complaints, rants, social media

Sanctimonious preachers on social media…

It’s Monday, so I figure it’s time for a rant. I’ve ranted about this topic before. I’m going to rant about it again. Brace yourselves, or move on to your next Internet station.

Last night, an acquaintance of mine through social media and a now defunct messageboard, shared a whole shitload of “memes” and photos with quotes on them. Everything she shared was basically a lecture to the masses, imploring them to straighten up and live the way she thinks is right. I finally had to hide her posts because, while I was fine with one or two of them, I didn’t need to see two dozen. I just went and counted, and she literally posted 24 of these fucking social media social justice warrior posts.

I didn’t need to see that. Especially since she wasn’t the only one “preaching” by using other people’s photos and viral posts. It’s bad enough when one person does it. It gets super annoying when several people do it.

Today, as I write this, another social media acquaintance– this one a relative I’ve never met in person– is sharing for the masses. This is what she just posted…

Are people’s minds ever changed by these kinds of posts, even if they are based in truth?

I don’t even disagree with the above sentiment. I do think, for many people, what is written above is true. I don’t think it’s true for everyone. I mean, there are bound to be people on the Internet who really have done a lot of reading and researching of scientific journals. For some people, it’s their job to do that. There was a time when it was my job to read epidemiological studies and papers and translate them into layman’s language. But regardless, I don’t think the attitude in this post, while understandable, is particularly helpful or effective. I also don’t think it’s pleasant to read something like this. I wouldn’t like it from someone I know personally and love. I especially don’t like it from someone I’ve never met in person. No one likes being cussed at and insulted. It’s not a good way to convince people.

Below are just a sampling of what I saw on my feed yesterday. I don’t necessarily disagree with the messages, but I don’t like the tone of them. They’re bristly and rude, and they don’t change anyone’s opinions. They just piss people off and divide us all.

I am all for cooperating with others. I’m a big fan of empathy. I just don’t think these kinds of messages, particularly spread among “friends” are useful. At best, they mainly rally the like-minded. Anyone you’d actually want to change their views and their practices won’t be swayed by memes, especially when they are offensively stated.

I mainly ignore the people who share this stuff. I tend to unfollow the worst offenders. If they really get obnoxious, I unfriend… but I tend to put up with a lot of sanctimony before I go that route. Most people probably mean well. I just don’t think a lot of them spend much time thinking before they share. Or maybe our society has simply become so crusty and calloused that we don’t care how other people might take these “viral” truisms. I, for one, am a lot more convinced by people who use their own words, rather than stale memes and “quotes” from others… especially since so many quotes aren’t even correctly attributed or presented in context.

What if I don’t wanna?

Every once in awhile, I share something written by someone else. But most of the time, they are funny observations. Like, for instance, I shared this last night…

This is the kind of stuff I like to see. Give me something that will make me laugh.

I don’t need someone passing along a stale meme to tell me how to behave or what to believe. If my mom couldn’t get me to behave properly, you won’t be able to, either. And most of us don’t want or need someone telling us how to act. I would certainly love it if people would stop championing right wing nutjobs. But I’m not going to tell another adult what to do, especially with someone else’s lame ass social media post. If I feel the need to do that, and care enough to want to risk the fallout, I will do it using my own words. Besides, I thought Facebook was supposed to be a fun place for friends to meet and reminisce. At what point did it become a place for soapbox activism? Especially when the activism is hostile and rude?

Yeah… this one I can agree with wholeheartedly.

When it comes to preaching, I’m with George Carlin. I think social media activism and virtue signaling is a lot like the whole “Baby on Board” phenomenon. Check it out, cuz George was onto something.

Don’t tell me your troubles, lady.

Well… that about does it for today’s post. We are going to be traveling to Austria tomorrow, so I may or may not have a chance to write. It depends on what time we get on the road. After two nights in Austria, we will move on to Croatia, then Slovenia, then back to Austria and home. I hope it all goes off without a hitch. I have missed traveling so much, and I’m ready to plan our next trip. For now, I have to get some chores done. Bill is taking his very first class through the Jung Institute in Switzerland. It’s an online seminar. I have a feeling he’s going to love these studies. Maybe he’ll even become a qualified shrink someday. Meanwhile, I’ll keep practicing my guitar.

