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It is the middle of summer, or at least the middle of warm weather, if not summer exactly, here in Ontario and apart from the extreme dryness, it has been a beautiful summer! Roses are loaded with blooms! One bush I counted to 74 buds before concluding it has ‘a lot’, and the actual number doesn’t really matter. And the Limelight hydrangeas are about to bloom, as the delphiniums slowly die off from their first splash of colour.
Seasons are filled with wonder, and then they pass, each bringing in a new season with new wonder. And in each there are things we can long for or miss in another season, while fully embracing the one we’re in. At least I find myself doing that. I look at the evergreen, while sitting barefoot on my front porch sipping a glass of ice tea or some other summer love, and imagine it in winter with sparkling lights. But even as I imagine it, in that moment it is summer I am in love with the warmth.
Til winter rolls around, however, I’m happy to wear boots and a coat, with no desire to sit on my front porch, quenching summer’s thirst. And I certainly don’t sit there in bare feet.
Life experience isn’t that different. When changing of seasons is necessary, whether we like it or not, we are wise to adjust to the new season. And, figuratively speaking, I may have sat in the snow, barefoot, for a while already.
It has been six years now, since working closely with trauma victims, listening to broken stories, encouraging victims, trying to keep healthy boundaries in place–which can be easier said than done, for some. And they’ve been the best six years of my life, on so many levels. They have also been the hardest in other ways.
One of the things I encourage in clients is healthy boundaries, both in personal experience and in respecting the boundaries others set, which can be a difficult thing to learn when boundaries have been seriously violated, and we’ve been taught to give and sacrifice until we drop or burnout. But it’s critical to take steps that are in the best interest of personal well-being and family before such a thing happens. In the past two weeks, after trying to make adjustments and find other ways to ‘make it work’, it quickly became evident that the changes I was trying to make would bring more stress than relief and my lessons on boundaries needed a close look and personal application. So, after seeking counsel from several individuals, including my doctor who is a rather amazing woman, I knew it was time to take my own advice, and that of everyone I consulted. In the uncertainty of what is best right now, I saw these words, “Do the next right thing” and the words stuck. If I am to be healthy for my family, for university and to continue advocating for victims, I must do ‘the next right thing’. And that next right thing is to take a step back from working with trauma clients for the time being and focus on family, writing and then to University of Waterloo in September.
I have heard other individuals talk about needing to leave trauma support, due to secondary trauma, and am thankful that in this area God has given me resilience, rarely experiencing it. Admittedly, the area(s) I have struggled are in dealing with blatant manipulations, as well as when boundaries are ignored and violated, so that our world is invaded as a family and couple, or when focusing on personal commitments. Manipulation can only be faced as it happens with clients, and boundaries set to bring about healthier habits. And fortunately there is much good information out there, about healthy boundaries, how to set them, and when to ‘draw a line in the sand’ if they are violated. And on this front I have been blessed beyond words, having had very few problems with boundaries being violated. For this I am most grateful, and thank God, so that I can look back at six years of client relationships and see predominantly positive relationships, and wouldn’t hesitate to return to one-on-one sessions, when school is less intense for having had the most amazing opportunities to walk with victims and see healing come.
So, while I am making changes, I’m not ‘going’ anywhere, and will continue to blog occasionally, and focus more on doing public speaking engagements as far as Generations Unleashed goes, though more one-off engagements in various environments to create awareness, versus church-focused conferences. And, God-willing, I will be able to follow through with travel plans for this summer, where I’ve made commitments. And though I am making myself available to several past clients, and welcome requests from other past clients, to meet from time to time, I will not currently be taking on new clients, or working in intense and high-trauma cases. And it is unlikely that I will consider taking on any full time clients during the first four months of University, starting this September, as I will have 5 courses and must maintain 75% average or higher in each one, to be accepted into the 16-month Master program in January.
These changes leave me with a summer calendar that has nothing but ‘family, friends, and writing’ booked besides travel. While this feels odd and a bit sad in a way, it also feels right and necessary, especially as I focus more on finishing several writing projects and prepare for school.
