Tag Archives: relationships

These swords we wield

Arguably, we’re always talking… whether verbally or by the use of gestures. But question is, how often do we take a moment to contemplate the effects our words have on others? Do we build people or we destroy them? Our tongues, like Joel Osteen was saying in a sermon I was listening to last week, are like swords, depending on how we use them. If we use condescending words on others, to make them feel small and insignificant, we destroy. On the other hand, when we utter polite, encouraging words, we build them.

Take the case of a young child; every time the parent tells them they’re bad, these words, though not always said in bad faith, but for chastising purposes, create a negative mind-set. If it’s a statement that’s made repeatedly, the child starts to internalize it and they grow up with a low self-esteem. The same also happens, where two people are in a relationship, and the perceived dominant partner constantly tells the other that they are unattractive. Such words have the potential to impact someone so negatively, that their self-esteem ebbs, leaving them completely devoid of any sense of worth…

Joel Osteen looked at the issue from both sides; it could be a person in authority using their words to demean their subordinate, or it could be the latter, lashing out at their senior in a moment of rage during a heated altercation. “You might experience a high for about ten minutes, high five other colleagues because you drove the point straight home… But a few minutes later, you’ll realise the boss still has his job and you don’t”.

Hurtful words said in anger could torment one for years, though they might have been uttered in just a second. The one saying them might live in constant regret, whereas the one on the receiving end will always feel scarred. Sometimes we might say sorry, and that is good; nonetheless, the sorry, however sincere, will never erase the scars caused. That is how deep our tongues could cut. The damage caused might be irreparable.

I remember this one time my mom gave me a piece of paper, where she had written a story she had stumbled upon while browsing online. I don’t remember the particular facts, but it was about a young girl who was given a small plank of wood and a set of nails by her mom. She was instructed to hammer in a nail every time she said hurtful words to someone.

As per the instructions given, she drove nails into the plank of wood whenever she offended someone. One day her mom asked to see the plank, which by then was full of nails. Handing her a hammer, she asked her to pull them out and again, she did as instructed. As one would expect, when the girl had completed her assignment there were several holes visible on the plank.

Subsequently, the mom went on to explain what the little assignment was about. “This is what happens every time you say hurtful words to someone. You can take the words back, but you can’t erase the scars.” This in my opinion, is similar to what Joel Osteen was trying to explain. Words have the power to scar someone, inflict excruciating pain… and you know that saying, “You can forget the words, but you can never forget how those words made you feel.”

This is what we need to remember when we’re addressing others. It should be a personal reflection which we’re required to make before we speak. Furthermore, when others say hurtful things to us, we should just take a minute to contemplate the effects of the words we intend to throw back at them. What’s worth noting is that nasty words can’t be used to put out a fire; they only fuel the flames.

Contrary to common belief, an honourable person is he who walks away from a fight. Taking the high road doesn’t automatically imply that one is a fool or weak for that matter. Contrariwise, it shows one has enough grace to walk away.

Furthermore, Joel advised people not to be like the Israelites. Their sword-like tongues and negative mind-sets made a journey that was initially meant to take 11 days from Egypt to Canaan turn into a 40-year old journey. He said they went around the same hill for 40 years, would you believe that? They complained incessantly and resorted to idolatry. Such, was the height of their ingratitude.

We, have the chance to make different choices. God blesses the humble, so while we’re contemplating hurling insults at someone, we should keep that in mind. It may take all strength trying to will away the negative words waiting at the tip of the tongue to spill out, but the rewards of withholding them far outweighs any momentary gratification one might have gained from letting others have it.

Truth is, we don’t always have to say what we think… and some things, in all honesty, are better left unsaid. This is the fundamental mentality we could use to turn these swords we wield into instruments of building others, and ultimately, the world around us.

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Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 2

In reality, when one loves for real, they lack the willpower to pull the plug on a relationship that already feels dead. One keeps holding on, tolerating all the pain, in the hope that the relationship will work out somehow. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that a failed relationship is just that; a failed relationship. Most of the time our instincts warn us, but we choose to ignore them.

I’ll keep saying it over and over again; sometimes it’s better to walk out than hold on to a relationship that’s already dead. The consequences are just not worth it. For instance, the friend of my friend’s sister is only twenty six years old. That’s too young to be going through marital hell. She knows her husband cheats on her but she doesn’t seem to find that an issue, and why you ask? Because she loves him.

These past few days alone, I’ve witnessed mom going through untold hell. Dad’s only getting meaner with each passing day. He’s already said he won’t be paying my sister’s school fee and mine. He doesn’t seem to care that I’ve only two semesters of law school to go. So now I’m putting all my faith in God. Only He knows why all things are happening this way.