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Memes, social media

Social Media Evangelists…

I’m in a writing mood today. I have a couple of topics in mind, neither of which are particularly fun subjects. Nevertheless, both are on my mind, and since I don’t have a shrink anymore, I’m going to spill my guts. So here goes…

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of “preachers” on social media. Some people can’t help themselves. They like to get up on their soap boxes and spread their messages. Sometimes the messages are useful, reasonable, and sensible. Sometimes, they’re the same thing over and over again, which is irritating, even if the message makes sense. Many times, the messages are sanctimonious in nature, and more likely to piss people off than get them to change their behaviors.

I realize that in writing a blog, often with subjects about my own pet peeves, I kind of do the same thing. I mostly try to limit my preaching to the blog. That way, people can choose whether or not they want to read it. I think this technique also works better for me because a lot of times, what I want to communicate won’t fit on a pithy meme. Most of the time, people who take the time to read a blog post are already in agreement with me, but sometimes they’re not. That’s okay, of course, as long as the discussion is respectful. Most of the time, at least on my blog, it is. On Facebook, however, the comments can get pretty shitty in a hurry.

I remember before Facebook became a part of my life, way back in August 2008, I wasn’t constantly bombarded by preachy messages from my friends. Somehow, I was blissfully unaware of how much other people were watching everything their neighbors do and coming up with cute memes with which to shame and criticize them. Every day, there’s something out there from someone– a mini lecture on how we should all be living our lives boiled down to the fun “meme-size” that doesn’t quite encompass all of the facts of a situation.

Until COVID-19 struck, the most common “social media evangelism” was often about children. I’d see posts about pregnant women who drink booze and how absolutely wrong that is under all circumstances. Or– guaranteed– if someone posted a picture of a child in a car, there would be at least half a dozen critiques on if or how the child was strapped into a carseat. It seems like everyone is an expert on every subject, and everyone feels entitled to share their opinions as if they were facts or judge other people for their personal choices, even though they rarely have the whole story.

This has been floating around Facebook recently. I cringe every time I see it. Snopes agrees with me, too. It sounds good and seems reasonable, but the truth is, the efficacy of face masks against the spread of COVID-19 is currently unknown. A lot probably has to do with the quality of the masks being worn, the behavior and hygiene of the wearer and the other person, and plain old luck.

Right now, the hottest subject for social media preaching is the wearing of face masks. Face mask donning is currently a controversial subject. Over the past few weeks, the official advice has rapidly gone from not wearing them unless you’re sick or working with sick people, to maybe wearing them, to everybody MUST wear them (although there are some exceptions and a lot depends on the country). I have been watching this progression with interest, especially since public health is a pet subject of mine. I spent a couple of years studying it in graduate school and used to work as a technical writer in the field of epidemiology.

As of Monday of this week, face masks became mandatory in Germany if you’re in an area where “social distancing” isn’t possible. The rules and consequences of not obeying the new face mask rules vary depending on the state. At this point, Bavaria, which has been hardest hit by the virus, is the strictest about the face masks. Berlin’s rules are comparatively lax in comparison.

I’m just gonna say it. I find the prospect of being forced to wear a face mask depressing and oppressive. They kind of remind me of gags. I know they’re not gags, but they look like them, and I hate the idea that people will be expected to wear them from now on– for an indefinite length of time. The masks obscure people’s faces and make communication more challenging and, for some reason, that makes me feel anxious and depressed. They’re hot, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and make breathing more difficult, although I’ll admit that breathing is surely easier when wearing a mask than when one is sick with COVID-19. It bugs me that face masks have now become a “fashion accessory”, especially when a lot of them are just that, and offer little in the way of real protection from germs.

Look at this flimsy piece of shit. I assume it would be acceptable to shop in this, but the idea of going through the summer wearing this on my face when it’s 90 degrees out isn’t very pleasant.

I hate the idea of having to sit on a long haul flight while wearing a face mask, especially when I know that airplanes are filthy and have been for years. Flights are already uncomfortable and unpleasant enough without adding face masks and flight attendants in PPE suits to the mix. It’s also pretty much impossible to do things like eat or drink while wearing a mask. Since those are things I like to do when I’m in public and with other people, that pretty much means I’m going to just stay home, and that is a depressing prospect for me.