I am thankful for these six years, and the many people I’ve had the honour of knowing in places of pain and journeys of healing, and only time will tell if this is ‘the end of an era’ or whether God will lead me again to this. While I sense it is ‘an end’, I also try to hold these things in an open hand, and not control every step and outcome, so that God can open the door again in the future if He needs me.
And I imagine I will sit on my front porch at times, figuratively speaking, sandals on my feet, and sipping a summer drink, imagining lights on the tree, all covered in snow. And I will long for it. But I will rest in knowing that ‘doing the next right thing’ will take me where I am destined to be, to accomplish a purpose higher than my own.
~ T ~
NOTE: Due to so many of my clients finding me through my blog, or word of mouth, I an sharing these changes here. (Clients have already been notified, in person or via message, of any changes.)
Don’t come to Church!
There comes a time when an individual can be asked not to come to church. But it is not the right answer every time.
The identity of a teenager who offends, in many countries if not most, is protected. While there should be vigilance–always, always–public exposure is not usually an option, by law. The teen needs help and guidance and whatever ‘judgment the courts determine to be appropriate, but banning from church is not one of them. At least not most times, though there may be an exception.
The adult who has victimized people in church, people who must face their offender and be continually traumatized, is a different story. In my opinion, an offender ought to have enough remorse to choose to go somewhere else, to protect the child. It’s easy math. And every now and then they do.
But, as it stands, more victims leave churches than abusers, based on the people I deal with, because the ongoing trauma becomes overwhelming. They forgive, they try to move on, but Sunday morning, when they should be hearing the truth of the Gospel, they are confronted with the trauma of flashbacks to naked genitals or breasts, or some other sexual exploitation in the past. A wife goes home with her spouse after church, and struggles all week with intimacy because the flashbacks make her feel gross and disgusting. The husband how remembers being molested, goes home and withholds himself, and possibly turning to pornography, feeling completely inadequate. (Let me inject that, surely we can try to understand that this is not about a lack of forgiveness–as is often the accusation–but about post-trauma anxiety and flashbacks.)
Why would an adult who has molested someone choose to impose such a thing on a victim, Sunday after Sunday, robbing couples of intimacy and forcing them to relive the violation? Is it not reasonable, in such a situation, to encourage the offender to find a church family elsewhere?
Instead, it seems victims are the ones who eventually uproot and find some other church family, or simply stop attending, spiritually stripped, having endured accusations of being unforgiving or making things up. The lack of healthy care and understanding for victims, combined with religious demands to ‘forgive and forget’ has done it’s share of damage, and has in essence told victims to either ‘shape up or get out’, while offering little in the way of healing.
I spoke recently with yet another victim of a now-church-leader; the third that I am aware of, who eventually just left, while the offender went on to become a leader. The victimizations ranged from coercing a peer in early teens to reaching under skirts, yanking down panties to molest–something I recently discovered is/was a very common occurrence with hired ‘maids’ in some homes–and grabbing and groping… well into his twenties. And in every case the victims ended up paying the price, while the offender managed to fly under the radar, with nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist for ‘sexual immorality’. That should not be. And yet it happens repeatedly.
If an offender refuses to take ownership, and comply with the laws of the land and church-imposed boundaries, or if there is any indication they are causing ongoing trauma, it is not asking too much to tell them not to show up. There is no repentance in self-preservation and rebelling against those boundaries, and that person should be deemed unsafe in every way.
Feel Free to Attend, but with Supervision and Boundaries
In the case of the church I worked with in 2014, a team of people met with the intent of creating accountability. There was no agenda to cover up or protect the offender, but neither was there any agenda to destroy. In all my life I’ve never seen such a healthy approach as I saw in that meeting, and in the months that ensued.
A recommendation was put up for discussion, to allow the offender to attend church, but to always have someone supervise. Every trip to the bathroom, every exit from the auditorium, every event, someone would be assigned to watch over the offender. There would be zero opportunity for offending again. There would be guidelines of not working with children, or being involved in any way that would compromise their safety. Had his presence made victims vulnerable, I might have felt differently, but as it was I thought it was brilliant.
