Bonnie Raitt once sang: “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.”This statement is very powerful and at the same time it evokes many different emotional responses. The first emotional response most evident would be loss. Wouldn’t it paralyze you severely, if the one you love does not love you? What if the one you love, fears the truth so much, that telling you that they do not love you is not an option? What do you do with this knowledge? How do you move on? Can you move on? Do you go on in haste prolonging the inevitable? In relationship, there are some truths that are painful to accept. If either person in relationship is struggling, sometimes the choice of a lesser pain seems better than the greater one. Furthermore, loss can materialize into guilt.
Guilt exhausted to an extreme would force a person to disrespect themselves in such a way, that they would be willing to keep a relationship going that should have been terminated years ago. There are times when walking out is the only option. You might be thinking… but, won’t walking out devastate me? “I need this relationship to make it!” “I do not want to be alone.” Sometimes we must hurt and be alone. It’s awesome to have people. It’s very true that people need the support of other people. However, it’s also very true that people who have never learned how to be alone, are the kinds of people that might allow any person into their lives, because they need to hold on to the “idea” of being together. This is called “settling”. I’ve learned the hard way that the quality of one’s life is often measured by the quality of one’s relationships. One can have an honest heart and wonderful character and still choose to flirt with the disaster of a toxic relationship.
So re-framing that poignant Bonnie Raitt line might look something like this: “I can’t make you respect me if you don’t. “I can’t make you value me —- (the way I see myself) if you won’t”. I can’t make you understand me, if you aren’t going to try. Finally, I can’t make you respect me, when you don’t really respect yourself. To be sure, it’s not that I am advocating that you leave a relationship abruptly the moment you feel disrespected. I am only urging those listening to do an inventory on those people in your life that are closest to you. If a person you hold dear is failing to respect themselves in several key areas, odds are very slim that this person has the capacity to give you the respect that you deserve.
A person doesn’t get to choose who their biological relatives are. They can choose the amount of time spent with those relatives. A person will choose who their friends are. They can also choose how much time they spend with those friends. We should never be ashamed to walk out on a relationship. Contrary to what other people say, we always have the right to say no to any person, any choice, and any behavior that does not reflect our values.
We have the power to say: Yes, I do love you, but not when you’re like this. Yes, I do care, but this behavior hurts me. We must own every time we are hurt. We must learn to get to dialogue when the hurt is too much. We must forgive when we make mistakes. Where to place the “No” in communication is a power that we have all our own. We must never let anyone steal our “No”. When the right to say “No” is stolen continually, the resulting price is catastrophic. The trick is where to place the “No”. The secret is found in knowing what battles are important, and what battles are a waste of time and anxiety.
When the bible speaks of friendship, this passage comes to my mind.
“ A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24.
The parallel verse to this scripture is even more important.
“A friend loveth at all times; and a brother is born for adversity. A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becomes surety for his friend.” — Proverbs 17:17
Surety is responsibility. What this means is: If you befriend an individual that loves to fight, argue, and complain… you assume the debt that you’ll incur as a result of the arguing, fighting, and complaining. Again, I can’t make anyone value me if they don’t value themselves. I can’t keep assuming responsibility for them, when they can’t even make a great effort to do it for themselves.
A relational brother or sister is ready with the right frame of mind, to defend their position in your life. They can show their character to you without having to be extremely judgmental, manipulative, or callous toward another person.. If we want peace to radiate our being, we must be willing to endure some pain. Every war for good has its causalities. Adversity is actually a good test of a relationship. Adversity can prove if the relationship is built on a very solid foundation. If they respect who you are, the friendship should emerge from the test stronger. However, if adversity makes the relationship weaker, it may not be a valuable relationship to sustain.
That’s the value of walking out.