Entitlement is one of the more annoying things I deal with every day: someone thinking they should receive special treatment because of _____ (fill in the blank). It might be that they have more money in the bank, or it could be that they have been a customer for 30 years, but the details don’t matter; what matters is that I’m supposed to bend the rules for someone because they’re special.
In interpersonal communication there is no way to bend rules; you get out what you put in.
If you respond with maturity to my beliefs and choose to have an adult conversation about our differences, you earn the right to a fair response from me. If my decisions offend you, and you, coming from a place of love and concern, express how my choices make you feel, you earn the right to an open reading by me – and a response that respects your feelings and attempts to mend any hurt you feel. If you disagree with my conclusions and think my logic is flawed and send me an argument that exposes my error, you earn the right to more respect from me and a clarifying response in return.
If, however, my comments and lifestyle offend you and you respond with judgement, or with short statements implying vague condescension, or respond to what you think I’m saying with no regard for the actual words I said, or interpret my decision as an attack against you and your own choices or your own ability and sent guilt-ridden messages to make me feel bad for what I’ve done, you’ve given up your right to a mutually open and loving relationship with me.
You may have given birth to me, spent thousands of dollars on me for food, my very existence in this world could be a direct result of you, but that doesn’t insulate you from the consequences of your words. I have made a choice, as an adult, and it wasn’t an easy one. I didn’t do it frivolously, so that I could live in sin, or so I could hurt you or gain some satisfaction from rebelling. And while I do continually choose to be open about who I am, your reactions to my life have consequences. (Luckily, my mom has been fantastic and always tried to understand, and we’ve never had that conversation.)
When I left the LDS church many people were hurt. I understand that, because I felt the same emotions when my friends or loved ones had left before me. It hurts, and that emotion is real. You feel betrayed, feel like I’m discounting the experiences we had together, throwing away the future you were sure would happen, and an ally was lost and replaced with a critic. I break commandments you feel are essential and sacred, so I get the emotions you feel, and am completely open talking about them. The result is good for both of us, misconceptions are taken away, feelings shared, and we will both come closer in the end.
There is a real difference between that kind of response and one of attacking, criticizing, guilting, belittling, name-calling, and other forms of verbal abuse. From strangers or acquaintances I can laugh it off, show it to my friends and make light of it, but when it comes from a family member – someone I really would like to have a close relationship with – there is real damage being done, real walls being built, and real consequences in the future.
Look – my choices are what they are and they’re not going to change. Accept it, and try to understand me. Ask your questions if you’d like to understand, share your thoughts if you’d like to be understood, but don’t walk under the delusion that spiteful comments will alter my choice; they only damage your chances of being heard in the future. Accept the reality of the changes I’ve made and adapt so we can continue with a loving relationship, or choose to give that relationship up. Our past gives you an advantage over everyone else – I will give you the benefit of the doubt – but my patience and understanding only goes so far.
So my ears are slowly numbing to you. It’s your fault, and yours alone. I’m still here, open but numb, looking forward to the day when you’ll prove we can be close again. The damage will have been done, and I won’t trust you easily.
(This post balances my previous post about being open.)