The thought of being ‘babysat’ was offensive to the perpetrator, saying he felt the church was not proving forgiveness. As a result, and of his own free will, he chose to leave the church and find a new church family. If my memory is reliable, the pastor felt it his responsibility to contact leadership at the new church to inform them of the situation, not out of spite, but for the protection of the children there.
All in all, the situation was handled responsibly, and in the best interest of the victims and church family.
What About The Law?
The law was involved early on, in the case of the church I worked with; even before the church was made aware. So, for an example of law, I will share from a conversation I had with a police officer in the past month.
My conversation with the officer led me to believe that when it comes to religion, she is on the outside, looking in, and trying to make sense of it all, and she wondered at the driving force behind that behaviours of churches and Christians, as it pertains to obeying the laws of the land in regards to child abuse. I tried to explain–not justify–from my perspective, what I see; fear, pride, the belief that we Christians are subject only to God’s law and not the laws of the land, among other things. I’ve had the same conversation with 4 police officers since May, where they talk about the religious community covering up and not getting victims or offenders the help they need, and it leaves them shaking their heads. It should.
But what this last officer shared, didn’t stay there. After questioning, she mentioned how several years ago she had a case unlike any other. A pastor, she said, had walked in one morning, accompanied by an offender who had molested his daughter. Immediately after having done so, he went to his wife, and told her, packed his bags and left so his daughter would be safe. The pastor was drawn in, and that is where the man stayed until morning, when they stood in front of the officer saying they have a crime to report. The entire police staff was flabbergasted, she said. Not one had experienced such a thing before.
She told me how the man ended up doing jail time, getting counseling and was eventually reinstated in his home, but is not allowed to be with children unsupervised at any time. He is humbly compliant, and understands that this is to make 100% certain it never happens again. This situation, is the ideal, when it comes to handling abuse cases, she told me.
I wasn’t involved with that situation, and don’t know the people, but from where I stand looking on, I see redemption, while complying with the law and facing consequences. The church is aware of what he has done, and works to make it a safe place for children all around, while allowing him to be part of his family and the church.
A Tragedy Cannot be Undone, only Redeemed
There is no way to make a bad thing good. It can’t be done. There is only redemption of evil in the lives of God’s people, and in the working of society. What our enemy means for evil, God will use for good, but the wickedness can never be made good. We have to accept that, and call the wickedness what it is.
That said, we undermine the grace and mercy of God, when we refuse to extend the work of Jesus on the cross to all sinners… including those who molested a child, or children. There must always be forgiveness for them. While the practical working out of healing should be done with great wisdom and seeking God’s heart–and God always fights for the children and the vulnerable–to sentence offenders to hopeless judgment, doesn’t sit right in my spirit.
I’ve worshiped in prison with those who murdered someone. And I’ve hugged them if they wanted to be hugged. It makes zero difference to me, at the foot of the cross, what you have done; you are my brother and my sister. Besides, I remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I”. And I mean that. Coming out of the sexual confusion of my childhood, it is nothing short of the grace of God that kept me from growing up to be in prison with the murderers and pedophiles. When it comes praying ‘thank God I am not like the sinner beside me’, the words choke heavy in my throat and I cannot spit them out.
Instead, I thank God for His liberal grace and generous wisdom so that we might be forgiven, extend forgiveness, while still choosing to respond carefully in every situation. Bitterness and hate destroys lives, as does overlooking sin and neglecting to address and deal with abuse. Somewhere, in seeking the wisdom of God, there is a better way…
We were molested, many of us, and we inevitably hurt and grieve the loss of innocence. We need to be given space to do that, and to express that hurt without being judged. But, horrific as that moment was, or the thousand times over, none of us really want to stay stuck in that darkness. Advocating for other victims, fighting for the safety of children and creating awareness are some of the many ways to take back our freedom, our God-given voice, and to bring good out of evil, without empowering evil through bitterness.