No matter how many times my well meaning friends share pictures and diagrams of how the viruses might be stopped by masks, I know that viruses are unbelievably tiny and can stay airborne for at least a couple of hours. And if you have fogged up glasses and the sides of your mask are gaping, that means that something is getting out from behind it– something tiny and airborne. The masks will probably stop large balls of spittle and mucus that have viruses attached to them, but they certainly don’t stop everything. Given that so many of the masks are homemade, there’s a wide variety of materials being used to make them by people of varying skill, and they are of varying efficacy in stopping the spread of germs. Maybe the masks are better than nothing; but then again, maybe they’re not. Especially if people aren’t laundering them properly or trying to avoid touching them while they’re wearing them.

I have a friend who crocheted her mask, which left the face covering with sizable holes in it. When one of her other friends asked her if she planned to put a lining in the mask, she said her intention was simply to comply with the law of wearing a face covering in public. This friend is a scientist and, like me, has her doubts that the masks are much more than a measure to comfort the masses and make it look like something is being done to stop the spread of the disease. I saw her get into an argument with a face mask “Nazi”, who was adamant that the coverings were/are absolutely essential in all cases and must be mandatory (for how long?). It reminded me a lot of the arguments I’ve seen among “friends” on Facebook, lecturing others about whether or not someone else’s child should be wearing a jacket outside, or whether or not someone was disabled enough to use a handicapped parking space, even if the person had a legitimate placard and a hidden medical condition that was no one else’s business.

I have noticed that some people feel quite fine in lecturing the masses about wearing face masks, the same way they might lecture a mother about how to strap her child into a carseat or whether or not she should allow her child to be alone outside. I’ve also noticed that when a person does experience a negative consequence for not following the popular advice, people are quick to cheer about their misfortune. Someone posts about coronavirus being overblown and then gets sick? Cue the cheerleaders who crow about karma and laugh with glee. Someone lets their child play in the yard and the child is kidnapped? There will always be a contingent of people who think the parents deserved to have their child abducted. They lose sight of the real culprit of suffering and blame the victim.

Many of the people sharing their opinions have only been informed by the media and memes that are being spread on social media. They haven’t taken the time to read up on the subject in legitimate scientific publications or read opposing viewpoints among people whose business it is to deal with communicable diseases, nor do they even know all there is to know about the other person’s unique situation. They assume the person is just ignorant or being stubborn, and sharing one more pissy or directive face mask meme or “efficacy chart” is going to change their minds and/or behaviors. Or worse, they take the attitude that the face mask is the silver bullet and don’t try to stay home or do a better job of washing their hands.

Some folks are also using ridiculous comparisons to make their points.

I’ve seen the above meme shared in English and German. I don’t think it’s a very good comparison to our current situation. Whether or not you even have the ability to pee on someone has a lot to do with the equipment you have. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I’m not able to aim my piss at other people. And most people aren’t running around peeing on people, anyway. That’s generally the kind of thing one must do on purpose. The virus is invisible to the naked eye and spreads through the air and on surfaces. It’s very hard to control the spread of it. Pee, on the other hand, can generally be controlled… at least by those who aren’t incontinent. Moreover, getting someone else’s pee on you, while certainly gross, probably isn’t going to make you deathly ill the way COVID-19 might. I also don’t like the rude, derisive tone of the above meme. I don’t think it does much more than insult other people who may not agree with wearing masks. Things are tough enough as it is right now. We don’t need to add to the stress by calling people “dummies”. Especially when legitimate scientists agree that maybe the people who aren’t on the face mask bandwagon aren’t actually dummies.

George made a lot of sense with this bit… I really miss him.

Because I don’t want to get sick, nor do I want others to fear me making them sick, I’m simply going to try to stay in my home as much as possible for as long as it takes. This mostly works for me, since I spend a lot of time alone anyway. Staying at home is the very best way to avoid catching or spreading the virus. I just hope I don’t develop agoraphobia or some other mental health problem by staying isolated. This is a bonafide side effect to social distancing. Some people have become despondent and yes, there have been suicides. God help the person who needs to speak to someone and be reassured during this time. Maybe they can score a Zoom session with a therapist, but that human touch will be missing.

