After the accusation, she came to me a bundle of nerves. If she’d been looking for counsel rather than ammo, I could have helped her escape the mess. In that moment, however, emotion overrode wisdom. Words like “vengeance” or “spiteful” describe her drive, but let’s picture her as chasing a snake. Here’s what I mean–
We all get bitten now and then. Some poisonous, snide remark or half-truth gets under our skin. The damage is done. Now what? You have two choices: chase the snake or neutralize the venom.
Chasing the snake is an image for the fight-or-flight reaction. It’s a survival instinct which usually backfires. Any of us can get caught in that cycle. Obviously, it’s natural to be defensive when arrows fly our way. It’s instinctive to shoot back. What’s not as obvious is how these reactions usually put us in a bind. We slip into the toxic shame of the accuser and get stuck.
Why? I think most people live with a lot of shame. Now and then, something taps into it. Maybe a petty comment or a serious accusation hits a nerve. Falsehood can squeeze out what’s there already, and what emerges is not always sweet.
That’s why when a relationship turns sour and lies loom large, sometimes there’s only one thing to do:
Live in such a way that, when accusations fly, few people will believe it.
This kind of conscious choice won’t remove the powerful urge to justify yourself. So perseverance requires a bigger story about you. (Read more about that here.) The resolve to take the high road will lead you above the circumstances, but it can be lonely up there. Once a friend of mine who runs a non-profit organization said, “Sometimes I wonder, where are all the adults?”
It feels unnatural to adopt role of an adult during a conflict. When it’s not reciprocated, that choice can seem like playing the fool.
But have you ever regretted it?