Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When the Painful Demand for Justice Strangles You

People do terrible things to each other.  People can be very destructive, and that destructiveness fuels behavior that is abusive, seductive, deceptive, betraying, confusing, and cruel.  The most painful part of it all is that very seldom does the person truly see the depths of the pain or loss they have caused you.  There is often minimization, denial, mocking, blame-shifting, or simple indifference as they move on, leaving you in a heap.  They may play the victim.  They may focus on exaggerating your flaws or offenses as a justification for doing what they have done and walking away.  They may even deny your love.  After all, if you utterly hate them they can feel ok with doing hateful things to you and then walking away.

The bottom line is that very seldom is there a sense of justice.  Vindication, validation of pain and wrongs, making amends, admission, absolution, reconciliation -these things are rare.  And because of that, the demand for some kind of justice, for some kind of vindication, or even for the offender to admit to reality and return to you, can burn painfully within.

But when you refuse to let go of what they have done to you, when you refuse to let go of your painful demand for justice, there are consequences... painful and difficult consequences...

Every seeming success and stroke of happiness they encounter becomes unrealistically magnified and even more painful.  Suddenly, it feels like they are taking over the world and you are being punished.

Every minimization of the pain and loss the other person caused you, by the offender or by someone else, fuels a bitter anger that thrusts the dagger into your own gut.

Every person who loves them, supports them, takes their side of things, or celebrates their good qualities (real or feigned) becomes another arrow in the quiver of arrows you shoot into your own heart, another shot of poison onto the flower of your future, another bar in your own prison of self-punishment and aloneness.

And that justice never comes -at least not by this route.  No validation, no vindication, no admission, no absolution and reconciliation, no restoration, no peace to it.  The painful truth is that we have zero control over obtaining any of these things, and the more we demand to have that kind of control the more we will suffer.  Not them.  Just us.  They are not imprisoned until the time when we feel justice is served -we are, and that thirst for justice will keep us in prison for a very, very, very long time.  We become our own captor.

In the 80's movie, Throw Momma From the Train, Billy Crystal plays a struggling writer and bitter ex-husband to a woman who not only cheated on him but stole his book and published it under her own name.  Every time he saw her on television, celebrating her success, receiving accolades and praise for "her" work in the best-selling book, Larry would have a melt-down.  His bitterness was destroying him and his personal life.  It was like an infection, rotting away at his role as a teacher for an adult writing class and poisoning any potential relationship with another woman.

Although in his mind he was strangling this person who very clearly betrayed him and was unjustly enjoying the fruit of his labor, he was the only one being strangled.  He was strangling himself.  He was choking his own life.  His refusal to let go of the past, to let go of his claim for justice, was like a mill-stone around his neck.  He was drowning.  His ex was not suffering.  She was living the life, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Let go of the past.  It doesn't mean that what they did was ok.  It doesn't mean that the denial or minimization of it is right.  It means you accept that you cannot control that.  It means that you are ready to let go of your anger, your pain, and let it fall into the past.  It means you are ready to be free, yourself.

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