One of my greatest consolations is that my big sister finished her masters degree and she managed to do it without dad’s help. So maybe after all, we won’t need his help either. I live for the day we’ll be freed from his imposed dominance. For instance, I’m unable to point out when he errs because he holds my school fee over my head, so if I openly disagree with him he threatens to cut me off.

Nowadays I avoid him like a plague because I won’t feel the need to lash back if I don’t hear or see him doing irksome things; and as it is, that’s who he is. Unfortunately, he still gets under my skin because he treats everyone else with utter disregard for their well-being. I’m pretty sure I hate him, but I’m constantly asking God to grant me the grace not let hate corrupt my soul.

My sister tried talking to him the other day after he publicly threatened to call some young men to beat mom up, and that was after he’d almost run her over. I knew he has a dark soul, but deep down I hoped he had changed. This wouldn’t be the first time he hit her in public, but the last time that happened was about a decade ago. My small sister is still traumatised by the events of that day.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that if mom could go back in time, she’d make different choices. Lately she’s been saying constantly that there were red flags all around her when she and dad started going out; but she was a young naïve woman, who actually believed love conquers all. Apparently, it doesn’t always. In my humble opinion, love only triumphs when both parties in the relationship are willing to fight for their love.

Yesterday when we were leaving for church in the morning, dad was getting home after spending the night out drinking. He even had the audacity to ridicule us. According to him, God’s punishing us while He’s blessing Him. On a bad day, that might have crushed my spirits; because on the face of it, that’s how I’d interpret this dreadful situation we’re in.

Dad’s getting meaner by the day, yet he doesn’t seem to be suffering in any way. On the other hand, every day my mom, sisters and I feel like God has given up on us. But deep down I know He hasn’t. He acts in time, so we just need to continue hoping in Him.

The things dad said when we were leaving for church had me thinking he’s become the devil incarnate. Worse still, when we came back from church we found he’d locked the door from inside and had left the key in the keyhole. We panicked. I rang the doorbell a couple of times, hoping he would be kind enough to open. But he didn’t.

My small sis tried pushing the key out with another key but she failed. My big sis, who had gone to sit on the steps in anguish, afraid we would stay outside until dad decided to show mercy on us just rose, deciding to try her luck.

After a few attempts she finally managed. I just can’t explain how overjoyed we were. That felt like a major triumph. The possibility that dad might have fallen into deep slumber, given his inebriated state had us terrified. Worst part is my big sis had locked the door herself when she was leaving but dad – in an unnecessary show of might- opened the door and locked it from inside, so that had us reading malice into the whole thing.

When we walked into the house, mom obviously went straight to their bedroom and lo, and behold! Dad was just standing at the window, casually looking outside. Meaning he had seen us walking to the house, and even heard the doorbell ringing, but he chose not to open the door. Where I am right now, I feel like we’re living with the enemy.

Financial dependence is incapacitating. I can only think of one reason why my sisters and I are still living with dad. But where I’m at, I’m so convinced that when I move out I don’t want to remember I have a father. So in my humble opinion, one should run if the relationship they’re in feels dead. There’s no need waiting up to a point where everything just comes crumbling.

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 1

You’re in a relationship, and there are red flags flying all around; alarms are just ringing… when is the best time to run? If you’ve been asking yourself that question, now might be the time to run. Don’t wait till it’s too late. A few weeks ago I was walking from class with a friend, and I was asking how she’d been the previous day since I hadn’t seen her. She went on to tell me how she had visited her sister and how she witnessed her sister’s friend, who was also visiting, go into labour.

She said it so casually so I just figured it was no biggie. It was just another case of an expectant woman realizing time had come for their bundle of joy to come into the world. At first I thought the lady’s labour pains were just a false alarm, until it hit me that she was actually going into labour. Only difference is, she hadn’t been rushed to hospital yet because she had rung her husband and was waiting for him to come drive her to the hospital.

My sister’s friend was nursing an infant herself and therefore couldn’t drive her friend to hospital. It took them a while to realise the dad-to-be, wasn’t going to be arriving soon. The lady obviously started panicking, afraid that her baby would die if she didn’t get to hospital soon. She had lost triplets before, so naturally she was afraid the same fate would befall this unborn baby.

Two hours later, on realizing that the friend’s husband had bailed, my  friend’s sister called a cab. About an hour later, the dad-to-be showed up, just when the cab was also arriving. Disappointingly, he was drunk. I had trouble understanding why the guy was acting so slothfully when the matter at hand sounded like it required urgent attention. If they hadn’t lost three babies already I just might have understood him, but realising what was at stake made me judge him harshly.