Together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope, if we avoid the pit of bitterness, and a sense of being entitled to live in it and speak out of it. Our life purpose is not defined by what happened to us, but it can empower us for greater things. The choice is ours. Always. And I, for one, want to care for the hearts of all, but I want only to partner with those who bring hope out of darkness…
Yes, together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope!
~ T ~
The Crime and the Calling
Standing against sexual abuse and violence is a noble and godly thing to do. It really is. And I applaud anyone who does so with a pure heart. Because I cannot think of many topics that stir deeper feelings than child molestation. And rightfully so. What is more horrendous than an innocent child or young person stripped of sexual innocence by an adult? I can’t think of a thing, really, that does the thing to my stomach that such a story does.
Especially now, as a married woman who understands what sex was supposed to be in the first place, as designed by God; a beautiful and fun bonding between husband and wife. For an adult to impose such a thing, and impose a life-sentence of struggle on an innocent child… to rob that victim of unhindered marital joy…
Even writing about it, like this, creates inner angst and tension on behalf of that child that the makes me want to vomit. And that’s not exaggerating. That’s how the mind and body should respond, with powerful resistance, against such a thing. And the instinct to protect children should rise, immediately, to the surface.
The Danger in Fighting Against Abuse and Violence
But that is the very thing that makes it such a complex thing to stand against. Those feelings, legitimate and justified, must be acknowledged but cannot be the driving force, in and of themselves; there has to be a deeper goal to be effective. Those feelings must not be it, lest we move out of hate and bitterness. Because then the very thing we fight against, gains power over us, and makes us slaves to it. When we become bitter and hate-filled, and out to make the offender(s) pay, on our terms, a toxicity sets in that does nothing–not one little thing–to protect victims or change the world.
Bitterness is counterproductive in every way. Besides rendering your voice empty and irrelevant to those in positions to help change the world, its toxic poison will suck your soul dry faster than any hurt imposed on you. Every time. And not only that, it will suck dry those around you, if they don’t leave before it poisons them. In either case, it will leave you empty and friendless, or empty and lacking healthy support. It’s not worth it.
As Believers, What Do We Reach For?
There are good and positive things that can be done in dealing with molestation, without turning to the venom of destruction and the poison that is so prone to dribble from our lips. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve done it. I’ve lost sight, in the past, of what my heart really longs for in all of this; redemption, justice, boundaries, mercy, truth and ultimately restoration with God… even in situations where the last thing that ever could happen (or should, for that matter) is reconciliation between offender and victim.
In religious settings it seems often there is a dreadful imbalance in situations where an abuser is exposed, caught or turns himself or herself in. It is either carefully guarded and covered up in denial, or the individual is abandoned and thrown under the bus. Most often it is the former. And, to the latter, many ‘justice seekers’ would shout a hearty ‘Yay… serves them right’ and jump on the bandwagon that finally someone is listening.
At the risk of receiving hate mail, I will say publicly that I think both are corrupt; both are wrong. That’s my view. Justice and truth without mercy is barbaric. Mercy without truth and justice is endorsement of evil. As I watch the two sides play out around me, in various situations, I think surely there must be a better way! Surely there is some humanity, somewhere. Humanity that says, “Enough is enough!” to the senseless victimization, and humanity that says, “we are all broken and need help, so we’re going to get you that help.”
And then, beyond humanity to Christ-likeness, that says, “Someone died for my sins; He died for yours too.” To offer the grace and love of Jesus to my offender is the most freeing thing I have ever done. Freeing for me.
To not share that truth with others, is to keep them in bondage. And yet, as angry voices–and yes, they should be angry–shout around me, some with bitterness and hate, I find myself retreating, publicly, for fear of tomatoes… or worse, thrown at me. It is not the healthy anger that makes me cringe, it is the hate and offensiveness. And I am not alone. Other victims have written me, saying they are afraid to publicly state they have forgiven, for fear of being judged or ‘hated on’.
What Then is the Solution?
