I got an email from my oldest sister on Saturday, someone she'd not heard from in 25 years had gotten her email address from a mutual acquaintance, and had begun sending her nasty emails. Why do people do this? It got me thinking about my husband, who would say hurtful things to me and if I protested, defend his meanness as "Just a joke."
I tried for years to accept his "jokes" and not feel hurt or offended or upset, until one day when I realised that I didn't care whether his latest remark had been intended as a joke, or not, I wasn't going to accept another sniping comment from him, and try to "be a good sport" and choke it down. I began to calmly state that I didn't like what he'd just said, I didn't accept it as a joke, I thought it was unkind and mocking, and I would appreciate if he stopped making those sorts of comments. It took a little while, but he did stop, because I challenged the unkindness each and every time.
We teach people how to treat us. All the years in which I tried to tell myself that he was "only joking" while feeling hurt by his latest sarcastic remark, I wasn't accepting the validity of my own feelings. Somehow, the questions about "Can't you take a joke?" would play into my own lack of self-acceptance, and it wasn't until I could say to myself, and then to him, "I don't deserve to be mocked or treated this way" that I was able to set a boundary around this behavior of his, and tell him, "If you continue to make that kind of comment, I'm not going to have this conversation with you."
Before I could do anything about setting a boundary, I had to accept myself as I was just that minute. Not as I might be if, as he was prone to state, I "had a better sense of humour," but as I was right then. I needed to believe that who I was mattered, that I had the right to say I didn't like what was happening, and then, if it continued, to walk away. For a lot of years, I was still trying to convince him that he was in the wrong for saying mean things to me and defending them as "jokes." It wasn't until I gave up trying to change his behavior, and instead, changed my own - stopped accepting his unacceptable behavior and blaming myself for it - that anything outside of me changed.
I'm only now beginning to understand just how much responsibility I took on in the marriage, for his feelings, and his attitudes. I had to be away from him for quite a few months before I could begin to grasp that the way he treated me triggered the ideas instilled in my crazy abusive childhood - that I was a bad person.
I hadn't challenged that below-the-surface feeling, I just accepted it as truth, it was an old fear I'd carried, that no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did in 12-Step or out of it, I was a bad person, In the wierd way these things work, somehow, I think I believed that he'd "found me out" and was treating me accordingly.
The longer I'm in program, the more important I believe kindness to be - to others, of course, but also to ourselves.
I know full well how soul-destroying it can be, if we are the recipient of an unprovoked attack, as my sister has been, and instead of being able to see that attack clearly, we accept the given responsibility for it.
Re-reading this for editing purposes, it sounds a little - insane. I am grateful for my Higher Power, who is restoring me to sanity. I'm also grateful for the kindness I've been shown by so many other people in the last 8 months, and the kindness I've been able to feel towards myself. Self-acceptance is important for our serenity and our recovery.