Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dear Family member that I un-friended today

I will concede that I am not surprised that I finally did it. It was a bit abrupt, but that also does not surprise me. It has nonetheless given me a new appreciation for the idiom: the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We have been on the outs for quite a long time now, and if memory serves, the last time we chatted on Facebook was prior to the US elections November last year. I have done my best to avoid you as we seemed incapable of a conversation which did not end in some kind of conflict and suspected that you have done the same. Except that it turns out you lurk around my sister’s Facebook page, because voilá, there you were. In a conversation which had nothing to do with you and with a person you have never met in your life who I was in a snarky conversation with. Whereupon you “liked” his statement. Nothing more, but 'twas sufficient. It was stupendously passive aggressive. The details are irrelevant. It felt like a physical slap in my face. It was a deliberate decision on your part to read the post in its entirety and a conscious effort to insert yourself into that conversation, even if it was a mere clearing of your throat. And that was the moment I knew. And while I am most definitely provoked and will be mulling over this result for the rest of today, at the same time I am aware that I register no sadness. It has been such a long time coming that it was simply that sound when a door closes properly. Not of the key turning, but the latch falling into place.

What makes it so wrought with significance is that you are one of the few people I have really connected to in my life. I do not connect with many people. I can chat to just about anyone (or I could before) and there are even those who think I am an extravert, but the truth is that there are only a very, very select few who I really value in my life, to whom I have felt a real sense of connection. They are very precious to me. Some have disappeared with time, or the connection has disappeared with time, but this in no way alters the fact that they are in a special category in my life. And among my family, you have been one of a very, very few in that category. And the severing of that connection is painful. And you are the only person who has moved from that category to an even smaller group of people whom, simply put, I do not like.

As I have absolutely no intention of sending you this letter, but am writing it entirely for therapeutic purposes (even if I do put in on my blog), I can think aloud about how we actually ended up here. This is not a step I take lightly. Far from it, and that is why I am working through it in my head. As if doing a post mortem may prevent it from happening again. Not that I would be any the wiser as to ensure a different course.

For most of my life I suspect that I have been a mystery to myself. But over my adult life I nevertheless have developed some amazing self insight (if I say so myself) which has stood me in good stead with friends and loved ones. I like to think that you have benefited from that, the fact that I can remember the last time we went out when I was visiting is proof of that, as I am not known to remember such events unless they make a mark on my soul as it were. And yet something happened. I know you have had a tough time the last few years. You showed yourself to be a very tough cookie and an amazing mother. I have great respect for you! But at the same time, on another level it all started with the extreme vitriol towards muslims. I tried to call you on it as gently as I knew how. It only seemed to make you more stubborn. We discussed it and I remember feeling quite overwhelmed by what I experienced to be the hardness of your heart. At that point the connection was at risk. I remember that feeling well, it too made a mark on my soul and was the beginning of the path which has brought us here.

Then there was Donald Trump. Donald Trump as a concept, let alone the person, has certainly made a mark on my soul. The fact that so many people who claim to love and worship Jesus Christ of Nazareth and call themselves christians have chosen to support him and blindly so has made a mark on my soul. A scar.

And you are among them.

One of the mechanisms which has given me most insight into myself the last few years has been the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I was quite entranced from the get go, but had to reach the point where I did not allow it to become a predictor of me as well as an indicator. Such things can become an excuse for behaviour, but also an explanation. And I have always been one to be dissatisfied until such time as I had a sufficient explanation, including for my own reactions. Within that framework I come out as INFP - Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceptive. These types are called dreamers and mediators. We are idealists and thus nor especially pragmatic. The key feature is that we are value-driven. We dream of making the world a better place and those values are our North star. Obviously the details of such values differ between each of us, but it took me a nano-second to recognise the most important value in my life: fairness and justice. Long before I knew any of this I was concerned about that. You could say I am quite anal about it to be honest. And I dare anyone to say that is a bad thing, even if it does by no means make me a likeable person in every situation. I could elucidate on the downside, but this letter is too long as it is. Anyway, in this context - right wing conservatism is my bête noire. Donald Trump is an anathema to me. And not only do you support him, you support him blindly and irrationally. The issue of abortion becomes the alpha and omega (instead of Him who truly is the Alpha and Omega) and the born are valued as rubbish in your eyes. Abortion and fear of Islam becomes a justification for authoritarianism which for me denies the value of each individual as the creation of the God we both two apparently serve and love. But no matter how big God is, we cannot both be right.

Christians who support Donald Trump are therefore completely inexplicable to me. Those values to which my being is anchored are so violated by this that I am simply unable to find my bearings within a christian context at this point of my life. Since the election of Donald Trump I have become completely overwhelmed and I even feel that my resilience has been undermined. Unless I find my bearings again, I am aware that I may face real challenges in the future.

This brings us to you. That moment when I realised that you had inserted yourself into a situation which had nothing to do with you. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I knew you had to go. Not only have you, up to this point, betrayed, violated and trampled on those values which are integral to who I am, as a family member, you sided with a complete stranger against me.

And Facebook being what it was - you clicked on like. And I navigated myself to the appropriate place after a few second’s reflection and clicked on unfriend. And thus such small motor movement in one’s hand have such consequences.

I wish you well. Really. But I am not value added in your life I think and nor you to mine. I am a poor actor these days and could not be bothered to try. If I know you at all, I think you might appreciate the honesty. I even sent a short message rather than just disappearing. You have responded but I doubt I will read it to be honest. I am too afraid that it will twist the knife. And though I am not sad, it is not without pain. No, this is a painful, but necessary decision. Both of us, I suspect, need to heal.

So only time will tell what happens next for either of us. We are on different paths. But stay well. We are both in His hands anyway. I hope you find peace and joy, as I am sure that you want the same for me.


postscript 16 August
I suddenly realised recently that the moment I clicked on 'unfriend' was the moment I had gone through all the stages of grief, and reached 'accept'. I am glad that it was in fact such a long process to grieve the end of the friendship, it means that it was as important to me as I suspected. It was just that one thing that happened which made me realise that I had reached that point.

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