power to choose. You can choose to live that way, or you can choose not to live that way.
Once you realize that you get to decide that, then you no longer feel as helpless as you once did when you believed you had no choice. This is called waking up and taking responsibility for you. For your welfare, your safety, your sanity, and your health, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. When you stay passive and are being victimized again and again, what is that saying? Not that you’re to blame, but if you don’t want to live like that, you do have a choice. You may not like all of the choices available to you. Of course it would be easier if he would change. But your power comes from taking responsibility for you, not nagging him to change.
Once you do that, now you have a voice even if the only one who values it is you. “I say yes. I say no. I say that’s good for me. I say that’s not good for me. I say I like this. I say I don’t like this.” Now you are taking the next step of growth. Reclaiming YOU. Your authority begins when you get to decide who you are. What you like. What you want. What you don’t want. What you need. What’s important to you. What you will tolerate. What you won’t tolerate.
This is the path to reclaiming your choice, your voice and your personhood. The blog I wrote said my husband treats me as a child. But when we let ourselves behave like a child, as if we have no choice or voice, then we are allowing ourselves to continue to be treated that way.
Friend, how have you come to differentiate taking responsibility from accepting blame?