Until recently, I never gave much thought to how we use the terms cutting someone off or severing ties with a person. But as I was deciding this week’s blog topic, it struck me. Perhaps we use those terms because they help describe the emotional pain getting someone out of your life can generate.
When I hear the word sever I immediately envision some hellacious scene in a slasher film when random teenager #27 is strapped to a gurney as the killer sharpens his blade on a whetstone in preparation to slice off each and every limb of said teenager. (I realize that was a rather graphic description. I’m as troubled by how quickly I came up with it as you are. Trust me. But I digress.)
Deciding you need to end a relationship, connection or situationship with a person is hard. Something brought you two together. You may have had good times, made some great memories. But you’ve measured the relationship and its good is grossly outweighed by the bad. There are more tears of sadness than of laughter. Butterflies of anticipation have been replaced with pangs of anxiety. Drifting off to sleep reflecting on a great night has now become lying awake in bed, tossing and turning, as you dissect the latest argument. It’s time to walk away and not look back.
In my younger years it was easier to end things. Social media didn’t exist. (Yes, I am that old.) As long as you weren’t involved with someone who went to your same school or had the same friends, you could make a relatively clean break of it. (There we go again with the quasi-violent imagery. What is the deal?)
If you were involved with a co-worker, that was a bit trickier. I usually tried my best to avoid such entanglements. (And by usually, I mean I only did it 3-5 times over the course of my working life, so that’s something?)
But these are different times. Social media is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can see what someone is up to on a daily basis. On the other hand, you can see what someone is up to on a daily basis.
In my youth, I’d have to get in a car and drive somewhere to check out what my ex was doing. Nowadays, depending on his level of engagement on the platform, I can know with just a click or a swipe. This seems like a potentially harmful and certainly emotionally draining proposition. My inner stalker can have free, unfettered access into the life of someone who’s no longer a part of my story. I can see how happy he is (because only the best moments make it to their page). If he posts a lot, I can feel as if we’re still friends or something. It becomes harder to let go when you’re still tied to them through an app on your phone. The question then becomes:
Do you block or mute someone when you two have parted ways?
I don’t know about you, but I think blocking someone is only warranted if the person is being hurtful or if the breakup was particularly ugly. The mute option is more my speed. You have the ability to view their content, but rather than having it pop up and assault your emotions at any given moment, you must actively go to their page to see it. It requires my inner stalker to do a bit more cyber legwork. And, quite frankly, she’s not usually that motivated.
If I’ve grown accustomed to texting them or viewing their content daily, it’s a bit challenging in the beginning. I have to wean myself from the dopamine hit I’m used to getting. It takes a while and there is an element of withdrawal in the process, but with a lot of prayer and time, it gets easier.
What happens when someone blocks you in real life?
It’s one thing to limit exposure or attention through screens and apps. What happens when you still have to physically be around the person and they’ve chosen to ignore you? You’re in a room together and they can’t even look at you. You’ve become invisible to them.
How do you handle when someone deliberately ignores you?
There’s one kind of hurt when someone doesn’t answer a text or stops commenting and liking your posts. But it’s a whole different kind of pain to be around someone who once meant the world to you and now treats you as if you’re not even there.
Which is worse: arguing with someone or being ignored by them?
Let me start by stating both are pretty awful. Both can be hurtful and upsetting. The potential upside to an argument, however, is you two may be able to come to a consensus at some point. There is the possibility for reconciliation or at least a meeting of the minds: agree to disagree.
But when someone decides to ignore you…
At least when I’m arguing with someone, I feel both of us still care or are invested to some degree. But when someone walks past you without acknowledging you, when you smile at them and they look away, that hurts. It can hurt so much.
You can feel so small, so insignificant. On some level you realize it’s a choice the other person is making and probably has little or nothing to do with you. It may just be their way of avoiding a difficult conversation or some kind of self-preservation technique. But that is little comfort, isn’t it?
This is the person you let in to your inner courts, if you will. This is the one you let your guard down for, felt safe enough to be vulnerable with, shared intimate details of your past with, and now they’re acting as if you’re a leper.
If you’re anything like me, in addition to feeling so sad, you also feel humiliated. Most people aren’t aware of what’s going on between you two because, contrary to popular belief, many are too busy with their own stuff to notice you at all. But in your mind, you feel like an absolute fool. You want to confront, say something, end this awkward, silent prison term you’re serving, but you can’t. You’re too afraid of how much worse it might get if you do speak up. Will they turn around and gaslight you? Portray you as the crazy ex? Will everyone look at you like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction cooking up a pot of fresh rabbit stew? “I won’t be ignored, Dan!”
You’ve been convicted and sentenced but you don’t even know what crime you committed.
As I mentioned earlier, when someone chooses the ignoring path, it usually has little to do with you. This may be their only coping mechanism or a strategy they’ve employed for years. You may not be the first (or last) person to experience this behavior. But your rational mind isn’t running the show in that moment. It is all raw emotions. There’s anger, hurt, disgust, regret and many more.
To be set free, you’ll need to forgive.
Believe me, I’m not thrilled about this either. But I know that it’s only through forgiving the other person, whether they ask for it or not, that we get set free. If we hold on to that pain, if we keep being angry for how they treated us, how they disrespected us; we can’t carry on. We’ll get stuck. We can’t sever the connection and move forward. We’ve given them a kind of power they don’t deserve to affect us. We’ve also blocked our own forgiveness.
But don’t take my word for it. You know I brought receipts. (Unless otherwise specified, all bible verses are from biblegateway.com NIV, emphasis added)
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Forgive as you are forgiven. I will not say this is an easy thing to do. It isn’t. The pain you feel is real and legitimate. It’s incredibly unkind to ignore another human being, particularly someone who was once important to you. As the recipient of such treatment, it fills your mind with doubt about the validity of the entire relationship. It can break you down.
Don’t let it.
God loves you. Just because that person doesn’t see your worth does not mean you’re worthless. Honor yourself by forgiving the one who ignored you. Recognize their behavior as an immature, selfish act. Thank the Lord He showed you the character of that person.
Cut ties. It may not be pretty, but there’s more to life than this moment. And take comfort in knowing you are not random teenager #27.
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,