Responsibility vs. fault
Responsibility: The state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.
Fault: A defect or imperfection; flaw; failing. Responsibility for failure or a wrongful act, misdeed or transgression.
When I left my abusive relationship I was so critical of myself. I adopted his way of treating me for myself and was impossibly hard on myself. For example, his underhanded way of complimenting me went something like, “That outfit looks really good, what size is that dress? A six, huh, can you imagine how much more beautiful you would look like as a 2!” Wait, what? There would be weeks at the beginning where he would be sweet, sometimes even kind and then wham - something to whip me back into reality and say “Did I hear that right?”. As the years of conditioning passed those weeks turned into days until I was longing to remember why I was with him to begin with. Then, the scale continued to shift.
I often compare it to an addiction, he pumped me full of goodness, slowly withdrawing to gain control and then fulfilling my need again. He would give me just enough good to keep me his and then pull away - cutting me off from the one thing I wanted, push pull, push pull, until I began to forget who I was without the addiction (him).
I remember struggling with that for a years after it ended, I had become addicted to his chaos and adopted his toxicity. I would work out three times a day to maintain my skinny figure as if the woman I was before would be unattractive to anyone. I refused to listen to others about maybe changing my hairstyle because the way he liked it was, in fact, perfect for my face, right?! NO, it was hideous. Looking back now I cringe. I will insert here that this is not about a size 2 or a 6 or a 16 being beautiful or not, or that a certain hairstyle was or is good or not. It is the recognition that he completely controlled what I believed in life and about myself and he made me into a version of myself that now I find unhealthy and unattractive. This is a judgment-free zone, I never judge anyone but damn I was and sometimes still can be so critical of myself.
After It ended, I heard someone talking about blame and I would say things like, “The only thing worse than his abuse was me letting him abuse.” As if I had zero compassion for the process which was forced onto me of him becoming my abuser. I faulted myself because victim-shaming is a popular social view and I needed to be tough(er) to exist in this new world. It was not enough that I survived it but I also had to have a reason. So, instead of letting anyone tell me it was my fault for staying, I lead with that daily. I became him within the walls of my own head and blamed myself.
The problem with fault, as you can see from the definition is that it assumes the idea that I own part of the wrongful act. That I was the defect or flawed, a failure. The idea that I somehow should carry the full burden for what was inflicted upon me spawned and I had zero grace with myself. That the wrongful acts were my responsibility rather than just my reactions to them was a weight no one should have to bear.
A few years later I could not figure out why I was having such trouble forgiving myself. Well duh, how could I forgive something I didn’t do?
The problem, I now realize, was that it was not my fault and that holding onto that fault placed all of the blame onto me. What I could relate to was my responsibility for what was in my control, separately from what was in his. His actions were the fault. My responsibility was to stop accepting that treatment, which did happen. I am the one who stopped accepting it, I left the relationship. I accepted my responsibility for what would happen if I stayed one more day and I took my control back, slowly, painfully, but I did it.
Responsibility is empowering. Fault holds you back.
Responsibility is accepting that you own your part in an experience. Fault is carrying the trauma that someone else afflicted and as such, owns, for life. That shit is just to heavy to carry. I am so grateful to have recognized the difference between the two.
Nothing someone does to you is in your control and as such is not your fault. When it comes to assault, violence, trauma, your only responsibility is to yourself, to protect, set boundaries, stop allowing it, leave, etc. There is no time limit on these situations so when you can, you do. Anyone, including yourself, that judges that is wrong. Anyone who places blame or fault will never understand your experience.
Take back your power by choosing for yourself to take responsibility for your reactions and not accept fault for what someone else has done.
For myself, I am responsible for me. I made my way out, and I saw it through. I set my boundary, that treatment was no longer acceptable. Over the years I took back my pieces and put myself back together, slowly. As I have talked about before, there is no loud bang that sounds to let you know you are okay again. There is however, the smallest victories each day that build on one another to shift once again, back to or in this new beautiful way, to the positive and empowered you. There is each day moving forward and reclaiming life as it is deserved with peace and love in abundance. We were not made just to suffer, however it is an inevitable part of life. We can, and I have accepted what I have been through and move toward healing, kindness and acceptance. I am not at fault for what he chose to do. I have grace now with that young woman and all that she endured. She took responsibility for her life and had the courage to stop accepting the abuse. I am proud of who I was and who I have become.
My desire now is to help others do the same. Acclimating into a society after trauma can feel hard and heavy, but with work and grace for ourselves, it can be done. If hard and heavy are the judgments we give to it then so it will continue to be. Leaving, which once felt like the hardest thing to do, becomes the easy part and putting life back together becomes the work. It is in each and everyday, getting up, celebrating the little wins, extending grace, allowing the pain and grief to come and still washing your hair when you feel like showing up in the medusa/hotmess look. It is in the smiles and laughs, it is in the meditation and learning to trust yourself again. It is in the growth and surrounding yourself with others who lift you up. It is all in the choices.
I get better everyday and with each hand I hold to help them too. I stay open, I connect with vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. I do not compare, but I do know there are people praying for this day to come. I help, I hold my heart high and no longer settle or accept less. I choose better, I choose me.
There is help out there. Overcoming is possible.
Sending out massive amounts of hope and love.