“He must have tired of being crippled, as prisoners tire of penitentiary bars, and the guilty tire of blame.”
-Maya Angelou , I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
For the guilty, confrontations often turn into a yawn and an eye roll. They’ve got the process down.
Lists of defenses pinned to the lining of their jackets, secrets stuffed into the toes of their shoes, or perhaps the clinking of ice in a glass will drowned out the lies spoken; preparation and planning surfaces when the guilty show up to perform.
Confronting someone who loves you can be the best thing to happen to your relationship. Honesty can flow. Understanding can be found. Apologies can surface. And greater connection can absolutely be the outcome of a confrontation.
Sometimes, as many know, it doesn’t always go down like that.
Sometimes, the denial of wrongdoing is strong. Sometimes, the response to expressed pain is cold. Sometimes, one is completely ghosted- abandoned to hold on to hope, alone. And sometimes, I wonder if there was a strategy involved.
Abusers are those who use what they know of you, against you.
In a confrontation situation, this could very well be how some abusers think:
“Oh, this will be easy. Denying words is effortless when my position is elevated to theirs!”
“I know that they struggle with shame, I’ll simply suggest they are overreacting and they will consider that they are.”
“This one is a communicator, all I need to do is stay silent and watch them unravel.”
“He thrives on connection, I’ll just retreat from the situation and disappear. That will teach him.”
I have witnessed the guilty shamelessly divert attention and shift blame onto their victims.
I have watched the meek pick up the offense and carry it alone, while breaking their own backs in the process.
That’s how professional abusers stay in business, by surrounding themselves with yes-men and people-pleasers, creating insulation, a protection from those uncomfortable feelings of guilt.
What we often forget, and what we must try to remember, is this: getting uncomfortable is part of human development. And those who continue to choose insulation over connection inevitably grow relationally immature and relatively irresponsible.
I have waded through far too many abusive situations in my life, so many so, that I consider myself an expert at the art of detecting bullshit.
There are keywords to listen for. There is body language to pick up on. The red-flags are there, my friends, our responsibility is to get wiser at spotting them. Not only for our own well being, but for our children, too.
The guilty often find it tiresome to be forced into considering the concerns and challenges voiced to them. Some guilty readily use their tears to negate admission. Many guilty are known to gather a crowd to disappear into. The art of organized crime can be quite immaculate.
I suppose it must become an art sometime, after all, when confrontations happen quite often, surely there would be a calculating of how it will go this time.
“Oh dear, I already used charming manipulation yesterday and gaslighting is tomorrow’s plan, so I’ll have to choose naive, pouty lips today and cross my fingers for complicity!”
Some guilty simply take it to the grave. (No matter that this requires slowly dying inside, it apparently beats transparency!) Others have learned how to bob-and-weave, growing into masters of illusion while wondering in anguish why their health is failing.
The greatest of the guilty, however, are those I call The Brave Ones.
The Brave Ones release fear. The Brave Ones surrender pride. They are the ones who labor for keeping a soft heart; they are the ones who remember how to listen; they are the ones whose desire for healthy relationship overrules a desire to be right or righteous.
I stole my neighbors mail when I was 10. A few bills and a piece of junk mail. As I layed in bed that night, wide awake, I could hear my heart pounding. With clammy hands and restless feet, I acknowledged these feelings of guilt. No one was present to accuse me – nobody needed to be. I was doing just fine acknowledging my guilt, all by myself.
The feeling does arise, if you get still enough; it still does whisper, if you tune your ears to hear.
It takes a village to make humility cool, to make it popular again. It takes a community gossiping about the thrill of making things right.
It takes responsible leaders to model the way forward – exposing and celebrating the deep joy that can come from letting go of ego.
But it takes The Brave Ones to recognize and publicize how magnificent the grit of accountability can truly be.