Cut Off: On Eliminating Toxicity
In Exile Part I I revisited the sense of alienation I face as one who does not share the religious views which are widely held by members of my ethnic group. I’m able to deal with that alienation because I value a life of authenticity. But beyond that I stay away from the Christianity of my youth because I know I cannot have my cake and eat it too. I cannot seek and expect to be a liberated Black American woman within the confines of any Abrahamic faith. I’m aware that such a proclamation will be viewed as harsh, extreme and unfair by many. As I mature I find that I’m less concerned with such things. My goal is to get free or die trying. The mentality that I was raised with would do just the opposite.
Like many Black American Southern women, my beloved late Grandma loved the Lord and taught me to abide by his teachings. One of the chief lessons was that of unconditional love and forgiveness. That lesson was so deeply ingrained in me that even after I left the faith it continued to govern my interactions with people. When I look back at how often I forgave the unforgivable and how often I gave people multiple opportunities to mistreat me I shake my head at my own folly. ‘Forgive those who trespass against you’. ‘Love thine enemy’. Time after time I did just that-even though the deepest, most authentic part of my being did not want to. I pushed what came naturally down, more concerned with living up to the principles Grandma preached than protecting myself. When I crossed over into my thirties, however, I began the process of reevaluating everything I was taught. And I realized how much my willingness to forgive and deny my anger had harmed me as a woman. In forgiving others I allowed poisonous friendships and relationships to flourish in my life. I could not continue on that path. I chose another: that of no tolerance. All who sought to maintain a presence in my life would have to honor and respect me, PERIOD.
When I set on my new path I had no idea how quickly my resolve would be tested. Within months a friendship that I had since I was ten years old would end. She was one of my closest friends and there are few people who know me as well as she did. But our decades long friendship was marked by an unhealthy dynamic in which she bullied and manipulated me. We got along for years but only because I rarely challenged her. As soon as I began to do so she flipped out. I did not seek a confrontation, and I did my best to remain civil. It wasn’t enough. She kept on, seeking to hurt with her words and ratchet up the tension. When she crossed the line from sharing her feelings to degrading me I cried, because I knew what I had to do next.
The girl who had been like a sister was now a woman who made herself an enemy. I cut her off completely. I have not spoken to her in over three years and have no intention of doing so again. Having to end that friendship cut deeply, but continuing to deal with someone who showed so clearly that they did not truly respect me at all was a no-go.In letting her slights and bullying pass for all those years I taught her that such behavior was permissible. In letting her disrespect me I showed her that I truly did not respect myself. And though it hurt emotionally I gained a valuable lesson from that experience. Toxic relationships and people could not have a place in my life-no matter who the person was or how long I’d known them.
I refused to exist as the always forgiving, tongue-biting girl that Grandma wanted. I became the woman who realized that the four D words have no place in her existence.
I will not be disrespected.
I will not be devalued.
I will not be degraded.
I will not be deceived.
Now I’ve still encountered individuals who attempt to subject me to the four D words. The difference now is that people like that are swiftly exiled from my presence. Hurtful, toxic people cannot be tolerated in ones’ life; the only way to deal with such relationships is to end them. As that ratchet song says it ain’t nothin’ to cut them off.