“Putting up with abuse or abusive treatment is not love for the abuser. It is not love for the self. It has nothing to do with love at all. Finding out what LOVE really is went miles towards my recovery” ~ Darlene Ouimet
Long before I ever ‘emerged from broken’ I had this burning question about the obligation involved in loving my parents. I had been told/warned that it was a sin if I didn’t honor them, and I had honor and love all mixed up. I didn’t really understand what either word actually meant since I had never been taught the true meaning of those words. My real question was more about my right to ‘stand up to them’ and since I believed that standing up to them was not a loving action, that standing up to them was going against them which meant “noncompliance” I believed that love was putting up with unacceptable treatment.
Each year around Mother’s Day, I re-visit my belief system and the longings that I had in the past, the judgments that I made on myself and the roots of where they came from; In order to find out what love really is, I had to realize what it was not. I had to realize how I had been taught what love was and realize that that teaching was false and not based on truth or the true definition of love at all.
I had been told that love was the answer but I had not been taught what LOVE actually was. So I took my false belief about love and what I ‘thought’ it was, and I applied that false definition of ‘love’ to everyone in my life.
I believed that loving abusive people like my mother, until they could love themselves was equal to having a higher purpose. I believed that I was ‘the better person’ because I could take the abuse, mistreatment or disrespect and that would communicate that I could love unconditionally. I believed that accepting devaluing treatment in some way ‘proved’ my value; even if it only proved it to God.
The truth is that putting up with the abuse, disrespect and devaluing treatment only served to validate the way they treated me. It communicated my permission for them to treat me like dirt. How can that be love? Sometimes I wonder if deep down they were laughing at me. I wonder if they ever thought “What an idiot this girl is! No matter how nasty I am to her she keeps coming back for more; no matter how I treat her she ‘LOVES’ me!”
I don’t think my acceptance of abuse did anything to serve any kind of higher purpose once I entered into adulthood; I think it served to communicate that these people (like my mother) had rights that I didn’t have which is really what abuse is;
compliance to abusive treatment communicates to the abuser that they have more right and more value than the victim they are mistreating. So the compliance that I liked to think of as unconditional love, validated them. My compliance said to my mother and to eveyone else that I complied with “sure you can keep on spitting on me and I am going to love you. I can accept anything you serve up to me because I know what real love is and by MY example of love, I can teach you to love”.
But that wasn’t real love at all.
The way my mother and others treated me didn’t communicate love or acceptance of me. And my acceptance of them didn’t communicate love of them either.
Doesn’t it make sense that love, real love for self AND for the other person, would be to stand up to the nasty treatment?
Doesn’t it make sense that if you want to express love for someone, that you DON’T validate that it is okay for them to treat you or other people in a devaluing way? How is love modeled through accepting abusive behavior? Isn’t abusive behavior wrong in the first place? And if it is wrong in the first place, isn’t it wrong for everyone no matter what position the abusive person has in your life?
Doesn’t it make sense that we can only model love by acting in a loving way? I had to look at what modeling love really looked like. I realized that accepting myself with having less value than them wasn’t love at all. (And it wasn’t the truth either!) Accepting abusive treatment in no way communicates love or unconditional love. It communicates that you will accept abusive treatment.
When I was a child there was no alternative but to accept whatever was dished out to me. I had no power and I had no choice. It had to live in survival mode. I was taught by action and inaction, words and other forms of communication that showing ‘love’ was about compliance and acceptance.
But that definition of love and acceptance only applied to me and that was not how THEY showed love. They didn’t love me in the way that they insisted that I love them. They taught me that love was about obedience and about never questioning the authorities in my life which of course only served them and their desires.
My compliance and acceptance served to restore their low self-esteem and fulfilled their own ideas about what love was and what it could do. And this is why abuse is a cycle. These false teachings are passed on from generation to generation, each broken child waiting for the time when they too will be loved either by the false definition of love that they have been taught (submission and compliance to everyone; in other words to keep trying to comply or submit believing that this acceptance of abusive treatment will eventually enable to communicate love to the abusive person who will then return your love) or by someone else’s compliance and acceptance of their unacceptable treatment which is falsely believed to communicate that the victim of their mistreatment ‘loves’ them.
I am no longer a child. I have learned what right and wrong is. I have learned that love is not a one way street.
I have learned that it is wrong to go along with the teaching that the one who gets loved is the one with the most power in the relationship.
I have learned that the proper use of power is to empower and the last thing that I ever was by my mother and father and these people who taught me this false definition of love was empowerment. They taught me slavery. They taught me obedience, submission, compliance and with those teachings they slayed my choice, my power and my individuality. I was not empowered and I was not taught anything about true love.
The most important thing I have learned is the truth about my own value and worth. I have learned that I have equal value to everyone.
I have learned that I deserve the same respect that everyone else deserves and that I do not deserve to be treated as ‘less worthy than anyone else’.
I have learned that real love treats everyone the same and that the rules of love are not different for children or adult children.
I have learned that love is always about what is best.
When people do not treat me with equal value, it is best not to accept that treatment. Refusing to comply with unacceptable treatment IS loving ~ both towards myself and towards the abuser. How can it be loving to allow them to continue their abusive behavior by accepting it as acceptable?
I have learned that victim mentality (believing that reacting in acceptance will eventually pay off and cause the abuser to change) will never be part of the solution but in truth will only serve to allow abuse to continue.
And this is why learning to love myself first has enabled me to love others and be that example of love to others. This is why I see having no communication with my own mother is a loving action (to her, to myself and to my children) on my part.
This Mothers Day I do not miss the fantasy of having a loving mother. As I grow closer and closer to the truth about love, I wake up more and more in love….
Please share your thoughts, feelings, discoveries and ideas about love and what it really is when it comes to your mothers and fathers and how the thought of setting boundaries is really a loving action for all instead of a “sin” defining standing up to mistreatment as dishonoring your mother and father.