I’ve seen guys who are excited about the thought of being dads. It’s usually that excitement, coupled with the love they feel for their wives/baby mamas,. This particular dad-to-be however, couldn’t have seemed far from interested. He didn’t seem remotely concerned about the grief his wife would be subjected to if she lost a fourth child. My heart bled for the lady.

At first one would imagine the guy was just nervous about how this delivery was going to turn out; and in such a case, that would be perfectly understandable. However, what I gathered is that the man’s a philanderer. He’s always getting involved with younger girls because apparently he feels he’s very hot so in his opinion they find him irresistible.

“He must be on top of some woman, when his wife is here waiting for him,” my sister’s friend had speculated when she saw the panicky state her friend was in. Thankfully, the lady got to hospital safe but delivered through C-section as she’d taken too long to get to hospital since she went into labour. She had a bouncing baby girl. That was a miracle if you ask me.

It’s only been two years since lady got married to this guy. In my books, they should still be in their honeymoon stage, where they are still madly in love with each other. In other words, the marriage is still too fresh for the lady to have started living her unhappily ever after.

“Why is she still with him?” I asked my friend. “Does she depend on him in any way?”

“She recently took a loan to buy him a car,” my friend answered.

“So she’s financially independent. She can walk away now when it’s still early,” I replied.

“She loves him terribly. She doesn’t feel like she could live without him.”

I pitied the lady. She’s madly in love with a guy who doesn’t even seem to remember she exists. “That’s one-sided love,” I said. “At some point that marriage is bound to fail. Problem is, when that separation happens, it’s going to leave a very bitter and scarred woman in its wake. If that woman knew half of my mom’s story, or even the life my sisters and I have lived, she would take to her heels.”

Forgiving is relatively easy…

Forgive and forget; that’s what we’re usually advised to do when we’ve fallen out with someone, right? Well here’s my unsolicited verdict: forgiving is relatively easy. Forgetting? Not so much. I can remember numerous instances from close to two decades ago where I got into a heated altercation with someone, exchanged a few blows here and there (as a child I had violent tendencies)… Point is, I forgave and forgot, moved on even, but I still remember what went down then.

So that makes me wonder, does it mean I don’t abide by the general rule? To forgive and forget? My priest in church sought to shed some light on the confusing issue. Basically, we forgive but in most cases we don’t forget. As human beings we’re programmed to remember things, unlike fish for instance, which can only remember things for an estimated five months.

What happens is, we don’t forget; at least not that much. What matters is how we relate with people who’ve offended us and who we purport to have forgiven. If we’re unable to talk with them, then that means we haven’t forgiven them yet. If we keep bringing up the same issue every time we disagree on something, then that means we’re still holding a grudge against them.

Simply put, when one has forgiven another for something wrong they did, that particular issue becomes a closed file. If ever it comes up in future discussions, it shouldn’t be an emotive matter that makes the concerned parties seem like ticking time bombs waiting to go off.

From my own understanding, it’s the intention to consider that person forgiven that matters. For instance, a guy cheats on his girlfriend with her best friend. The way I see it, in such situations, it takes utmost strength for the lady to forgive the promiscuous boyfriend (or vice versa) and the perfidious friend. But as we know it, some actually forgive. It’s almost impossible to forget the pain, but as the old adage goes, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.

In reality, it would be impossible for someone who’s been hurt that much to forget the pain they felt. In this case, forgetting would be for one not to act on that pain and the anger. It’s not an easy thing, but that’s the best thing if one wants to have a healthy future; one that’s not marred by grudges.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 3

Some people are clearly unmoved by children’s sentiments and if you ask me, it’s pretty unwise of a grown up to take offence when a child makes an innocent comment. Dad’s like that. He forgets that it’s commonly said, ‘if someone wants a really genuine answer or opinion on something, they should try picking a child’s mind’. They are honest, because they see the world through pure eyes; their emotions haven’t been coloured by biases yet.

They don’t see colour, or different religions… It’s no wonder Jesus said, that anyone who wants to get to heaven should be like a child. That said, dad didn’t dig deep into his conscience to see where he was erring as a parent. Instead, he felt comfortable telling himself all these years that my small sis was at fault for telling mom we should find a new dad.

There’s also a grudge he harbours against me because years ago, when I was only two years old, I ‘rejected’ him. As it is, my parents had parted ways when I was about six months old. Dad’s mom had been pressuring him to leave mom and find a girl from a wealthy family and somehow he had heeded to his mom’s advice.

For more than a year they were separated, so while I was growing up, I didn’t know dad. Eventually, he decided to get back with mom and when he came for us, I didn’t recognise him. So I ran. That precisely, was what he accuses me off. That I ran away from him, instead of running into his embrace. Now that I have an idea of how dad’s mind works, I try not to let that incident bother me.

