Who Makes You Feel Horrible?

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.

Shannon has confessed to me that someone has said something that made her feel horrible. In fact, every time she’s around this person, she feels horrible. Constant guilt trips, berating, the attempts to rewrite history into something she knows it’s not. All this from someone who wasn’t even present during that history.

Flying By Night novelI’ve always tried to protect my kids so they would know that they were valued and loved, and I’ve tried not to throw out the random guilt trip or manipulation. Sure, I sometimes lose it when I feel they’re taking advantage but in general, they’re great kids—very smart, loving, and giving.

I’ve tried to do for them what wasn’t done for me—and that is to make them feel wanted and loved and valued for who and what they are and not for what I would want them to be or what anyone else would want them to be. Accepted, loved unconditionally.

So it makes me sad that interaction with one particular person would make her feel so horrible.

My own history is a bit different. I can think of more than one person to make me feel horrible at any point in my life, with the guilt trips, constant putdowns, little remarks, hidden daggers. I’ve actually had a lot of that in my life and maybe that’s why I’ve been so intent on protecting my daughters from it. Even from my youngest years, I remember the occasional relative—an aunt or uncle—who would say intentionally cruel things and laugh at my reaction.

Sometimes intentional. Other times, maybe not.

Maybe simply a constant guilt trip as an unconscious way of life for them. Looking back, I can theorize their own anger, their own grief, their own insecurities…all projected at me.

But I really don’t know what was going on in their heads. I only know what was going on in my own head, in my own heart. And that I felt horrible.

Is there ever any reason for an anger-filled 35-year-old man to pull a 7-year-old girl aside at her beloved grandmother’s funeral, where she’s trying to be brave and not cry so she won’t be any trouble to her grieving mommy, and tell her there’s something wrong with her because she’s not crying and that maybe it’s her fault her grandmother is dead because the little girl didn’t love her enough to cry for her now?

Is there ever a need for a woman to tell her 10-year-old niece that it’s all her fault her baby cousin was severely injured and might die, simply because all the other kids had been herded into a back bedroom and if she, the good kid, had been there instead of staying far away from one of the dirty-mouthed boys, then she could kept the toddler from falling off the bed?

Is there ever an excuse for a Sunday School teacher to tell a 12-year-old that smart girls will burn in hell for knowing they’re smart and that they need to pretend to be stupid or no one will like them?

Is there ever a reason for someone you love to put you down for the things you really like, as if your personal tastes are somehow either criminal or perverted?

Is there any reason for someone you love to find your most personal and most utterly permanent flaw and sneer about it in what should be an otherwise lovely moment between two people?

In my experience, you never feel better about yourself when you’re around someone who applies the constant guilt trips and putdowns. You only feel worse, to the point of no longer wanting to be anywhere in their presence. It just never gets any better.

But for several years now, I’ve lived by the new code of severing relationships with people if I feel bad about myself every time I’m around them. Life is too short for that, and there’s no need for it, and I don’t it anymore.