While abuse angers many of us, as it should, the greatest headway in change will come from calm, composed persistence. There is a time to expose, but doing so with venom will stop the ears of people we want to speak to; it is overwhelming. Furthermore, if there are defenses already in place–take for example a pastor, parent or other person of influence–where the person feels it is an attack on them, the attack and raging approach will trigger subconscious response–either tuning out or defending.
An approach that lacks attack, and rather appeals to the intellect, the heart and compassion of individuals in positions of influence, will produce a much healthier response. Reasonable dialogue is necessary, and exploring healthy solutions without demanding the heads of abusers on a platter, will go much further than raging and bitterness. And if we want to really make a difference, then we need to manage those feelings with honour.
What Can the Church Do?
When a molestation case comes to light in a church, there is inevitably much upheaval. In 2014 I was hired by a church several hours away, to work with a very difficult situation. I learned more in a few months, about what pastors and leaders go through, than I had learned in the preceding 44 years of my life.
When a pastor cares for his church and wants nothing but the best for everyone, abuse and molestation allegations cause heartbreaking struggle. When the offender owns up, admitting to the crimes, and it is confirmed reality and not allegations, the truth is harsh and offensive. The crimes need to be dealt with, and the person needs someone to walk with them, and the victims need to be protected along with all vulnerable church attendees, children in particular. How is a pastor to do all of those things, and not be harshly judged by some, if not all involved and aware?
Some want the offender banned from attending. Some want the church to ‘forgive and move on’. Others want boundaries and protections in place. Some want it taken to the law. Others say that’s not biblical, even when the laws require it. The latter, for me, is not optional; a crime must be reported. The Bible says that the law is for the lawbreaker, and if that lawbreaker happens to sit on a church pew, he or she is no less a lawbreaker.
How to handle incorporating the abuser, or banning, as the case may be, is something each church family must fumble their way through. Each situation and solution presents complexities that make a black-and-white-blanket-solution nigh impossible to implement. And while the protection of victims should alway take precedent over the abuser, I hesitate to judge harshly when I see a church trying to care for both.
I say that as someone who instigated inappropriate sexual interaction with a peer in my early teens. Sure, she came into agreement before we did anything, but I will always see her as the victim. I was a few months older and I suggested it, therefore I feel I need to own that. To this day, it is more important for me to know that she is cared for than to have my pride protected. She deserves that; I made her vulnerable. And any offender who steals innocence should pursue the well-being of the victim, over their own comfort. It’s the least any of us can do who have wounded another.
So what, then, should a church do? What are some options?
(To Be Continued…)
~ T ~
Last night, as I crawled in bed after posting my blog to WordPress, I told Tim, “So I didn’t tell my readers that you kissed me the night you asked me to be your girlfriend.”
Rather than say, “Thank you!”, or “Good!”, he said, “Uhhh… What did you tell them?” It was dark, so I could not see his eyes, and any hesitance that might have been there, but I could hear it. He, on the other hand, couldn’t see the twinkle in mine. I gave him a quick overview. (He used to read all my blogs, but I’m writing too many, and he can’t keep up any more.)
Tonight, he asked what that first night was like, with his lips resting on my forehead. (The memories are more vague for him.) I had him stand up so I could show him. Afterwards, I asked him if I have his blessing and approval to continue telling our story this way, and he said, yes. With that, I will pick up where I left off….
After Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, we had at least one date night each week. We spoke on the phone most days, if not every day, and spent our Sundays together. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We loved quiet times. Reading together. And talking about everything from science, to church and religion, to personal faith. And pretty much anything in between.
Early on we talked about our boundaries, the ways we would protect our relationship from premarital sex. One of the things that made us most vulnerable is that, during most of our courtship, we spent a lot of time together ‘alone’, just the two of us.
Having left Howard and Alice’s home, where I lived for almost two years, we didn’t have a family in my life, to be part of our journey. It was up to us, and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I had made in the past. We wanted to protect our courtship.
