I don’t send my Grandma a Christmas present or even a card. I’m not mad about it either. In fact, I don’t send any of my 3 siblings anything either. I’ve decided that I’m not going to chase after people who won’t even pick up the phone to call me. I don’t owe them a Christmas present or a card simply because we share the same blood.
The last straw
About 5 years ago my family, including my Grandma, came to North Carolina to visit me. We took a road trip about 4 hours south of where I lived to see my little sister and visit the beach in Myrtle Beach, SC. Every road trip I’ve ever been on with my family has been a disaster. The combination of too many people in too little space for too long always equals disaster. This trip was no different.
We stopped at a gas station to get gas and all of us went into the convenience store to get snacks and drinks. Most of us made it back to the car about the same time, except for my older sister who had stopped to flirt with the guy behind the counter for a good 10 – 15 minutes. When you’re already on edge, this is enough to send you overboard. Now, I have to say, this wasn’t a single incident. My older sister is incredibly selfish to a narcissistic level. We spent half of the vacation waiting for her because she genuinely doesn’t care about anyone but herself. So when she took time to flirt with a guy at the expense of everyone waiting for her, no one was surprised.
Once she finally got to the car I let her have it, detailing how selfish she was and how incredibly stupid it is to flirt with a guy who lives 1,500 miles from you that you have no chance to even spend time with. My grandma spoke up, saying that it was a good thing to be friendly and nice to people. I disagreed. I stated that I hate people and don’t see the point in flirting with a guy that I would never go out with. It’s a waste of time.
My grandma told me that I would never make it in life with that kind of attitude.
That hit a nerve with me. At that point, I quickly thought about her statement and responded with disgust and anger.
“How am I not making it in life? I’m currently working at my dream job and fully supporting myself. I’m the ONLY one of my 3 siblings to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, have a full-time job and pay all of my bills on my own. How am I NOT making it in life???”
She didn’t know what to say, but still managed to prattle on about how she was right and I was a horrible person while my mom shot me a “stop talking” look from the front seat.
For me, it was the last straw. She had said many, many things like this in the past and I knew that if I continued to spend time with her she would continue to belittle me and put me down. Why would I do that to myself?
Why can’t she love me just for being me? Why can’t she accept me for who I am and love me for who I am? Why is that so difficult?
Blood is NOT thicker than water
People often say that blood is thicker than water meaning that a person’s family is more important than a person’s other relationships or friendships. We’re often encouraged to be nice to our family members regardless of how they treat us simply because they are our family. I don’t agree with this. To me, it’s giving them permission to be mean to you.
I worked for an insurance company for a while in the call center. When someone had an insurance claim they would call me and I would take down their information. I learned all about how insurance companies and the police process claims. If your car is stolen the insurance company will ask you if you regularly leave your keys in a common area where other people have access to them. If you leave them on your desk at work, on the table in a restaurant, or even on a counter in your house where other people can see them and get to them, and your car is stolen, the insurance company and the police refer to that as implied consent. You left your keys in a place where other people could get to them so you are responsible for the fact that your car got stolen. You could have done more to prevent it, but you didn’t. So it’s basically your fault and the insurance company won’t pay for you to get a new car. Instead, they’ll tell you to be more careful with your keys next time.
When I was learning this concept there was one thing that stuck out to me: you could have done more to prevent it. You teach people how to treat you. Every time you accept someone treating you poorly you imply that it’s ok. Every time you don’t speak up you tell them it’s ok. Every time you do speak up and they push back and you go quiet again you tell them it’s ok. Every time you show up to be around them or pick up the phone when they call, you imply that their treatment of you is ok.
When I applied this concept to the issue with my grandma it made a lot more sense. I can’t make her love me. I can’t make her treat me decently. I can only do 1 of 2 things: 1) accept how she treats me and therefore imply that it’s ok for her to treat me that way or 2) refuse to spend time with her and protect myself from further hurt and pain.
Be the bigger person
My mom likes to tell me to “be the bigger person” meaning that I should simply ignore the mean and awful way that my grandma treats me and take her abuse without saying anything at all. She calls it respecting your elders. I disagree. I do believe that you should respect your elders, but I don’t believe that you should accept abuse from them.
I couldn’t quite sum up how I felt about it until I was reading a new book that I just got and it all made perfect sense.
“It is true that the idea of virtuous self-sacrifice is deeply embedded in Western culture (at least insofar as the West has been influenced by Christianity, which is based on the imitation of someone who performed the ultimate act of self-sacrifice). Any claim that the Golden Rule does not mean “sacrifice yourself for others” might therefore appear dubious. But Christ’s archetypal death exists as an example of how to accept finitude, betrayal and tyranny heroically – how to walk with God despite the tragedy of self-conscious knowledge – and not as a directive to victimize ourselves in the service of others. To sacrifice ourselves to God (to the highest good, if you like) does not mean to suffer silently and willingly when some person or organization demands more from us, consistently, then is offered in return. That means we are supporting tyranny, and allowing ourselves to be treated like slaves. It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully, even if that bully is one’s self.”– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life pg 59
It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully. There is no virtue in being the bigger person. There is nothing good that comes to you from voluntarily being a slave to those who treat you poorly.
You might argue that it’s Christmas time and what would it hurt to send a card to your family members? I can see that point behind that. I actually wrestled with the idea of sending a card to one of my sisters, who I haven’t spoken to in 3 years now because of a similar issue to what I had with my grandma. But then I read that quote and I realized that there is no virtue in it, regardless of the holiday season. I quit speaking to her because she was awful to me and she refused to acknowledge how she hurt me and the rest of our family. Nothing about that has changed, so why would I send her a card?
I feel the same way about my grandma. She doesn’t call me. She doesn’t send me a card. So why would I call her or send her a card? She hasn’t made any effort to call me since my Grandpa passed away in 2011. That’s more than 10 years now.
I cannot support tyranny
I cannot and will not support tyranny in any sense of the word. It is never ok for people to be cruel and unjust to you, regardless of who they are or how they are related to you. You shouldn’t feel obligated to be the bigger person or send them a card simply because you have the unfortunate connection of sharing the same blood.
“If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”Anne Lamott