All week I’ve been contemplating which blog topic I’d discuss. I wanted to go with something a little lighthearted after my rant about being an old virgin (haha). However, 2 days ago I woke up, got on Facebook (whatever, you check your FB app in the morning too), and there was a slew of status updates about being respected, dealing with arrogant people, and not tolerating trifling people any longer. I jumped on the bandwagon, discussing the false humility people display as a tactic to get you to keep focusing on them. Seemingly everyone is getting fed up with substandard relationships.
My decision to write about these types of relationships got the stamp of approval after reading my homie E. Reed’s blog “The Torture of Toxic Relationships” (http://edotreed.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-torture-of-toxic-relationships.html). Inspired by real life, E. documents the emotional trauma of staying too long in a relationship (platonic or romantic) with a toxic individual.
Not sure what we mean by “toxic”? Give me a moment; I need to open my dictionary app.
Ok, according to Merriam-Webster, toxic has several definitions. I’ll list a few relevant to this discussion:
1.) Containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation..
2.) Extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful…
3.) Relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market….
Flashe’s definition: Something so poisonous that it causes severe debilitation to the point of causing someone or something to lose all value, even to the point of death.
Translation: Toxic people cripple, devalue, and eventually KILL you!
I’m pretty sure this is what Kelly Clarkson meant by “a beautiful disaster”. Things look appealing on the outside, but will jack you up in the long run.
So, E. Reed and I had a discussion after I read his post and he posed a question- Why is it that we make such an effort to gain the approval of such people to the point of endangering our own lives? (abridged version)
This question really hit me hard. I just recently started drifting away from my own Pandora’s Box. For those unfamiliar with the Greek mythology reference, Pandora was given a box (really a large jar) by Zeus that contained all the evils of the world. When she opened it, all the evil was released. Today, “to open Pandora’s box” means to do something seemingly innocent, but ends up have severe and far-reaching consequences. <—- Thanks, Wikipedia!
I had a real life Pandora. Pandora seemed to be the perfect puzzle piece to my awkward life of twists, turns, and jagged edges. Cultured, fun, friendly, and intelligent. Intelligent….. intelligent. It is a well-known fact that I am a sapiosexual. It is INCREDIBLY sexy when someone is highly intelligent. I was completely intoxicated.
At any rate, I knew Pandora had a set of personal issues to deal with, but that isn’t a deterrent for me. EVERYBODY got problems. Heck, I was seeing a therapist. Who was I to turn away because someone was still learning how to navigate life. Plus, I never back down from challenges. It isn’t in my nature. Flashe Gordon, remember?
Things were going well…for the most part. A fight… I mean intense disagreement… here or there, but that was because Pandora and I are both passionate, head-strong people. We always got beyond the bumps in the road. They weren’t bumps though. They were warning signs, ones that I ignored because when I love people I’m there for better or worse. Just as loyal as my cutie dog Sofia Patrillo. This makes me a good friend. Didn’t seem that much different from how I fought for my friendships in the past.
Then Pandora’s inner box of uncontrolled anger and festering emotional wounds from yesteryear began to open and the war was on. More frequently I was on the receiving end of verbal assaults: “You’re insincere, unkind, hypocritical, bipolar, think you’re so much better than other people, …the kind of person you burn bridges with…” The longer we knew each other, the more comfortable Pandora became with unleashing anger in the form of verbal daggers, knowing how forgiving and understanding my nature is. Me being me, I’d stand up for myself, but never return the daggers. I gave up cutting people down with my words in middle school when I saw the lasting effects it left on people’s hearts, souls, and self-esteem. Plus I was bullied with words growing up. I couldn’t bestow that type of pain on someone else; not if I was claiming to be a true Christian and a good person.
I took these things to heart. When my “friends” give me feedback I pay attention because of course your friends only want you to get better. Right? Right, your friends do. But your friends ALWAYS offer loving critiques and constructive criticism. They don’t have you crying in the dark, wondering if you are worthy of anyone’s love, attention, or company. They do not appease their own insecurity by raping your self-worth.
My epiphany came when my home girls came to Austin recently for our sister’s wedding. These ladies have been with me for over 10 years. If anybody is going to be real with me it’s going to be them. During the few days of our reunion, I was on Cloud 9. I heard so many good things about myself. I was amazing, inspirational, loving, devoted, loyal, kind…. words that never flowed from Pandora’s box of insults (unless Pandora needed to be on my good side). As I paid more attention, I realized other people in my community were echoing the same sentiments as my sisters. I just hadn’t realized it because I let Pandora’s opinion weigh in more than the majority. For some reason, I needed Pandora to love me. In good times, Pandora could mimic the love of my dad. I had to come to grips (again) with the reality that nobody was ever going to be Robert. Only God can fill the paternal void and soothe me as my heart still aches for his love. The desperation is what has left me vulnerable to accepting this counterfeit concoction.
My other theory for this ludicrous behaviour is I’ve always wanted to be accepted by those closest to me. I don’t care if strangers approve or someone who is obviously against me. It is a different story when you love someone deeply. It only make sense for them to love you as unconditionally as you love them. You hope beyond hope that one day, if you are convincing enough or reform yourself drastically, that the toxic individual will sober up and start to celebrate you. It rarely happens.
The reason, beloved, is that the problem was never you to start with. Your Pandora is projecting. If you are a sucky person there will be a consensus. Lots of bad press. If 95% of your feedback from credible individuals is positive, then Pandora is the toxic entity in the relationship, not you. This time is really is THEM, not you. So now I’m offering you the motivation to break the ties. Let go. Starve the need to be accepted by everybody, especially those who are”killing you softly”. Your heart may sting because you’ve invested so much, but if you keep your heart invested in toxins, it will slowly but surely deteriorate. A reaction with a toxin is a chemical reaction. It cannot be reversed.
Pack up Pandora’s box and send him or her off in a blaze of glory. Let Pandora exist in that word of insecurity, jealously, hate. spite, malice, cruelty, and negativity alone. You, my love, have too many important things to accomplish to have someone trying to snuff out your flame before you have a chance to leave your legacy. As Sweet Brown said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
In closing, I’ll quote myself from my Facebook status (that vanity is showing again… church cloth, STAT!):
…it’s imperative to evaluate the toxicity of your relationships. I… am very loyal, forgiving, and understanding. If you cut me, I probably will smack you, but all is forgiven with [frozen yogurt]. But when someone constantly assaults your character, shows blatant disregard for your feelings, and is an expert at pointing out your fallacies, you need to let go. This individual is projecting his/her insecurities on you and will ruin your self-worth. And you, my friend, are priceless.
Your friend in the struggle to get rid of substandard living,