It was appropriate that, early in our relationship, we walked The Mill Race again, and sat down at the dam. It was a beautiful spring night. The moon was out. The stars twinkled in the sky. Tim sat on the retaining wall, dangling his legs over the edge. I sat on the wall, my knees pulled up, my skirt falling around me, as I leaned back against him. Always the tomboy, jeans would have been so much more suitable.
We discussed why we would wait until marriage to have sex. Why it mattered, to us. It wasn’t about rules and regulations. It had nothing to do with the potential of church discipline. And not even biblical guidelines, in and of themselves, though that was ultimately the driving force.
We talked about legacy that night. About what we wanted our children to have and know. How important it was, to us, for them to know they were the result of love, within the confines of marriage. That they would never wonder if they were wanted or loved, and even why their parents were married.
We made a commitment that night, before God, and for the sake of our children, to live a life of holiness, and abstinence until marriage.
By the light of the moon, we discussed our future children, and our dreams. Even baby names. We agreed that our first daughter would be Alicia, a name I had fallen in love with in Pennsylvania, when I met Alicia Mullet (Weaver). She was a young woman of great character, whom I admired, though she was a few years younger than I. Furthermore, Alicia is the French version of Alice, and I wanted to use the name of the amazing woman who had changed the course of my life.
Tim agreed immediately to the name Alicia, and added ‘Gayle’, after his mother. And so it was decided that our first daughter would be Alicia Gayle. If ever we struggled with the temptation to cross those boundaries sexually, we would remind each other of the legacy we wanted to give her.
On another night earlier on, at that same location, Tim and I had talked until 5:00 in the morning. We started off outside, but as the night grew cold, we moved into his car, intending to leave but caught in conversation. That night I told him my story, starting in early childhood, the best that I knew how to tell it. Between my telling, and him asking questions, that took up most of the night. He told me his story as well, which took maybe thirty minutes, at the most.
As I invested my heart more deeply, fear and panic began to torment me. Unlike the previous relationship, where my then boyfriend would go back to Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t see him for several weeks, Tim stayed. It was a constant and growing relationship, and that terrified me.
What if this was ‘it’, ‘the one’… Somehow I knew he was, and with ‘the knowing’, panic of giving myself to a man tormented me. The conflicting emotion of feeling this new depth of love, in contrast with that terror, drove me to near madness.
Off and on, for several months, when Tim left to go home I sat in my little blue Z24, jamming Michael W. Smith, David Meece, and Stephen Curtis Chapman, as loudly as possible. The volume was to drown out my screaming, as I released the stress of whatever was happening inside of me. As I screamed, and cried, literally at the top of my lungs, I pounded the steering wheel, careful not to hit the horn. I didn’t need neighbours to come and check on me. I was afraid I’d be committed into a psyche ward, when in reality, I just needed to release the trauma of the past.
I always say that the evil that ‘goes in’, or is imposed on us, must come out. And the inevitable trauma resulting from that evil also must come out. Those nights screaming did more good for me than any counselling ever did. This is not to say that counselling is not good–it also helped me–but I needed to release years of agony that had remained trapped, agony that sparked this terror of relationship.
I didn’t tell Tim that this was happening. I had no idea how to tell him. And, honestly, I didn’t fully understand what caused it. I just knew that I felt ‘hell’ inside of me, and that this hell had to come out. This ‘routine’ was the only way I knew to release it.
And so went the rise and fall of being in love with a man I wanted to be able to give my heart to. He was kind and gentle, and I didn’t doubt that, when the time was right, and if he asked, that I would say, ‘Yes’. But the process was an endurance test.
The one fear, that I could identify easily, was that he would eventually see how broken I really was, and leave me. If that was going to happen, I wanted it to happen sooner than later. That decision made, I decided to help him end it, and in the process, end my torment…
© Trudy Metzger
Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series
First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series
I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.
We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not. The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.
When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.
Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are. I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible. In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.
However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?
Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.
I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.
“But that’s illegal,” I said.
He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”
Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.
Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.
My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”
I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”
In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.
The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”
Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.
When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety. Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.
Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.
The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.
© Trudy Metzger 2012