When Saturday came, he left. I’m not sure whether he left for his brother’s, or he travelled back to his other house so he could prepare for work. Given that he’d gone back on a Saturday, it wasn’t hard to tell he couldn’t stand our presence.

Midweek, he sent mom some money. He didn’t call though. After assessing the situation, I told mom it would be better if she gave him back the keys; not because he deserved it, but because we should let nature take its course. We have tried our best. As it is, we can’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. If ever he changes for the better, hopefully he will, it will have to come from his heart. In the meantime we’ll just leave everything to God.

Earlier today, mom gave him back the keys. He was ecstatic. He even said he was going to church. He asked me if I needed a lift and I told him I’d already attended mass. He left. However, I wasn’t fully convinced he’d gone to church because the mass he purported to attend was half way through and the other would be starting in an hour’s time. I figured time would tell.

About two hours later, he came back. Mom asked him how mass was and he said he wasn’t from church. I felt disappointed he hadn’t been there but I also appreciated that he didn’t lie about it. Lately he’s become a pathological liar; guess that’s a characteristic of people getting into an advanced stage of drug addiction. His alcohol breath was a clear indication of where he’d been.

Five minutes later, he left again. Turns out he’d only come back for more money. As my big sis was on her way to get some items from some nearby supermarket, he offered to give her a lift and as she had spent the entire night up, working on a client’s research-related report, she just agreed.

While he was driving, he told her he was going to sell the car because he couldn’t use it when he wanted to see his mother. That admission rubbed me off the wrong way. I know, while he’s so fond of his mother, I can’t say the same of us. He treats us like we’re an obstacle; the greatest setback in his life.

A few days ago, I just found myself wondering why God would give an irresponsible man such as him a family to take care of, yet he seems so detached. As a brother and son, he may have been perfect but the way I see it, he just wasn’t cut out for married life. He seems to have picked the wrong vocation because as a husband and father he’s performed so poorly.

The only thing that gives me hope is the fact that God took a chance on him.  So maybe there’s something worth saving in him after all. Only time will tell.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 2

The entire week he didn’t call and he refused to pick up calls. Since he comes home on Fridays, we waited to see how he would handle that sticky situation. Eventually the week ended and as was expected, he called mom to tell her he was coming home and he wanted to find the car keys in their usual place. From what I gathered, he practically barked the order over the phone.

When he got home, he found my small sis and I. We didn’t have classes that day. First thing he did, he asked for the car keys. It didn’t escape my attention that he had alcohol breath on a Friday afternoon, meaning he’d imbibed before making his way home.

We told him we didn’t know where the keys were. Disappointingly, he dialled his brother and I must say I felt ashamed as I watched, and listened to him pouring out his heart to him about how we had hid his keys. According to him, we were colluding with our mother… which wasn’t entirely false. He went on to say some things I would have preferred remained unsaid since those are essentially family ‘secrets’; and all these he did, thinking we would be intimidated into giving him back the keys.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what authority he thought his brother had over us. He’s never come through for us when we’re in dire need of some assistance. Worse still, the last time he visited us while in the company of his mom and siblings, they tried to show mom how bad she was for dad and he (dad) blatantly took their side. Because of that and other unfortunate incidents, I do not feel his authority is binding on us. If at all he has any, it would only be persuasive.

As a daughter, I must admit I felt disappointed and ashamed. Disappointed that my old man was too blind to notice obvious things; that there are issues in our family which need to be addressed and it won’t be an outsider addressing them; and ashamed that by implication, he was giving up his ‘man card’. Because he was indirectly creating the impression he is not strong enough to handle his wife and kids, so only his brother could.

When he was done, he said he was leaving and was never going to come back. That again, he thought would function as a threat, which obviously didn’t serve the intended purpose. Shortly after, he left. Of the things that really got me so worked up was the fact that he didn’t care to ask how we’d been doing since he’d been gone, given that he knew mom had told him we were experiencing some serious financial challenges. All he cared about was his mother. The rest of us could go to hell.

Later in the evening, his brother called mom. He didn’t tell her why he was calling and only said he was inviting her to join them in some trip they had the next day. The one that had dad taking an early off on a Friday. Courteously she refused because it was on such short notice. Even he, was surprised dad hadn’t told us in the least that there was a family event; not that we would have attended anyway.

Mom asked him if there was anything else he wanted to tell her and he said there wasn’t so she just told him she knew he wanted to ask about the keys. She explained to him why she had taken them and unexpectedly, he actually understood why she had done it. He even asked if dad was still going to church. It wasn’t hard to tell he was also concerned about his brother’s behaviour. She also told him she wouldn’t be giving dad back the keys until the underlying issues were resolved.

