We should have an open heart, be vulnerable and compassionate.We should be able to endure; cutting ties to people for any reason is not vulnerable or compassionate. It is weak and selfish, especially if it’s family, definitely not your parents. Ok, well I’m going to call BS right there. That is a heavy load of cow dung. I unequivocally believe that you can cut ties and be vulnerable and compassionate. In addition, I believe it is sometimes imperative to do so and irresponsible and harmful to not cut ties. And I believe sometimes cutting ties is the most vulnerable and compassionate thing you could possibly do, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
Let’s start with what it means to be vulnerable. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, vulnerable means, “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or open to attack or damage.” This definition is very similar to how Brene Brown defined vulnerability in Daring Greatly, “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Ok, that is clear enough.
What about compassion? Compassion literally means to “suffer with.” This would be the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, get what it feels like to be in their situation, and to feel their pain. This is something a lot of people actually struggle with; it is not the same as being sympathetic. Sympathy is something totally different. And are you ready for some shocking information? Researchers like Brene Brown, who have studied what it means to be compassionate in great depth and have written and taught on the subject for years have learned, that in order to be compassionate we need to set boundaries and accountability. What! Unless you have read up on the subject, I bet you didn’t know that!
So when should we cut ties versus work through it or suffer through it as it may be? First off, this is definitely not something to be taken lightly. For me, I checked my gut, did some serious questioning, attempted to salvage the relationship by implementing boundaries, and then talked to a therapist about it. As a result, I cut ties and let me tell you it requires vulnerability.
When you make the decision to sever ties to someone, especially family, you are going to hear about it. You are opening yourself up to be attacked. You are going to find that people who know nothing about the situation may want to judge you. You might be surprised to find that people will try to shame. It’s all your fault, what are you doing to the family, what kind of person are you to behave like this, that is your mother, you think you are better than everyone don’t you. I may not have heard all of these, but let me tell you, I’ve heard most of them and far worse. In addition, be prepared for the person you are cutting ties to, to lash out and it can be hurtful and nasty. If opening yourself up to that isn’t being vulnerable, then I don’t know what is. The fact is you don’t have to explain yourself. People outside the situation don’t have to understand it. The only person who hasto understand it is you. And it is ok to feel bad about cutting someone out, but that doesn’t mean you are bad. That is the difference between shame and guilt. You are not defined by a single action and doing hard complicated things is well hard.
So what about compassion? Well, here is the deal, if you have struggled deeply with the question, tried every alternative, thought deeply about how people will be impacted, and still come to the conclusion severing the relationship is the best path forward then you are doing the compassionate thing.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but here are a few things to think about, when trying to decide…
Have you tried everything?
Have you tried just taking a break from the situation for short term?
Are there sufficient boundaries and are the boundaries being respected?
Who will all be impacted if you sever the relationship and how?
Is there any good coming from the relationship?
Is anyone in danger of being harmed physically or emotionally by allowing the relationship to continue?
Are there children involved, if so how will they be impacted?
Have you talked to a therapist or someone else unbiased and qualified to assess the situation?
Cutting ties is and should be hard, especially if you are being compassionate and vulnerable. This is not an exhaustive examination of the subject and is not intended to be the sole basis of any decision you make in your life. This is strictly one opinion on how cutting people out of one’s life can be the compassionate and vulnerable thing and is sometimes for the best.
Have you ever been in this situation? Do you have a different experience? I would love to hear other perspectives on the subject.