A common so-called ‘pearl of wisdom’ you’ll often hear when advised to walk away from toxic or abusive people is that ‘you teach people how to treat you’. But there’s a problem with that: It places the responsibility for getting hurt on the victim. That responsibility lies with the abuser and the abuser alone. It’s also a lie.
Good people know how to be good people.
Kindness, empathy, compassion, morals… these are all things that can be learned, but they can not be taught. Here’s what I mean by that:
Do you remember the first time you saw your mom cry? It hurt you and troubled you so deeply, you almost (or did) start crying yourself. Why? The relationship you have with your mom and the way you felt about her drove you to empathize (feel what she’s feeling) with her. No one ever came and told you to do that. No one taught you to feel bad for your crying mom.
What about that time as a child you saw an injured bird or wounded animal? All you wanted to do was rescue it, take care of it and make it feel better. Your compassion was innate. No one taught you to feel it.
Or what about when you were taught that stealing is wrong? Then one day, you accidentally walked out of a grocery store with an unscanned item at the bottom of your cart, or a piece of candy you’d planned to place on the checkout belt but you forgot. Something in you screamed turn around, go back in and pay. That something was your conscience. Feeling bad about the theft, having a conscience was not taught, but it bothered you — even though the theft was accidental.
You can’t be taught to feel wrong about doing wrong. You can’t be taught to care about someone. You can’t teach someone how to treat you.
A ‘bad’ person — someone who is willfully or carelessly hurtful or harmful to others, will be a bad person no matter what you do to ‘enlighten’ them. If someone wants to hurt you, they will. I get that the ‘you teach people how to treat you’ is a way of encouraging someone to leave a toxic relationship, which they should, but the statement itself is a lie. You don’t teach people how to treat you, but they can and will do what you allow.
Stop trying to explain to adults right from wrong. We all know. Stop trying to explain to your abuser how they abused you and why it should stop. They already know. They don’t care. Stop trying to convince a toxic person that they’re being toxic. They already know. They don’t care. Part of their schtick is convincing you that you don’t know and shouldn’t care. Take off your rose-colored glasses and hold people accountable. Accept that there really are 3 kinds of people in this world: good, bad and evil. Seek out and surround yourself with the good ones, and stop trying to mold one into the other.