When dad came home from the bar later, he said he was washing his hands off of us. He didn’t want anything to do with us. I had trouble understanding where he had prioritised us as his family, seeing as he was readily going out on a limb for his extended family, yet when it came to us, he seemed unperturbed.

The other day he was drunk, he got cross with my small sis, apparently for something she did ages ago, when she was around six. “You asked your mother if you could go find a new dad,” he scoffed, “maybe it’s time you did. Go find yourself another dad”.

That got me really concerned. All these years, I never knew he heard when my small sis had said that. Clearly she hadn’t said it out of pride, or anger. It was an innocent child speaking her mind out as a result of the misery our own father was putting us through.

So why would he in his right mind, not take a moment to ponder over that? Why would an innocent six year old say that of her dad? Personally I would freak out if God-forbid, I heard my children saying they wanted another mom.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 1

Ever bumped into someone and after watching them for a while, the impression you formed of them was, “This one wasn’t definitely cut out for a family life?” That might be a sad analysis of an individual I know, but sometimes circumstances might have someone reaching that conclusion. Here’s my own personal example:

Last week, I found myself analysing the life I’ve lived, and especially the things I know about my dear dad. And oddly, I just reached one conclusion: not every man was cut out to be a family man; to be someone’s husband, or dad.

He seems to have been unaware of his responsibilities as a family man from the get go. I have discussed my dad in so many of my posts that everyone who reads them ardently has an almost perfect image of who he is, based on how I portray him.

What had me reaching this weird conclusion was a series of events that have happened at various points in our lives, the most recent being last week. As I had mentioned in the previous post, dad’s mom has been unwell for a while, and most of that I attribute to old age.

After the fuss I’d mentioned in the particular post about the issues dad and his siblings had when they were trying to decide who among them was best suited to take their ailing mom in, they finally reached an agreement.

Their brother, who’s deemed the most affluent of them all took the onus; the fact that he had married a woman his mom didn’t want notwithstanding. It had been a really stressful issue for them because each sibling seemed to have a genuine concern as to why they couldn’t let the family’s matriarch into their homes; the past played a major role in this- she burned so many bridges in her ‘halcyon’ days.

When she eventually moved in, the siblings started visiting her regularly since she was close to them and it was easier that way; at least no one would have to worry about stirring up trouble in their house by taking her in. For starters, she and her oldest daughter-in-law don’t see eye to eye, so that household was off limits. And ours… that’s a belaboured account.

About three weeks ago, dad called me on a Saturday afternoon. He wanted to know when we were planning on visiting his mom. Given the very wanting relationship we have with her, we were obviously reluctant about it.

Again, I’ve mentioned in previous posts that family gatherings with dad’s family don’t quite make me ecstatic because those people have the potential to break someone down…and I mean really. That’s the one event you attend and by the time you leave, all you want is to never attend social gatherings again. They’re too competitive; always focusing on tearing someone down so they can feel good about themselves.

Dad sensing my reluctance, threatened he was going to tell on us to his family if we didn’t go. So I just wondered why he would use such a card, knowing how ‘unmoved’ we are by his family. Based on the poor relationship we have, it just never feels like we owe them any explanations. Anything we do for/with them, we do out of goodwill. Apparently he’s never figured that out.

After deliberating with my sisters, we reached a consensus; we’d be visiting her the next day after church. She is aging, and in spite of the way she’s treated us in the past we felt it was good to just check on her. Two wrongs don’t make a right after all. So the next day we honoured our promise.

Last Saturday but one mom needed some urgent cash, plus we needed to restock our pantry since we were running low on food supplies. She asked dad for some because he did have. She had seen it. He refused, completely. So mom was just stressed the entire weekend.

A few days before then, she had taken his car keys. This she’d done in the hope that it would hamper his drinking ways, seeing as he seems to be bonding with the bottle more with each passing day. It even gets worse when he drives to some nearby bars because he could spend an entire night out then come home close to noon. Like he did this past Friday. The risks involved here are numerous.

Neighbours complain he’s drunk and disorderly, and obviously when he gets home in that state, basic parking becomes a problem. It’s even horrifying thinking about all the accidents he could cause when drunk driving.

Lately he’s been spending all his weekends at his brother’s, where his mom is; however, that weekend he didn’t go since mom refused to give him back the keys. He slept on the couch the entire day; didn’t even talk to anyone. I felt he was behaving like a petulant child. Early Sunday morning he left the city so he could be ready for work by Monday.