There have also been suicides among healthcare professionals who face the daunting task of trying to help people who are extremely sick with COVID-19. Frankly, I can understand why some people are feeling anxious enough to consider suicide right now, especially those who were already suffering from social anxiety disorder before this virus hit. The idea of being forced to live this way for an indefinite length of time is scary and upsetting. Lecturing people about whether or not they wear a mask isn’t helpful, especially if you present them with “facts” you got via memes from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and nowhere else.

My personal feelings about the face masks don’t mean I won’t wear a mask if it’s required by law. It just means that I personally don’t believe that they’ll necessarily do a lot of good. This is just my opinion, and I could certainly be wrong. I often am. And if it turns out that masks really are helpful and it’s been proven and peer reviewed by scientists, I’ll admit I was wrong. But I’ll wear a mask only because I don’t want to be fined, harassed, or lectured, not because I’m jumping on the social media bandwagon. And if I’m going to have to wear one every time I go out in public, I think I’d rather exit this existence anyway. It’s no way to live, and makes me really glad I never had children.

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stupid people

Why all the “Greta hate”?

Yesterday, I ran across today’s featured image. At first, I thought maybe it was shared by a Trump supporter. But then I looked closer at the photo. It looks like the driver of the truck is from Europe, or at least lives in Europe. Those appear to be EU license plates on the truck belching filth into the air and displaying a sign that reads, “Fuck you, Greta”.

Greta Thunberg delivers an emotional speech… and people are calling her a “brat”, among other things.

I can only assume “Greta” is sixteen year old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who recently visited the United States for the first time and delivered a scathing speech to the United Nations. Greta did not fly to the United States. Instead, she arrived on a zero emissions boat. Greta doesn’t fly anymore because of the emissions poured into the atmosphere by the aviation industry. Greta’s mother is an opera singer who has quit flying for the same reason. She now performs in musicals instead of operas in a bid to help save the climate.

“I won’t be alive then, so screw it…” Yeah, that’s probably why some people are hating on Greta. Older people don’t feel threatened by climate change the way young people do. Greta is not only brilliant; she’s also hilarious.

In her lilting British accented English, Greta chastises world leaders for “stealing her childhood” and being more focused on money than saving the planet by protecting the environment. I think she’s very impressive. I remember being sixteen years old and, at that age, I could not conceive of doing what Greta is doing. She’s clearly very upset, yet she maintains composure enough to clearly tell off the world in a language that isn’t even her mother tongue.

Naturally, because Greta is so articulate, some people seem to hate her. A few seem to pity her, claiming that she’s being exploited by older people who are pushing a false agenda. Plenty have mocked Greta Thunberg on social media, questioning her mental health and motives. Some have even put derogatory signs on their personal vehicles. Quite a few have their heads firmly lodged in their assholes, denying that climate change is a real thing. Below are just a few of the memes I’ve seen on social media, slamming Thunberg for standing up against climate change deniers. Some of the memes I’ve seen are truly offensive and hateful.

I’ve been around for 47 years now. When I was a child, we had regular snow in the winter. By September, temperatures in Virginia were coming down. We didn’t have so many devastating hurricanes, and the idea of visiting Antarctica or the Arctic Circle was a pipe dream for most people. The climate was just plain too brutal. How things have changed since my childhood. Every day, I read about ice melting, starving polar bears who can’t find food in their natural habitats, ever more powerful hurricanes that destroy lives, and ever warming temperatures in places that used to be more temperate. Hell, even twelve years ago, when we moved to Germany the first time, I remember we had snow in November. Even though that was strange for someone from Virginia, my first German neighbor said that when she was a child, there was a whole lot more snow. It’s noticeably warmer here now.

But people don’t want to believe the warnings. They want to label Greta Thunberg as “crazy”, a “spoiled brat”, or a “puppet” controlled by adults. How can people listen to this amazingly articulate, brave, intelligent young woman and come away with the idea that she doesn’t think for herself? My guess is that the haters simply haven’t been exposed to anything beyond their own bubbles out there in Trumpland. Don’t these people enjoy breathing non-polluted air, eating good food, drinking clean water, and being comfortable? Don’t they care about anyone but themselves and their own convenience? I guess not.

