Last time I mentioned that I would post a guest blog about how it feels to be “thrown away.” This was actually written at the end of 2008. Next time I’ll post what happened in these relationships, and what our friend learned from it all.
Someone—actually, two people now—about whom I genuinely care has apparently decided to write me off entirely and close their world to me because of an argument we got into over a month ago. An argument in which neither one of us was entirely right or wrong. And the sad thing is that even when we were at our most heated, I had taken my time to very carefully choose my words, calling them out not through insults, but instead attacking the double standards and hypocritical views which they portray on a daily basis. Even in the midst of this letter I went out of my way to say that while I knew my words would hurt my friend, my intent was to illustrate the truth in love, and that I would rather cause pain with honesty than encourage delusion. I later wrote a follow-up email in which I apologized explicitly for my own faults in the prior argument, which I detailed to emphasize that I knew and admitted to exactly how I was wrong.
Perhaps worse yet is the case of the other friend I mentioned, to whom I let slip a light-heated and superficial sarcastic quip to which they took immediate and serious offense. Sadly, this person (much like any other who knows me at all) is fully aware of my barbed sense of humor…. The remark which upset her was never intended at all as an insult, and it was made at a time during which there was no disagreement between us. She simply misinterpreted my words as a harsh jab, took offense, and hasn’t spoken to me in weeks. …
So now I have two people who have seemingly gone from confidants and friends to absolutely nothing in the span of single conversations, and the silence between us haunts me every night …. I think constantly of what seems to be lost between us, and what I would say to them if I could only be assured that they would read my letter, or if we were face-to-face in conversation.
I am burdened with a sense of guilt that I do not believe I truly deserve, and frustrated by their unwillingness to forgive. The saddest part is that the first friend has yet to admit any wrongdoing or harshness in the conversation over which they abandoned me, and has made no attempt to acknowledge my apology.
The second friend is simply making a conscious (and uninformed) decision to remain angry with me; a decision that she herself knew when she made it might very well be incorrect. I’ve written her twice to no avail. This stings me deeply, because what she’s done is essentially judge me falsely as a person—which is exactly what she claims I’d done to her—then tell me that I’m not allowed to defend myself, even if I could otherwise demonstrate that she’s got it wrong.
I want everyone who reads this to understand that no matter what your dispute is, particularly if it is with someone you once called a friend, family member or lover, there is one thing you must never do to punish them. And that is to cut them off entirely and give them the “silent treatment.”
It doesn’t matter if they’ve intentionally harmed you, or if you might be flying off the handle over a misunderstanding: the moment you deny them the opportunity to either repent or explain themselves, you take the burden of guilt upon your own shoulders. For in denying them the chance to make things right, you constrain yourself with bitterness. You “prove” how wrong they are by creating a mental image of their crime and forcing them forever to remain within it, regardless of how incongruent that scenario may be with reality. You define the terms of their guilt, and you hang them accordingly. Here in America we used to call that sort of thing a “witch hunt.”
If you are angry with a person and feel they’ve wronged you and all you offer them is abrasive silence, then your sin will inevitably transplant theirs in seriousness. If they are genuinely repentant, then all you serve to do is hurt a friend who desperately wishes to fill the void; and if they feel no remorse, whether for ignorance or spite, you have allowed them to influence and weaken you to such a degree that they have turned you into themselves. Either way, you lose, but in the case of the former, everyone loses even more.
Solomon once wrote that “better is open rebuke than unspoken love.” (Proverbs 27:5) If this is true, then since love is greater than contempt it logically follows that better is open rebuke than unspoken resentment.
I’m sick of feeling helpless to repair relationships that shouldn’t be damaged in the first place. Sick of feeling lonely where there was once warm-hearted conversation. Sick of being denied the truth of my own repentance and apologies. I’m sick of praying for these people without ever knowing if they’re going to accept me again, and wanting to reach out only to feel my hand fall limp in dead space. I feel, in an odd sense, like a piece of my personhood and value as an individual has been compromised. … And that’s just flat-out wrong.