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Posted by dshalabi in 24. Dec, 2012, under society, people, and life in Amman
In our people centered Ammanite society, where we place a high premium on personal relationships, we tend to do everything in our power to ignore the bad and highlight the good in everyone we deal with. Whether we are dealing with a friend , family member, colleague, or even a spouse, we tend to give this person allowances to emotionally and even abusively “misbehave”. After all, it is not uncommon to have that one relative who we ignore, even though we know that they are hurtful. We usually do that not out of stupidity but rather out of the need to keep the peace. Similarly, we all have that one less intelligent friend, who we refuse to call ignorant in fear of hurting their feelings, and not to mention the acquaintance who lies and who we smile at because we can’t risk calling him/her a liar. We also all have come across the person with an awful temper, but whom we digest because we know he/she has a kind heart.
But, despite our abilities to tolerate, I do wonder why we go through the trouble? Are we all seriously so scared of ending up friendless, family-less, or lonely, that we choose to tolerate and understand the other without limits? On the one hand, tolerance is a good thing, it just means that people will also tolerate us when we boarder on the insane, irrational, and even bizarre, and that is if all the people we tolerate, tolerate us in return. On the downside it also keeps friendships that should have died, and relatives that should have walked out of our lives around much longer than needed.
So, is there a limit to our tolerance level? Do we ever get to the point where we have tolerated a little too many shortcoming in the people we know? And, if we are all walking around tolerating the world, where is the point where we are no longer merely tolerating someone’s shortcomings but rather engaging in an abusive or even toxic interaction? Where do we draw the line between tolerance and emotional abuse?
Of course we can all simply say that an interaction is abusive when it is no longer making us feel good about ourselves, because in the least selfish of terms, we would expect our acquaintances, family, and friends to tell us when we are being total idiots, but we would also want them to say something good to us when we are doing something right too. So, yes, we want to feel good about ourselves through the emotional mirrors others hold up for us, and that is only because we expect to make others feel good about themselves in return. So, do we draw trhe line at that point where the person we are dealing with has absolutely nothing good to say about us?
Within these definitions, I ask, is it really ok for our friends to call us when they are down, only to use their emotional state as an excuse to lose their temper at us, and insult us, or worse hurt us with their words?
It is a moral dilemma when you think about it, because if you are put in such a situation, you will find that on the one hand you want to be the supportive understanding friend but on the other hand you are really hurt by what the friend says to you in their moments of anger, especially if that friend shouted at you for “Not understanding them”, “Not being there for them”, “Not caring”, or worse “Being too shallow and too pathetic for their problem”.
So, what do you do in this situation? Would you still take on the role of the good friend and digest the insults, or would you walk away saying “ Listen I don’t know how to help you, and if there is anything I can do let me know”?
I have once walked away but I felt awful 30 minutes later. But, then again in another situation option one made me feel worse because the insults were getting too personal so that they attacked my beliefs, my intelligence, and my understanding of things. I learned the hard way that being in such a situation only promises a lose/lose outcome but then again which is the bigger loss, losing a friend because you walked away or losing yourself and self esteem in the insults, the shouting, and the hurt?
What happens when we let a person say terrible things to us, apologize, and then say more terrible things, and apologize yet again, are we not equally responsible for this damaging pattern we have built for the friendship, family member, or colleague?
It is kind of like allowing a boss to insult you once, twice, and three times, and that had happened to me many years ago where it was only on the fourth time that I told the boss “Listen keep your inferiority complex at home, and don’t shout at me-DON”T SHOUT AT ME” .That day yes I was internally satisfied by shutting the boss up, but this story has no heroic outcome on the career level . In fact I also got a warning because the boss was shocked at the response. She was shocked because I was the first employee ever to tell her that. However, had I done that the first time she dared to raise her voice, there wouldn’t have been a second, third, or fourth time, she would have gotten the point and she wouldn’t have found my comment insulting.
Relationships of any kind, friendship, family, work, or romance, turn abusive and toxic when we let them. When we let the other person cut us inside, and especially when it is done more than once, even walking away doesn’t feel great.
I am thinking about this issue because just this morning I lost a good friend of mine, because of the insults. We ended our friendship because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I said things that were terrible in response to even more terrible things that were said to me. The awful sms war ended with me asking my friend never to talk to me again and my friend blocking me off facebook. Of course, in our modern digital age the ultimate sign of war is the block button, the block button is the ultimate sign of victory for the abuser, as it gives him/her the chance to send you a hateful message you can’t even reply to, a message that sits in your inbox as a souvenir of the day the emotional war got out of hand.
The block, the finality of it, my last sms meant that I was freed from weeks of continued insults. But, if you are wondering if it feels good or not, I can tell you it doesn’t feel heroic, it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel great about it even though I requested it nor do I feel great about myself even.
The experience left me with many questions . It left me wondering, about those people who jump to point out what is bad in us, and if they were really ever our friends?
And when they block us after a fight so easily and with a click of button, were we ever friends to begin with? Isn’t a friendship broken a friendship that never started? Or, are our egos forcing us to engage in a who had the last word contest? Was I allowing the tolerance to boarder on the toxic? Shouldn’t I have walked away 3 weeks ago when my friend showered me with insults and I accepted the apology?
Or, should I have been more understanding, maybe even listened more than talked. If I did, then the situations wouldn’t get to the points of no return.
So once again I ask where do we draw the line between being more tolerant and engaging in a repetitive scenario of emotional abuse. Couldn’t we stop the insults and shut our mouths, stop our fingers from typing, and just let the other person be, a few seconds longer?
Where do you draw the line?
Where should we draw the line?

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