I don’t expect to live as long as my grandmother did. In fact, I hope I don’t. I had always wanted to have children of my own, but having seen the state of the world these days, I’m kind of glad I never did. I would worry very much for them. I don’t blame Greta Thunberg for wanting to do something about climate change. I think she is extraordinary, even if her efforts don’t amount to anything substantial in terms of law changes, although personally, I think she’s already influencing people. She’s clearly extremely intelligent and has shown tremendous resilience… and best of all, she is not a hypocrite. She practices what she preaches.

I think the “haters” should pull their heads out of their asses and wake up. Sadly, it may already be too late.

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musings

Losing friends over “dumb memes”…

Although I might lose friends for writing this post, I’m not one of the people who lost friends yesterday over patriotic or unpatriotic Facebook postings. For once, I stayed well out of controversial territory yesterday. Although my initial impressions of Leipzig were kind of lukewarm, the city quickly grew on me. I cried twice yesterday, both times because I was overwhelmed by music and sights that moved my senses.

The first time I cried was largely due to simply being overwhelmed by the beauty of Bach being played expertly by live buskers outside of the church where he served as the Thomaskantor for 27 years. One thing I absolutely love about living in Europe is the number of talented musicians who share their passions with people on the street. Quite often, their music moves me to tears. Bill and I joke that we become “verklempt” over things of beauty. I’ve seen him melt into tears over art exhibits or, more commonly, beautiful cathedrals. Give us a cathedral where someone is playing music or a choir is singing well, and we’ll both end up crying for different reasons.

The second time I cried was for somewhat sadder reasons. We were enjoying the Leipziger Weinfest, which fortunately happens to be going on all this weekend. A duo was playing music. I happened to notice a beautiful young family. Mom was pregnant and clearly would be delivering a baby very soon. Dad was taking care of their toddler aged son, who was obviously enchanted by the music. I watched them dancing together, father and son, as mom stood by, looking on adoringly. I realized that I’m 47 years old and I won’t ever have what that family has. I thought I had mostly come to terms with that, and have even realized it might be for the best. It still makes me sad sometimes to realize that a significant life experience that most people take for granted won’t be part of my history. In fact, when I die, the mold will be broken. Some people are grateful for that.

Add in the fact that we were drinking wine and Bill’s younger daughter will be having her daughter any day now… and, in fact, I would not be surprised if she’s already given birth. Bill Skyped with her on July 3rd. She was scheduled to be induced on the 9th, but she was already having contractions. If she had her baby yesterday, and it’s possible that she did, the baby will share birthdays with her Aunt Brigid, Bill’s older daughter who still doesn’t speak to him. Maybe the baby will hang on until the 7th and be Bill’s best birthday present, as he turns 55.

Then I read about Joy Anna Forsyth’s pregnancy loss in the 20th week. Her baby girl had no heartbeat, and she was forced to deliver little Annabell Elise stillborn. While I don’t necessarily admire the Duggar family’s focus on birthing as many babies as humanly possible and trying to deny reproductive rights to women who aren’t like them, I do have empathy for Joy. I’m sure this loss was absolutely devastating for her, as it would be for most parents. So… I guess that might be why I was so emotional last night.

Once we’d decided to retire for the evening, we came back to our hotel room. I went on Facebook, and soon found two heated arguments among my friends. One friend is very conservative. Lately, she’s been more political than ever, posting memes that promote conservative ideals and getting into arguments with her more liberal contacts. Now… it’s certainly her right to post whatever she wants on Facebook. I generally don’t comment on her political posts because I mostly understand her viewpoints. There was a time when I even shared her views somewhat. I also realize that I don’t like it when I post something on Facebook and someone starts a nasty argument about it on my page. I don’t mind discussions, but I don’t enjoy arguments, especially when they devolve into personal attacks, sarcasm, and insults.

