For the last ten years I have grown to be a person with edges and that has meant that I’ve lost relationships. I’ve found some values in my core that many find difficult to live with, even though sometimes and with good reason I can apply these principles sparingly and flexibly. Some relationship dissolutions have been mutual (the one between my adoptive father and I). Some have not (the one between my adoptive mother and I). Others have faded without the necessity of a harsh cut which–as I fear conflict–is an option I tend to favour. There is no need to hurt people simply because their values, built through their own choices of survival mechanism, differ from mine.
But when people are dear to me, I feel they deserve more than ghosting. They deserve at least an attempt to explain why our relationship will be changing. The choice is not binary of course, we could simply be less in each other’s lives. I could reduce contact, fobbing them off with excuses until I achieved my desired effect. But that reduces their power of consent. If they knew how I truly felt about their values and/or consequent actions, then they may choose to cut contact altogether. And I choose to give them the choice to remodel our relationship together. Sometimes it has led to us re-evaluating our friendship and choosing to do certain activities together whilst others are stopped. That’s also cool….unless.
When adults exhibit behaviour which unacceptably crosses my boundaries, including those boundaries I hold around my personal integrity, my love for them has nothing to do with whether I want them in my life or not. But now it’s not just about me, it’s also about my children. I want to have integrity for myself of course but it’s doubly important to me that I also model integrity for them.
So how do I model integrity in situations where I have to deal with people who unconsciously or consciously hold values which go against my integrity? And when their children play with my children? What then? Part and parcel of our lives is social integration, without it we cannot survive. For my stage of consciousness, I am at an impasse. I question my own integrity. I question when I would sacrifice it and for what reasons. Because in this world you must make choices in order to be the type of person you believe you are, or at least want to grow into. Among those choices, is the choice of people you surround yourself with and for a parent, your decisions necessarily impact your children and their own friendships.
My first course of action, where those values are unconscious, might be to attempt to bring these values to consciousness. I have tried. But unused to negotiation due to my fear of conflict I am clumsy in my manner. On the offensive, often. Less nuanced, especially around the Trump fiasco. My attempts have been naturally met with defensiveness and I have achieved very little apart from polarization. These things takes practice, and it is nothing I have practised having been a muted good girl for much of my childhood, operating in fear, compromising my integrity until nothing was left but the shell of a woman who existed only to serve other peoples’ needs. My formative trauma means that the birth of my integrity has been violent and it has left lasting and unnecessary damage to those around me. For that I am sorry. But if the choice is to step into my integrity in the only way I know how, to fight it out, or remain acquiescent as I observe micro but oft-repeated offences against my personal integrity, then there is no choice for me. I do not want to live a half life. I do not want to be a shell. Because being a shell also means I enable and perpetuate the system which has beaten me down on so many occasions. And these are the battles I would leave to my children? No.
It has been suggested to me that I look for role models outside of my reality. Those who are not available to me in my personal life, but are available through the wonders of the interweb. Or those historical figures who unlike me had to endure the unspeakable and accept it in order to survive but through it all, managed to preserve an alignment with their values. The process is called compartmentalisation and begs the question does integrity require fighting every battle all the time? Or does it sometimes require endurance? And when?
Fight? Or endure? In order to examine what was really important to me, I wrote down the core values I currently hold regarding my interpersonal relationships and ranked them. It clarified what I already suspected…
Family comes above integrity. Which means that my choice at this current time and in these current circumstances is to compartmentalise some of these characteristics in my friends, to preserve the social relationships of my family. Yet my next values–clarity, integrity and congruence, also demand that I communicate my position as honestly as I can, having looked at as many angles as I can (awareness, intellect and mastery) to try and make an impact whilst doing so with pragmatism and kindness. But since kindness comes after impact, I’m not sure I can guarantee it and since my friends also have a choice as to which values to prioritise in their lives–let’s say they value adoration and acceptance over integrity–their choice may be to reduce or otherwise eradicate our relationship. That’s must be their choice.
They say ignorance is bliss. I wouldn’t go that far. But ignorance is certainly very comfortable. There was a great deal less pain in my life before I became aware of the clashing values between me and my friends. I still wish for awareness, but as I also wish for congruency and impact–I suspect as a direct consequence of my childhood–it seems inevitably to come with conflict, not only for me, but also for my family.