She was a smart, articulate woman, but her husband called her pathetic, lazy, and irrational. After living with him for so many years, she could only see herself through his eyes. And filled with self-doubt and shame, she hated what she saw.
He was a circus mirror, reflecting who she was through a twisted, distorted lens. It lied. To see herself truthfully, she would need to stop looking at herself in his mirror.
She eventually left the marriage, but his voice was an ear-worm in her head, telling her how to see herself. Still successfully defining her through his sick perspective.
She told me that whenever anyone gives her feedback, including her husband, she considers it. That’s a good thing, right? I mean, we SHOULD be humble and teachable and open to feedback because others can help us gain wisdom and insight we might not otherwise get.
The Story of the Six-Year-Old-Bully
I asked her to pretend she was a school teacher having lunch in the break room with some of her colleagues. One of them offers her some advice about a student. Would she consider that advice? Of course she would. That’s valuable information coming from a respected, experienced source.
What if, when her lunch was over, she walked back to her classroom and was confronted by an ornery six-year-old who said, “Hey! You’re a lazy teacher! You’re stupid, and you don’t know what you’re doing! Get a different job!”
Would she take that advice seriously? Probably not. The source is an immature child with no life experience. His advice isn’t rooted in reality.
Abusers = Six-Year-Old Bullies
Abusive people may be smart, but they have low EQ’s (emotional intelligence quotient). Their development has been arrested somewhere back in childhood, and they are unable to see life through the lens of reality.
The world revolves around their perspective, and they simply can’t take in the perspectives and experiences of others. This should pose a serious problem for them. They should experience the social consequences of their refusal to get help and grow in self-awareness and empathy.
But they often don’t. Especially in religious circles. Because so many people think it is “mean” to impose social boundaries on these little bullies, they are enabled to continue to remain as immature children and never realize their full potential as adults with healthy, respectful, loving relationships.
So what’s really “mean?” Telling them the truth, holding them accountable for their behavior, and refusing to allow them to get away with lying, justifying, minimizing, blame shifting, and denying? Or is it meaner to let them continue living self-destructive, abusive lives by enabling them with our “nicey-nicey-sugar-spicey?”
See, an adult male doesn’t act that way. Little bully boys do. So if your man is acting like a little bully boy, don’t take his insults seriously.
By the way, don’t call your little bully boy a “little bully boy.” You’ll just disrespect yourself. (Ask me how I know.) Tit for tat is normal on a Kindergarten playground, but it’s “ew” in an interchange between two grown-ups. Let him act like a six-year-old, and you act like the adult. But you don’t need to take his feedback seriously.
Also, don’t send your bully a link to this. Don’t send your bully church leaders a link. They aren’t interested in learning anything. They already know everything, and you don’t have the right body parts.
You just tuck this little story in the back of your mind, and the next time someone treats you to a serving of accusations with a side of fresh lies, you hold your head up, dismiss the ridiculousness, and walk away.
Because you are an adult.