Resisting the Urge to Explain

We all want our family to understand us. We assume they love us and want to know who we are – our inner selves. But one of the most difficult realities to accept is that we have family members who simply do not care.
Recently, a young man received a gift from his mother. The gift was also from his stepfather and he was urged to offer thanks directly. But the older man could not – or would not – accept the gesture. Instead, he made a “joke” that he surly knew was offensive. After all, he’d been the boy’s stepfather for twelve years.

The young man, sensitive and idealistic, could not let the troublesome remark go. Later he pulled his stepfather aside and explained why the joke was offensive. He expected an apology, having been taught that acknowledging mistakes was necessary for healthy relationships. It should have been a simple thing.

He should have known it was not. He should have known that the older man would not accept any blame for any wrongdoing. That he would explode, scream and yell and reverse things to cast the blame on the boy. The stepson was clearly at fault. Not only for causing his stepfather’s explosion, but for being ungrateful and spoiled. But that was not the end of it. The boy’s mother and aunt blamed him too. Both called him out – accusing him of selfishly disturbing the family gathering. The boy was entirely at fault.

Had the mother known that this was the likely scenario that would play out when she sent her son to her husband? They had been married for twelve years. Surely she knew her husband was volatile? Surely, this was not his first outburst. More importantly, didn’t she know, after twenty years, that her son was sensitive and mild mannered? The answer could only be yes. And yet the mother set her son up – telling him to wake the proverbial sleeping bear – and then blaming him for the bear’s rage.

Why? There are many reasons, but for this article, the short answer is that mom (and aunt) knew that the young man would tolerate the blame and that they would escape the older man’s wrath if they sided with him. But the young man – what did he expect? He expected his family to care – despite all evidence to the contrary.

They’ve told him they love him ~ and love means caring. Our culture, books and movies, even his mother, describe love as being interested and concerned about another. It is only logical for the young man to assume his mother and stepfather, a man she repeatedly claimed to love him, are interested and concerned about his feelings. Accepting the reality that they are not, that they will willingly sacrifice him to preserve their own egos, is a difficult lesson to absorb. And yet, the truth is self-evident. They simply do not care about his feelings. This young man will have to accept that explaining himself to these people who profess to love him, will only cause him pain.

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