i have been accused of being mean and bullying by two different women lately. ironically they are both from the same faith background that i came from. one no longer attends that kind of church, but is still firmly rooted in it's theology, and the other, ironically has just been going for the past couple of years. i say ironic because it's not a common belief system and near non-existent in our area - god plopping her down into my circle makes me shake my head and wonder what he's up to. the other person is my sister.
i challenged my sister on health care, she's praying for the supreme court to kill the aca - she knows how social medicine has been a huge blessing in our life, how can she forget that even though our father had the best insurance money can buy that our inheritance was stolen from us because our father had to pay for my mothers medical bills when she died - it left him near bankrupt, medicare is saving him from ending up on welfare and she even has her own children in state sponsored medical care. i challenged her hypocrisy - and she told me i was mean. she made it this strange political war between conservative good and liberal evil. she was on the right side of things, and i obviously had lost my way.
this other woman burned through a whole afternoon blathering on in lingo that i haven't been exposed to in decades - it made me itch and squirm inside. she has started to come to our recovery group and was asking for my help. the few times i was able to get a word in edgewise i challenged some of her inconsistencies in the things she was saying. i pointed out areas that might not be helping her in her hope for recovery and healing.
both painted me as the bad guy, the mean bully. and it's totally possible that i am and can be - but while i usually take this stuff, apologize and move on i decided that this time i was going to sit with this and untangle it. some of the things that i realized were really interesting. fundamentalists are known for their black and white thinking, so are alcoholics. the irony is not lost on me... it was so important for my sister to reduce us to opposing teams - that way she could cheer for hers and hope mine lost. it was empowering to realize this and help her understand that this had nothing to do with politics for me - it had to do with her, and my niece and nephews quality of life. pointing out to her that we are not on teams, and this is not a game helped me smash that false dichotomy she had constructed. i think it helped her to crack the door just a tiny bit.
i also was able to tell them both that their discomfort could just be that - their discomfort, laying it all at my feet wasn't healthy - maybe there actually was something that i was pointing out that really needed to see the light of day, and to blame me because i had aimed light at it might be easy, but in the long run counterproductive.
and the final thing that i was able to untangle was to explain to my new friend, that i can be critical of a system and not be critical of her - if she was tying herself to that system that was her choice, not mine. i explained to both of them that i would sit with the mean/bully accusations, and i apologized if i was mean, but know that i wasn't mean-spirited - i realized how important it was for me to stand up for myself instead of just folding or ignoring and placing some big boundaries between this newcomer and myself. she's got a whole load of crazy she's looking to lay at someone's feet - been there, done that, and not buying another ticket thank you very much. i like my technicolor world, filled with nuance and lovely shades of grey.