After receiving some comments from the original post I can see that I was completely unclear about what I was trying to say. So here I am again, and I will clarify.
Although I said that it is important to surround yourself with people that think like you and support you, I did not explain the context or situation. As it turns out, that is the critical part of what I was trying to write about. That is what I will explain today.
There are times in some people’s lives when things go awry. For instance: a marriage begins to fall apart and the husband starts beating the wife; one spouse starts cheating on the other; or a family moves to a new neighborhood and the teen (who was bullied and ostracized in his previous town) falls in with a bad crowd and starts abusing drugs; a person hangs out with a party crowd and ends up becoming an alcoholic; a person is a long-standing member of a religion but has relocated and is lonely—finds “friends” in the new town that bully her for being religious—in order to fit in she dumps her religion and subsequently falls into a depression. A person who is continually forgiving, kind, and open to people is regularly emotionally abused by people she loves, trusts, and is exposed to on a regular basis. Okay these are all actual cases that occurred in the lives of people I know and love.
Each of these victims ended up seeking help for their issues. Each of them found healing–and as it so happened, between the medical world, counseling, and help from various religious denominations, they all got stronger, healthier and happier. When I said surround yourself with people like you, I was specifically speaking about these people. I was saying that now that they were indeed healthier, stronger, and happier, it was like they had climbed out of that pit of grasping dangerous monsters and were now standing relatively out of reach on a chair. In their giving, forgiving mindset, since they are now happier, they may think they can ‘reform’ these abusers. But these abusers do not believe they have done anything wrong. If anything, they blame the victim. Thus, if from their position of being at least partially healed, these victims reach down to pull the abuser or drinkers or drug users out of the abyss, these folks in the pit will try to pull the person down. The bullies for instance, would much rather continue to bully the former victim.
Thus, for instance, it would be unwise for the recovering alcoholic to hang out with his/her former party crowd that is still getting smashed every weekend. AA even warns about that. It would be unwise for a happily married couple to move into a neighborhood comprised almost entirely of couples that are into wife-swapping or even a neighborhood where the majority are in the process of getting divorced. I say that because it is challenging enough to hold things together in life in the best of situations. I would assume that most people, for instance, would not want to move their family with their kids into a crack house. That is the kind of avoidance I was referring to.
So when I said surround yourself with people with values like yours it is THOSE values I was referring to. Values that can make you feel abused or bullied. I was saying even after you recover from situations like those above, it is essential to be careful and protect yourself. For instance, we don’t think it is to re-expose kids to their sexual abusers. We are shocked if a beaten woman won’t leave her abuser.
I contend that in order to remain or become a giving and loving person, one needs to be surrounded by others that give the person love, safety, and encouragement to do the right thing. It is difficult enough to change and stop allowing someone to beat you, or stop doing drugs, or stop drinking, or stop being a doormat to emotional abuse. That is why, for instance, with the 12step program, you are assigned a sponsor–and you are expected to attend frequent regular meetings. Doing that gives you an essential support system. It helps you heal, get and stay strong.
I was not saying that it is best, for instance, for me to live in a neighborhood of all Catholic Americans of Irish-Norwegian descent. None of you know me, but I am the furthest thing from a bigot as you could meet. For example, a dear friend of mind had been my friend for 10 years and we were talking one day. I asked him if he was part Irish like me—as it was almost St Patrick’s Day. He looked at me like I was nuts. He said “I’m Japanese”. I said “you are? I didn’t know that”. He said “haven’t you ever noticed my eyes?” I said “Yes—they are brown and loving. but what does that have to do with it?” He laughed and said “did you ever notice they are slanted?” I hadn’t. Obviously, even if I had–it wouldn’t have mattered. I have petitioned and worked tirelessly from the time i was a 6th grader to try to stop inequality, bigotry, cruelty and bullying.
My extended family on both sides is like the United Nations. My great-grandmother started a Settlement House to help immigrants and prevent them from despair and poverty. So I wasn’t saying that one should avoid people that are different from you. I was saying that in order to cope in this world you must keep from being pulled off the oasis you reached.
I know full well, however, from multiple experiences that people who bully and belittle are like quicksand.It is easy to fall into their trap if you aren’t careful. It can be dangerous to try to change them. Only they can change themselves. That is why, in order to remain strong, it is important to surround yourself with people that demonstrate their love for you with behaviors that are life-affirming.