My conservative friend is, for the most part, very respectful in her discussions. Although I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of her views– at least not since I went more liberal– I do very much respect her ability to be civilized when she disagrees with others. I can easily see why she seems to think liberals are “ganging up” on people with conservative views, since she’s recently been involved in some rather contentious arguments with people who are “aggressively liberal” and insistent about pushing their views on her page. My friend has a lot of conservative friends who have her back, so the comments can get wild. Unfortunately, one of her former friends, who is also one of my friends, got nasty and personal as he commented on the meme she shared, pictured below…

My friend posted this, and a former mutual friend of ours took her to task for not respecting Colin Kaepernick’s reasons, and rights, to peaceful protest. While I don’t disagree with the more liberal view of this, I do think his comments to her were unnecessarily offensive.

For the record, while there was a time when I didn’t see what all the hoopla was over racism in the United States, my views have changed a lot. I think it’s because I left the country and stopped spending so much time around like minded people. I started opening my eyes to what happens to people of color on a regular basis. I’m not sure if things have gotten much worse recently, or I’m just a lot more aware. But while I will never know what it means to be black in America, I do think I have a lot more empathy for non-whites than I once had. Maybe it’s because I pay a lot more attention to the news than I used to. Or maybe it’s because I studied social work and spent time working with people in minority groups. I don’t want to say I’m “woke”, because I don’t really like that term. It’s more like I can’t unring the bell. I don’t see things as black and white as much as I used to. That being said… I don’t think liberals do the cause any favors when they become self-righteous, insulting, or shaming toward people who don’t share their views. It takes time for people to change and, by and large, they have to want to do it for it to be a genuine change. Trying to force someone to be tolerant is not very tolerant behavior.

Well, I left that thread without responding to it… and promptly fell into another rabbit hole. A liberal friend– someone much more liberal than I am– posted this meme.

True… but…

My liberal friend has a friend I don’t know who took exception to this meme. She posted this comment.

Thankfully things have changed….its important to remember where we came from, equally important to realize what HAS changed and stop hammering the past to death. It is not 1787 anymore.

I really didn’t find this comment offensive at all. However, other people did, and they quickly let her know. Eight comments, at least half of which were accusatory and shaming, were lobbed at this lady. At least one comment made an assumption about what this poster thinks and what kind of person she is, even though she’s evidently a complete stranger to them. Most of the other comments were outraged and rather sanctimonious in nature. I couldn’t help but imagine the poster folding her arms and walking away from the conversation. I doubt the confrontation did much good, if the intention was to “educate” and/or change hearts and minds. I wasn’t even involved in the conversation and I found it offensive, even if I don’t disagree with the posters who agreed with the meme.

I’m reminded of a discussion I was part of about 20 years ago, when I used to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. One of the regular attendees was a young woman who was learning how to do massages. She brought with her some type of clay that she used to practice her massage techniques. During the meeting, she introduced the concept of being “gentle” with applying pressure toward any approach to change. She showed us how pressing the clay forcefully with her fingers met with immediate resistance. But when she pressed into the clay gently, the clay gradually yielded and she was able to make indentations that changed its form significantly. It’s the same with muscles. Brutally pressing into muscles results in pain, resistance, and sometimes even damage. Gentle pressure yields better results, as the muscles gradually yield to the therapeutic pressure and the massage therapist can effect health promoting change.

I think the same could be said for some discussions we have with other people, particularly on social media. No one likes to be lectured to, aggressively attacked, shamed, or insulted. That is not what makes people open their minds or change their opinions. Respectful communication, empathy, listening, and being willing and able to consider other people’s views without closing one’s mind is how real conversations can happen… and sometimes maybe even real, positive change can be effected.

I think memes can be good conversation starters. Sometimes, they are thought provoking. However, memes don’t sum up real life. I think it’s a shame when a meme leads to people losing friendships. If the goal is to educate, open minds, or change perspectives, it’s best to try to be respectful and empathetic. And if you want to be respected yourself, then you should yourself act respectable.

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Ex, Memes

Loving “unconditionally”… is it really possible?

My good friend Audra shared this post yesterday. It made me stop and ponder.

I know why she shared it…

I know why Audra shared that post. It’s easy to see why. If you’ve ever had dealings with a narcissist or otherwise personality disordered person, you may come away from the experience completely shellshocked. A lot of people have trouble recovering from abusive relationships. What makes recovery especially difficult is that abusers never acknowledge the trauma they inflict on their victims. They lack empathy. Completely selfish and callous, abusive people act as if the people in their lives are totally expendable. If you’ve fallen prey to an abuser, you have no doubt felt unvalued and ignored. That’s not a nice feeling.

