It’s Always Easy When You’re Sitting On The Sidelines.
Life is very complex, especially when it comes to human behaviour and emotions. It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines, to watch someone from the outside in. From this position one makes a judgement rather quickly – effortlessly preaching all of the ‘right’ solutions to the other person’s problems.
But, as we all know, when you’re the person on the inside, when you’re the one who is stuck in the mud, it really isn’t as simple as the outside person would like to think.
This week I’ve had a very good reminder to not be the arrogant bystander, who let’s face it, really is an example of our egos at their very worst. Someone very close to me, has in her words “fucked up big time”.
She was caught drink driving, with an alcohol reading of five times the legal limit. “What an idiot”, I can hear you all say, and yes, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do – she, herself, knows that better than anyone. But, there is a lot more to this story than just a ‘reckless idiot’, who has decided to drink and drive.
To give you some background: she has been with her partner for over thirty-five years. He has been emotionally abusing her in subtle ways for most of that time. In recent years, he has become an ice addict, and the emotional abuse has now turned into physical abuse.
“Just leave him” the bystanders scream. Yes, that thought crosses her mind all of the time, but, financially she feels trapped. Due to a serious and permanent hand injury she has lost her job, and is now very limited in what she can do for work. She also lacks the confidence and emotional strength to ‘just leave him’, after thirty-five years of being told you’re a worthless idiot, I’m not surprised she feels this way.
On the day in question, her partner was on another ice bender, which sends him into a a drug induced rage – he literally yells and screams at her for hours. She hid in her bedroom for most of the day, drinking alcohol to escape and numb her pain.
The neighbours called the police due to the scale of his rage. He, of course, put on his best behaviour whilst the police were there, only to resume his volatility as soon as they left.
After a full day of this abuse she decided it was time to seek refuge at a friend’s house – she needed to escape this nightmare. She called a cab, as she always does (she never drinks and drives). As she went to leave her partner questioned her as to where she was going. He began to abuse her again and kept screaming at her to take the car, and in that moment of fear and a desperate need to escape, she took the car – only to be pulled over halfway down her street. In her panic, she had forgotten to put her lights on.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that it’s ok to drink and drive, she or an innocent person could have been seriously injured, or worse… What I am saying though, is that life is not as simple as it seems from the sidelines, and those simplistic and often dogmatic solutions aren’t realistically or easily achieved in such complex situations.
Yes, she needs to leave him, but there are a lot of steps for her to take before she’s anywhere near ready to do that. She needs to work on her confidence, she needs to find a job, she needs to have enough money to set up a new life for herself, and most importantly she needs to feel supported by those closest to her in order to do all of that.
Judging her, coming down hard on her, or telling her what to do, may seem like the logical thing to do, but it’s important to remember: everyone is on their own journey. People will learn, grow, and change in their own time – if and when they are ready, and their readiness is the crucial component in any challenging situation. If a person isn’t ready, they cannot learn the lesson.
We cannot force another to take action; to think that we can, or have the right to, is more about our own imperfections than it is about theirs. All we can do in these situations is show our love and support. We must trust that our loved ones will learn, grow and evolve when the time is right for them.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.”