Won’t Speak Up? Can’t Get Mad!

“If I’m not willing to speak up about something, I forfeit the right to be angry or hold a grudge.” – Christina Giardino

My husband absolutely loves that I have a “speak up or shut up” rule. I established it years ago. It makes for much better communication in our marriage. He expects for me to tell him when something is wrong, and I don’t hold it against him if he can’t read my mind. It works well for us!

I used to have a difficult time standing up for myself or letting people know when they had overstepped my boundaries. Truthfully, I struggle to establish those lines because I don’t want to seem uncooperative and I want people to like me. So, instead, when someone hurt my feelings, I usually did anything to avoid prolonging the discomfort.

More often than not, I chose not to address the situation. This let the offending party off the hook, but left me with frustration and anger.

When I was in high school, some people at our church hurt my parents very deeply. Watching my parents injured was very difficult for me. It created a great deal of bitterness and resentment. In fact, it made it nearly impossible for me to enter a church without feeling nauseated. It caused me to take a giant step back from the church gatherings altogether in an attempt to protect myself from the same kind of hurt.

Interestingly, the people who wounded my family didn’t seem to have any idea that they did so. I remember running into one of the pastors in the local Christian bookstore and he spoke to me as if nothing had ever happened. And yet, the entire time, I was desperately seeking escape.

I’ve heard it said* that “Harboring bitterness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die”. That is a perfect description of what I had experienced. I had been allowing bitterness to fester in my heart while the offending party had no knowledge of the suffering that was caused. My pain had no impact on them and certainly no effect on the behavior. But, the fear it created in me was nearly paralyzing.

And, so I developed my personal rule for relationships: “If I am unwilling to speak up about an issue, I forfeit the right to remain angry or hold a grudge”. This rule has served me well. I stand up for myself more often, put good boundaries in place, and I let a lot of things go. But, if I find that I’m unable to let something go, it’s worth a conversation to reaffirm boundaries, discuss the issue that lead to the hurt, and repair the relationship. And, if it’s not important enough for me to muster the courage to discuss it, it’s probably not important enough to carry around in my heart.

People aren’t mind readers. We teach them how to treat us by establishing appropriate boundaries and giving feedback. I believe it is unfair to expect someone to behave in a certain way if they have not been advised of the rules. So, I try to play fairly and let people know how I’m feeling, or I make it my responsibility to let it go. This works well for me. It’s made a huge difference in my relationships and in my ability to move forward from the pain.

*This quote has been attributed to a number of people and I was unable to identify the original source

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