May I Please Have These Socks?

As I shared about TBRI in my last blog, empowerment is one of the principles of Trust Based Relational Intervention. How would you empower your children, your mate, other family or your friends? What does it mean to empower another? It makes someone feel safe, strong and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. Certainly, when you dictate to anyone what they will do and the manner in which it will be done, you invalidate their empowerment.

When my then husband, Charles mandated where we lived, that I would be employed outside our home and where, he removed my self-confidence.  Additionally, when he devised a list of how I would use my income, he claimed my rights. He required me to quit college and work full-time to assist him in fulfilling his goals.

I vividly recall being a newly wed and directed to seek permission to purchase a pair of slipper socks. A gal in my office was having a lingerie party in her home and invited me to attend along with the numerous other colleagues in our department. As we oohed and aahed over the lovely nightgowns and robes, I felt obligated to make a purchase as were the other gals.

I sought the least expensive item; a pair of slipper socks. As I embarrassingly informed the hostess  I must seek permission from Charles before making the purchase, I was ridiculed. The other gals derisively replied, “no way would their husbands tell them how to spend their money when they were the ones employed?” Silently, I agreed, but also understood the “rules of our home.”

Over two decades later, I was volunteering for a local charity during a fund raiser. Again, because I was working outside the home, as mandated by Charles, I made a one-time donation for the charity. The list of contributors was televised. Upon arrival home, I was not greeted with a hug, kiss or even a “hello.”

Charles’ severe greeting of “I didn’t give you permission to make a donation” caused my customary, physiological reaction; the headache and GI distress began. It was impossible to compromise with Charles. He had set the ground rules years earlier and each time I attempted to be empowered, that power was removed.

These were only two of countless comparable events during my marriage. I realized if I made any such decision without Charles’ consent, I would be harshly reprimanded. He informed me prior to our marriage that he would be in charge of all our finances and determine how those would be spent. If I chose to make purchases without his knowledge, his rebukes took the form of lectures, as well as harsh and angry words. However, his greatest admonishment was when he deliberately denied all forms of physical and emotional interaction toward me.

He learned while we were dating these forms of affection had been withheld from me for the duration of my upbringing. As a result, receiving this from him was one of my greatest desires as his fiancée and later his wife. Such actions from Charles left me feeling weak, unsafe and lacking all confidence; the opposite of what empowerment does for others.

How often do we remove another’s ability to be empowered?  Do you negate their confidence and self-esteem by your words and actions toward them? If they have an idea or suggestion, is it destroyed with criticism? TO BE CONTINUED:  Luke 6:31 NIV, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

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