Many people, in the wake of an abusive relationship, resolve to be smarter and tougher. Some of them look at the patterns of behavior that led them into the abuser’s clutches in the first place. Sometimes they share well-meaning memes like the one above, which on the surface, seem to make sense. However, since I am a bit of a word nerd, I have issues with the adverb, “unconditionally”.

According to dictionary.com, the word “unconditionally” means absolute, and without limitations. A person who does something unconditionally, does it with unwavering devotion, no matter what. It sounds good, doesn’t it? However, since absolutely no one is perfect, I don’t think it’s possible for most people to truly love unconditionally. Everyone has a red line, and that is not a bad thing. The closest a person might come is perhaps in a parent/child relationship, but even parent/child relationships can be fractured when one person does something egregiously awful.

Let me put it this way. Let’s say you have a dear friend from childhood. You know each other extremely well and you think you love your friend “unconditionally”. This means that you love him or her regardless of anything he or she says or does. You think there is no limit to your love. This person can do no wrong. You assume that friend has those same feelings for you.

Then, one day, you come home and find your good friend standing next to your dead dog, smiling. You can see the dog suffered before its demise. Your friend, who has never done anything like this before, looks jubilant and asks you if you’d like to have lunch. You react with shock.

“What the hell happened here?” you ask, completely aghast.

Your friend, whom you love unconditionally, says that he or she suddenly got the urge to torture and kill your dog. Knowing you love them unconditionally and will forgive them no matter what, he or she grabbed a shovel and bashed the dog’s brains in just before you came home from work. Then, as you stood there in shock, your friend gleefully described the dog’s prolonged suffering as it slowly died. Ten minutes prior to finding the bloody scene, you thought you loved your friend “unconditionally”. Can you say with certainty you’d still feel that way after your friend’s sudden act of violence, even if it was the first time it happened? What if your friend was later diagnosed with a mental disorder. Would that make what he or she did more acceptable?

What if the situation were reversed? What if you had someone loving you unconditionally and you really messed up somehow. It could even be by accident. What if you had a major lapse in judgment that resulted in severe injury or even death? What if you accidentally killed their parent or child? Would you really expect the other person to keep loving you without measure or conditions?

“Loving unconditionally” sounds like a nice idea. I just don’t think it’s possible or even healthy for the vast majority of people, even the most accepting and loving ones. My husband, Bill, is truly one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people I have ever met. But even he has his limits. He tried to love his ex wife without condition. She did not return that love. I don’t know why. She might not have been capable of loving him. But it seems to me that requiring someone to love unconditionally, which was one thing she did try to require of Bill, means that she must be willing to do the same. She couldn’t do it. In retrospect, neither could he. When she repeatedly debased and humiliated Bill, he began to withdraw from the relationship. Loving her “unconditionally” would have required him to keep adoring her, despite the abuse. As a person with a healthy sense of self-preservation, he couldn’t continue the relationship. I, for one, am delighted that he couldn’t stay with his ex wife.

Even non-abusive people have different ideas as to what loving “unconditionally” means. Moreover, if you expect to be loved “unconditionally”, then you must also love that way. Ask yourself if it’s possible for you to truly love unconditionally, no matter what. I think if you really consider what that means, you’ll find that you can’t, and probably really shouldn’t do it, although many people might come close to loving their parents or children “unconditionally”.

Sometimes dogs can love unconditionally. They don’t care what you’ve said or done. That’s why they make such good therapists. Dogs, and other pets, don’t judge. They don’t have a concept of judgment and they don’t have egos that get in the way. It’s much easier for a dog to forgive and forget than a person. But actually, come to think of it, not even all dogs can love unconditionally. A really abused dog will remember that abuse and not trust. But they’re probably better at unconditional love than most humans are.

Is it really possible to “love unconditionally”? I don’t think so. I think I’d change that meme to one that says, in essence, don’t waste your time on people who don’t value you. It’s not as catchy, but I think it works better.

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