This is a Story of Closing Doors

I blocked two people today, on everything.

Both were people I loved at one time. Both were people I would have never believed were capable of treating me the way they did, even though all their patterns toward other people should have told me otherwise.

I blocked them on literally every method of contacting me that they know of: my phone, my email, all social media. And despite knowing that it was the right thing to do, it broke my heart.

I have an aversion to closing doors, even to people who have shown me what they do to people who let them in. What if they finally change? What if they realize how bad they hurt me and decide to apologize and make amends? Don’t I deserve to hear their apology? Don’t they deserve to receive my forgiveness? I’ve always thought that leaving doors open to reconciliation was the good thing, the mature thing, the Christian thing. Blocking people feels so final. It feels cruel and punitive—it shuts the door to healing and forgiveness. So, I’ve always prided myself on “taking the high road” and giving people the benefit of the doubt that they can change and grow.

I’ve come to realize that my aversion to closing doors actually comes from my inner child who won’t believe she didn’t deserve how they treated her until they tell her themselves. With time, I’ll move on. I’ll work on my own healing, work on forgiving, work on keeping myself busy. But as long as that door is unlocked, that little girl inside sits in front of it, staring, waiting, hoping. Hoping they’ll ring the bell and ask to come inside to talk—to tell her she didn’t deserve how they treated her. That even at her worst she didn’t deserve it.

What I finally understand, after lots of work in therapy, is that telling my inner child those things is my job. It’s my job to love her, at her best and at her worst. It’s my job to tell her that even at her worst, she is a good person who deserves to be treated well. It’s my job to tell her that her worst is still nothing compared to their worst, because even at her worst, she wouldn’t have treated them the way they treated her. When I’ve done that—when I’ve done my job—she can finally stop staring at those doors and waiting for them to open. Her worth and value are no longer dependent on what’s on the other side.

As for me, I’ve realized this: I do not believe those people are capable of the kind of honest and ego-free introspection required to ever take real accountability for how they treated me. And real healing, the kind that abides, comes from realizing that even if they do one day reach that place, I can leave them to do that work by themselves.

Once they’ve done that work, I sincerely hope they find the right doors—the ones that will open and welcome them in, where there will be safety, reciprocity, and mutual positive regard that’s based on their newfound healing and growth.

But my door will remain closed.

Are you letting your inner child wait at doors that really deserve to be shut tight? Are you telling yourself you leave those doors open because just maybe that hurtful person will decide to walk back through it? If so, I urge you to consider shutting those doors and locking them. People do deserve grace, compassion, and forgiveness to some extent. But you also deserve peace, and your inner child deserves protection. Blocking someone doesn’t have to be punitive or cruel. It doesn’t have to be done with anger in your heart. It can simply be an act of compassion, both toward yourself and your inner child. There is a peace that comes when you remove any chance for willfully harmful and unrepentant to access you. You stop waiting for their apology, stop hanging on to the hope that they’ll change. Perhaps more importantly, your inner child can finally walk away from that door knowing it is firmly shut, and move on to her own healing.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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