Sometimes people insist they want nothing to do with other people, citing something that person has done – often it is something that happened a long time ago. That kind of response is usually accompanied by a line like “Until she gets her act straightened out . . . ” or “Until he apologizes . . . ” etc.
We all do stupid stuff when we were kids. We have all done things in our lives that we are not particularly proud of and often, with time and distance, we see how we could have/should have done things differently. It is not always possible or practical to ring up people or send announcements about how we have grown or changed. You can be pretty sure if more than a year has passed that person is most likely in a completely different head space, just like you are. Life is movement. Some of us jump in and swim with the flow and others are taken prisoner and carried along with the rest of the debris, whether they want to kick and scream, sleep on a bit of drift wood, or just hang on for dear life.
Families are terrible for painting its members with one single colour. You will have 40 year olds still wanting to ground a sibling for things they did when they were all in their teens. When they talk about or deal with a sibling they are telling people about the 15 year old that used to sneak out a night and cause their parents grief, not the remarkable responsible adult who holds a good job and whose friends thank God for their presence in their life every night before they go to bed. We see the person we want to see. We need people to be villains in our life. We need really bad examples to hold up to others to justify our own dysfunction and failings . . . and often our cruel actions or inaction. Sometimes the behaviour we are trying to deflect attention from (ours) is far worse than anything we are accusing someone else of.
If someone starts telling me why someone is a horrible person and they are talking about things done 5 – 10 – 20 years ago . . . I pretty much know the quality of the person in front of me who is doing the talking.
Suspend the judgment. Take people where they are at – even if they are not quite where you are comfortable. Either let them be – if the relationship is truly toxic for you – or interact with them on your level. Don’t approach the irresponsible person with lectures and limits, insist on their being responsible, give them safe opportunities to be responsible and love them into the person you know they can be. Just be sure it is THEIR vision and not yours, that you are encouraging.
Choices are important for people. One of my kids insisted on dressing themselves for school and some of the “combinations” were highly inappropriate. I had to find a way to allow her that independence and creativity, while still making sure she met the requirements and expectations of the school. So I narrowed her choices to appropriate clothes. Sometimes it could be, “. . . pants or a dress?” Sometimes it had to be, “. . . the blue pants or the pink ones, your choice.?” People need to own their lives, to feel empowered to make choices, to change. They need space, and love, and suspended judgment to grow.
Feeling that condemnation from your family, or a community, makes it almost impossible to do the things that you need to. Someone who lied and stole when they were 17 and who is now 35 and has not lied or stolen for years is not “the town thief” anymore. If people insist on calling someone names, or treating them like they have never stopped what they did, or moved on . . . it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. What is the point? Everyone thinks I am a drunk anyway.
I try very hard to accept people as they are, where they are. If I find myself stepping back I check to make sure it is not me holding up some kind of unrealistic expectation about who they are supposed to be or what they are supposed to be doing. There are consequences that are important to enforce in some situations, but most often, when a friend “hurts me” it is really nothing they have done, but rather something I have done to myself because I was loving them with conditions that I put on their behaviour. Most people do not ask to be put on a pedestal. I have done than on my own and then am disappointed with them when they do not live up to what I think they should be.
Loving people, without condition, has opened up this whole new world for me where I have seen the amazing journeys people have made or are making and I have learned so very much. I cannot imagine my life without some of those people and I am grateful for those that have allowed me to grow and learn and become a better person and not held my past mistakes over my head as if they define who I am.