Whether in a professional or personal relationship, a person will only give you what they CAN, what they are CAPABLE of, or what they are WILLING to give.
I love mentoring people who are struggling the way I once did. One of the people I have had the opportunity to mentor was a woman who had a terrible relationship with her father when she was growing up. This woman once asked rhetorically. ‘But why was my dad so mean? How could he not see the damage he was doing to me, my siblings and our mother? He used to tell us that the stress of providing drove his actions. Was it then our fault that he was the way he was? I still can’t understand.’ I could see the baffled look in this woman’s eyes and hear the desperate need to make sense of her father’s past cruelty. Even as an adult, the pain in her voice was still raw.
Whether in a professional or personal relationship, a person will only give you what they CAN, what they are CAPABLE, or what they are WILLING to give.
One of life’s lessons I have learned is that you can only give what you have. Whatever a person gives you is the only thing they can, capable of, or willing to give. And that was what I tried to make the woman understand. Nothing justifies one person abusing another. Whatever excuses they offer, whoever treats another with unkindness does so because their heart cannot harbour kindness. It has nothing to do with the person to whom they are unkind.
The other thing the woman found hard to believe was her father’s inability to ‘communicate like an adult. I mean, he was our father! We looked up to him. He was supposed to guide us into making good and life-giving decisions! But did he do that?’ Again, I had to tell the woman that seniority of age does not equal wisdom. You could be eighteen and possess the understanding of one who has studied at the feet of the wisest of the wise, or eighty and be as clueless as a drunken fool choosing to play in the den of lions. It is all about the heart and what is planted in it, not the age. I told her it makes no sense to increase one’s stress level with countless hours of wondering why someone won’t (or didn’t) give you what you require of them. They don’t because they do not have it to give.
The most difficult challenge to surmount when dealing with the effects of abuse is trying to make sense of the senselessness of abuse.
The effects of abuse on the abused are often like a double-edged sword. Firstly, internalization is where you take in everything thrown at you and begin to believe that it’s all your fault. And then there is the constant quest to understand why. If care isn’t taken, it can get to the point where it is the one nugget in the puzzle that eventually drives you crazy. The niggling, persistent need to understand why.
You cannot ‘duty’ someone into giving you what they don’t have to give!
For more years than I cared to remember, I, too, had strived to understand why Aunty had treated me as badly as she did. Only later, with the gift of hindsight and the loving, nurturing wisdom of my mother and grandmother, did I realize that no one can give you what they don’t have in themselves to give. And so, as the woman continued to question, I had reached forward, taken her hand in mine and said. ‘It was never about what you, your siblings or your mother did or didn’t do. It was all about him and whatever was in him. A person cannot be your guardian angel if he has demons in him. He cannot be your victor if he hasn’t conquered his internal war. Even if you and your children had been the perfect kids on earth, even if your mother had executed all the duties your father expected from her as a wife, it would still not have made any difference. Because you can’t ‘duty’ someone into being. They will only be if they want to.
I knew what I was talking about; trying to please Aunty by performing my chores to perfection hadn’t made any difference in how she treated me. Instead, it had seemed to intensify the dislike she had for me.