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They Walked Away...

Knowing When It's Time to Just Walk Away, and Finding the Courage to Do So

An admittedly corny song with a universally relevant message.

Walking away has been an important theme in my life for many years.        I have also been honored to help friends, family, and clients find the courage to walk away from various negative situations as well.

In my past experience, walking away from an abusive or harmful situation is always something that is best put off for the future; it is often 'too scary' to just let go and step into the unknown right here and now.

The most recent example I'd like to share is relatively benign. I had a temporary job working on a woman's blueberry farm for the summer. I took the job because I simply enjoyed working outside and contributing to the local economy, as well as helping someone in my community.

Who knew that hell could be created in what seemed like the Garden of Eden? My employer demonstrated what I now know to be classic narcissistic tendencies; she was a true petty tyrant.

Soft-spoken and humble coworkers of mine began quietly walking away from the job. I kept at it for as long as I could, enduring often contradictory criticisms and feeling belittled and unappreciated, no matter how hard I tried to appease the ever-changing whims of my boss.

I looked at this job as a sort of psycho-spiritual challenge. Could I demonstrate grace and humility even in the face of petty and tyrannical abuse? For the first few weeks, I rose to the occasion and maintained a positive attitude. I saw myself as a warrior who was winning hard-earned points with the universe by enduring a needlessly difficult situation.

What I didn't realize was that the true challenge was finding the courage and self-honesty to simply walk away from an abusive person. I have been very fortunate in my life to have been treated very well by most of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with.

When I finally decided to quit this job I did it politely and without judgment or condemnation of my former employer. I simply told her that I was unhappy and that I didn't resonate with her management style. She had already had a string of people quit abruptly and was beginning to awaken to how her own choices and tendencies were affecting workplace morale as well as her own bottom line.

If I chose to stay in that situation I could have begrudgingly squeezed a few more dollars out of her farm, but it would have been at the expense of my own well-being and self-respect. Walking away sent a message that will likely have a positive impact on this person's life, even if at this very moment she happens to be fuming and cursing her ex-employees.

This decision came at an auspicious time for my counseling practice as well. I have been talking to people who have been faced with similar situations, whether they be with employers, family members, or romantic partners.

It is like the universe is constantly asking us, "How bad does it have to get before you can love yourself enough to just walk away?"

What we often encounter are the various fears, reasons, and justifications as to why we are willing to stay in abusive situations. Money, a false sense of security, and feelings of guilt are among the top reasons that we choose to stay rather than to walk away.

People close to us can often recognize an abusive scenario before we can. In my workplace example, my wife gave me the green light many times to quit. (Maybe she was just tired of hearing me complaining!)

This is often the case; everyone around us sees the obvious truth of the situation, but we remain willfully ignorant and give ourselves what seem like good reasons to stick around and endure some more needless pain.

This article is simply an invitation and a permission slip to realize that we are all worthy of situations that are respectful and free of abuse. The times of justifying negativity for the sake of a few dollars is over; the new paradigm of humanity is based on love, mutual respect, and reverence for each others' unique gifts.

The internet is full of inspirational content that basically describes the hero's journey. We go through our own version of hell in order to realize the heaven within ourselves. May we all find the courage to walk away from whatever is preventing us from taking the next self-loving step forward on our path.

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