The material quoted below is from page 97 in the book, Safe People, by the authors, Drs. Cloud and Townsend, published by Zondervan.
Defensive hope is hope that [we think] protects us against grief and sadness. Sometimes simply hoping a person will change keeps us from the pain that we need to face. Humans are incredible optimists when it comes to destructive relationships. For some reason we think that a person who is hurtful, irresponsible or out of control, abusive, or dishonest is going to change if we just love them correctly or more or enough. We think that if we just let them know about their mistakes or cry the blues, or get angry, that they will change.
In short, we have hope, but it is a hope that disappoints. In this scenario we use hope to defend ourselves against facing the truth about someone we love. We don't want to go through the sadness of realizing that they probably are not going to change. We don't want to accept the reality about who they are. So, we hope.
Usually this kind of hope did not start in our current relationship. We usually have an old pattern of not facing grief and disappointments in many past relationships, dating back to childhood. (Emphasis, mine.)
Facing sadness is difficult, for it places the responsibility of change on us, instead of hoping that unsafe person is going to change. We have to learn to not expect that he will change. We have to make other friends. We have to adapt to a nonfulfillng marriage. We have to get the courage to set limits and consequences and make many more tough choices that may change our relationships.
Looking at reality, grieving our losses and letting go of our fantasies----that things will get better----with those that disturb us, is the first step towards experiencing healing. As we move from being victims to individuals making healthier choices, we begin seizing control of our lives. 2 (See footnote.)Yes, hope is easier in the beginning, but in the end it is more difficult. Not facing reality is to stay stuck and to get more of the same in the future. Defensive hope is one of the biggest reasons that we allow destruction to continue in life.
By the way, what is said in this passage is also true regarding our circumstances. We may fantasize about them, not wanting to face the truth. Again, facing our disappointment, grieving it, letting it go and deciding what to do next is our healthiest option. .
When we make peace with our reality, we'll have a greater Attitude of Gratitude to complement the increasing sanity and serenity we enjoy.
How About You?
1. What losses have you been grieving, regarding a relationship?
2. What are some tough choices that you are making?
3. In what ways have you been facing reality, lately?
1. "If I can learn to evaluate my own actions and behavior and value my own judgment, then the approval of others will be enjoyable, but no longer no longer essential to my serenity. Just for today, I will appreciate myself.
"I will not look to others s for approval; I will provide it for myself. I'll allow myself to recognize that I am doing the best I can. Today my best is good enough."
Courage to Change, p. 9
2. "Focusing on ourselves doesn't man that we let other people walk all over us and pretend not to notice, or that whatever others do is acceptable. Nor does it imply that we should stop caring about our loved ones. Focusing on ourselves simply means that when we acknowledge the situation as it is, we look at our options instead of looking at the options available to other people.
"We consider what is within our power to change instead of expecting others to do the changing. As a result, problems have a better chance of getting solved, and we lead more manageable lives." Courage to Change, p. 359Our life becomes somewhat more manageable ("have a better chance") because we do have some control over how we choose to live our lives. I say "some" because our character defects get in our way, even here, as we attempt to transcend our errant ideals, past history and pain. This points to the value of having Balcony People.
For more information about them, you can read here.
Image: Cumbria: Dervent and Skiddaw by Tim Blessed © all rights reserved, used by permission