I seem to be having the same conversation with different people. They may come at it from a different world view but we end up at the same place. We talk about being lured into getting a new phone every two years even if ours is just fine. We bemoan the work ethic of the 20 somethings, who feel they need to be told daily how great they are doing yet they still leave with no notice. The ability to say and do things anonymously on the internet brings out the worst in humanity. Without longterm relationships, without accountability to others, we are losing the ability to manage conflict. This disturbing trend of disposability has led to fractured relationships. My newsfeed on Facebook reminds me often that it is my right to remove toxic people from my life. It is my duty to stand up for me, to live my life free from those who hurt me. I do agree that abusive relationships are ones that need to be broken, left, fractured. But what constitutes abuse?
As we have come out of the shadows regarding the estrangement with our daughter, sharing our pain, our heartache and also our utter disbelief, we have found many others who are in the same place. Too many. Stories of parents who dared tell the truth to their children, parents who made mistakes, parents who are human. All share the same result of being cast out of their children’s lives, grandchildren never seen. Most have tried all forms of communication: mail, email, texts, phone calls. Apologies, pleas fall on deaf ears. The children seem to stand on their right to cast us off and select shiny new people who bring bling and no history. They don’t have to worry about accountability for their role, these new people will only know their side and support how wonderful they are. “ Of course you were right to leave, how could you not with such a horrible mother?” Until that new friend no longer holds value. No worries, a new one will be there, packaged enticingly, a fresh start.
What is missing is conflict resolution, the ability to work through the hard stuff to maintain relationships with those who know us deeply. Valuing our shared histories, getting more than the medal for participating but the pin for years served, means we stick it out when life gets tough. The rewards are greater but this generation doesn’t know that. They have cut them selves off before actually achieving anything of worth. Taking a fierce moral inventory of myself, I can see, though it isn’t just this millennial generation. I am guilty as well. I have bought into the idea of removing toxicity without considering what truly is poison and what is just a bad day.
I can’t fix them all but I can start with me. I am creating a list of those who I need to forgive, those who I have disagreed with and just stopped talking to. I am called to forgive, I am called to restore. I accept that I have a right not to be hurt yet I also have a responsibility to practice conflict resolution that doesn’t look like conflict avoidance. I am reevaluating whether the hurt was great enough to sever the relationship or just take a break. Then I am going to practice the grace that I have received. I am extending some olive branches. I want our shared histories back. I don’t know if those on the other side do as well, but if I sit in silence I will never know.