Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Anakin Skywalker: If you're not with me, then you're my enemy.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
All my Star Wars fans know this quote comes form Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. It is honestly the only part of the movie I can quote. It stayed with me. I understood what Obi-Wan meant when he said those words to Anakin. Anakin was only seeing his world in one way, one shade – revenge, distrust, anger; he could not see outside of those specific emotions. They were his truth. The trauma from his past had a very strong hold on him. He could not find balance with the light and the dark. He only wanted to choose one side. No exceptions. Absolute. We all know what happens next: Exit Anakin, Welcome Darth Vader. The Dark Passenger was now behind the wheel.
This is probably one of the most honest posts I’ll write. I had to humble myself to get to this point. A "man in the mirror" moment if you will. Recently, I allowed myself to face someone from my past, against my better judgement, that I had been doing a near perfect job of avoiding for some years now. I chose to re-open the door to said person for the sake of my children. As they also had a connection with this person. A connection I hoped was said person's intent to restore and renew. If you’re wondering “is she being vague on purpose”? Yes. Yes I am.
On one hand I wanted to protect my children from more disappointment. On the other hand I agreed to give said person another get out of jail free card to earn their trust. Another opportunity to heal and renew their connection. As I expected, it did not go well. Their presence made me uncomfortable, angry, defensive, and depressed. As a result of this toxic encounter I retreated so far into my dark side that I could not find my way out. I could not focus on the things that made me happy. I had released the rights to my joy. I did not work on my blog as is my habit on the weekends. I was so consumed that dealing out absolutes was my only response. Finality! No exceptions.! I was so engulfed in that absolute mindset that I could not see any other way around it. Even my daughter noticed that while I was speaking to this person, I wouldn't give eye contact, I took steps back. Something I didn’t even notice I was doing. My youngest daughter asked if my blog post was ready on Saturday night. It was not. Both of my daughters have grown to love reading my posts and looked forward to the weekly posts on Sunday night, much to my surprise. The look of disappointment on her face as she walked away, well, I won't forget that. For the first time, as I sunk deep in my depression and discomfort, I realized just how dark I had to get to dish out absolutes to toxic people. I didn’t find comfort in my learned behavior any longer. For once I felt there had to be another way.
So I reached out to someone that I knew would give me a new perspective. She was one of the few people I knew that was maturing in a direction that I strive for as well. Our minds were similar. Most importantly her heart is bigger than I can explain. She was my cheerleader but she was also my source of reason when I couldn’t see beyond myself. I knew she would make room for me and selflessly be my accountability partner. I spoke on this before – everyone can use and accountability partner to encourage them as they go on their journey thru life. Lean not only on your own understanding. In the moment I felt like a failure, a fraud; for losing my way and allowing someone else's action to influence my reaction. But she reminded me: “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity” Proverbs 24:16. You get back up, you re-focus, and you keep going. That's what matters. I was taking the first steps. With her guidance I began to understand there was a better way to respond to toxic people. With consistency and maturity I knew I could implement a better way. It was something I knew all along but never suggested as a possibility to replace my absolute behavior – using Boundaries. I personally don't feel its always necessary to approach every conflict in life with an absolute reaction – I believe that is a dangerous way to live. To only see the black and white and never see the grays and yellows. To be unable to reason beyond yourself. To only depend on your own understanding.
The absolute mindset can limit our growth, stunt our intelligence, fracture relationships, and burn bridges permanently. Bridges that probably only needed a closed gate. So instead of dwelling on absolutes, how about “an understanding with boundaries”. Being able to co-exist with boundaries is not weakness, its maturity. Spiritual and emotional maturity. I’m doing it for me, not them. It’s for my peace of mind. My calm and serenity. It’s being willing to walk away with understanding of the “other side” of the argument, even if you’re not interested in implementing or following the "other side". If the "other side' pushes your triggers and awakens your dark passenger – discomfort, fear, aggression, bitterness, and anger –then that is when I would suggest building a gate, with a lock. “Boundaries plus” if you will. I used to feel burning the bridge was the way to go. (When I said used to I meant up until 2 days ago) I prided myself on being a professional bridge burner. It was how I protected myself from people who pushed my buttons and summoned my aggression. We all have darkness in us to some extent. There is light and dark in everyone. I am very aware of my dark passenger. What I don’t want is for her to take the wheel. If she is in the passenger seat I can control her. In the Marvel movie, Dr Strange, The Ancient One says – “We never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them”.
My natural and preferred state is that of calmness and peace. So if you provoked my dark side, I would find the bridge that connected us and set that bitch on fire. But then again, by burning the bridge, is that not also a dark response? Did I not also allow my reaction to toxic encounters to be controlled with darkness? By being so brutally absolute? This is a tricky subject, I know. I would love to hear your take on it as well. All I can say is that from experience – bridge burning is emotionally exhausting. Boundaries take less emotional energy and still gives the same results. Its balance. You are still in charge because you hold the key to the locked gate. You are still protected. You are still in control. With boundaries you win the battle like a Jedi. With grace. I don’t know about you but I kind of prefer the Jedi’s approach as opposed to the Siths. They have so much wisdom and restraint. I mean me and Yoda, we can vibe. I always learn my lessons and gain understanding from the most unusual and also from the most normal of places. I pull knowledge from diverse resources as I grow and mature - My children, my like-minded community members (friends, 12Stone family, coworkers) family, books, Instagram, (Check out @wins.inc, theonelovemovement and Mark Groves @createthelove to name a few) and yes, movies. As it should be. “Until we have met the monsters in ourselves we will keep trying to slay them in the outer world. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there we must do our work.” - Marianne Williamson