I don’t know if it was the 1970’s, the New Age movement, 1980’s talk shows, or pop psychology – or a combination of all of these – that made today’s grey-area thinking the norm. What I mean by grey-area thinking is the more gentle way of looking at the world and the people that inhabit it. This includes, for example, the more accepting way of classifying people. The “he’s not a bad person, he’s just not right for me” sort of mentality. This is actually a good tool for society as a whole, because it leaves room for compassion where oftentimes compassion is needed, such as for the young, wayward, misled teen who was abused and later abandoned as a child and later in life robbed a series of liquor stores. Yes – that particular young man is indeed not evil, rather, far from it. But this gentle, grey-area, more compassionate way of categorizing people around us can be detrimental to our peace of mind and quality of life when it comes to personal relationships. It can hurt you in terms of friendships, such as when you’re friends with a person who maintains a lifestyle that is the exact opposite of yours, filled with personalities you aren’t comfortable with, places you don’t want to go, and hungover mornings that ruin your hard-earned reputation at work. Grey-area thinking will cause you to forgivingly dismiss the negative aspects and look instead at the “bright side” even though this bright side does not improve your life as much as the dark side negatively affects it. This mentality will only lead you to be further enmeshed with this person when you should be looking at the dark side instead and ending the friendship. And ending this friendship, as hard as it may be, will still be a lot easier than if this was a romantic relationship.
Grey-area thinking leaves no room for the black and white thinking of good vs. bad, which is crucial when dating. This might be one aspect of the many different aspects in the complex and sensitive situation of domestic abuse.
Granted, it’s not needed when you meet and start dating a man who’s boring, with whom you have nothing in common, and with whom you feel no chemistry. Grey-area thinking is definitely harmless in these very grey and mild situations, where saying “he’s a nice guy – just not right for me” is perfect.
But in more serious situations, when the person you’re dating is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, or if they abuse themselves with too many drugs or too much alcohol, or they are so unstably angry that you feel unsafe – in that case it is completely alright to say that someone is “bad”. There is no need to be gentle, politically-correct, or nice. Society has already put too much pressure on us to be nice – we don’t need to be so nice that we compromise our sanity or security. When you call this person “bad” it isn’t about being judgmental – we’re too kind and too intelligent to judge people just for the sake of being judgmental. We use these negative judgements as a tool of self-protection. When we categorize something as “bad” then we are more able to walk away from it.
Look back to the times in your life when you looked at someone who was bad for you in a gentle way. Did it make you linger more? Was it harder to let go and move on? Was your categorization of that person as “a good guy with bad luck and some issues” also causing you to go back to them even after finally ending the relationship?
Some women might say that calling something “bad” instead of using the grey-area thinking of “he’s not a bad person just not right for me” actually makes them stay entangled with them even more. Because when you think they’re completely bad but then you see something emerge from them that is good you think they’ve completely changed when they have not. I would disagree with this. This mistake isn’t caused by naming them as bad – but rather thinking that they may have changed.
I believe this, gentle, “compassionate”, socially-pleasant way of categorizing people in our lives makes us more vulnerable as women (as well as some men), and I think true feminism should encourage women to say “unpleasant” things about others because it will protect them.
Am I saying that a person is bad if they are a drug addict, has rage issues, or drinks too much? No, I never would. I’m saying that when these things harm you it’s alright to walk away. It’s not for you to fix. Lead them to where they can get help if you can, then lead yourself out and away from the situation.
A great way to love and nurture yourself after a difficult situation such as the one in this post is by starting an at-home dance practice. Dance does a lot more for our bodies than regular exercise – on top of bringing us oxygen and strength to our bones and muscles, it also soothes us emotionally. It is the biggest act of love you could show your body, one that will result in improved health. To learn about how you could start an easy but very effective at-home dance practice, click: “The 12 Tenets of Free-Dance”.