I still plan to discuss the role of agency, but I need more time to simmer my thoughts to find a coherent way to articulate it. In the meantime, I'll update Patreon with another installment of Communal Care: Taking Responsibility and Call-ins. Note: Fractal was created by myself.
Here is some prior posts for those who wish to catch up before reading this week's topic:
Communal Care Consent: https://www.patreon.com/posts/communal-care-1-30586238
Communal Care, Capitalism's effects: https://www.patreon.com/posts/communal-care-30915561
So what will I talk about today?
This is a term that can create a lot of complex emotions in people. What I'd specifically like to talk about here is the art of "calling in" people who whether intentionally or not caused harm. This is part of communal care, where we must take responsibility for our actions and words when we are "called in" or given feedback or told we broke a boundary.
I use the term "calling in" specifically because I've seen it used within marginalized circles to try to call in someone they trust in hopes the behavior will change. It's an act of hope and trust and vulnerability.
I will specifically talk about two different instances:
1. where the person who caused harm, did not take responsibility
2. where the person who caused harm, did take responsibility.
1. Not taking responsibility
Trust can be broken if the other person does NOT take responsibility and/or outright denies the harm or minimizes it. The person who is hurt is valid and has the right to lay down a boundary as needed, as boundaries are healthy -- having no boundaries at all is often unhealthy, so knowing where your boundaries are, and finding ways you can safely enforce them is also important.
The person who caused harm, if they refuse to take responsibility or refuse to change the behavior, does not need to continue to be present in that hurt person's life. It's okay to let those people go. They are no longer healthy for you.
That's not just part of self-care, but part of communal care. When we bring forward our hurt, pain, and why we feel this way and it is rejected, that was our gift to them. We cannot control their reactions; we cannot control whether they receive it with grace or not. We simply offer the gift, and if rejected, we must evaluate what is safe for our wellbeing with the new information we learned. This is valid. This is okay to do. We offered the gift, and the other person made their decision. And thus, it is now our turn to make ours.
Communal care means we must take time to evaluate our relationships with one another, especially in moments such as these. Sometimes there is a route to mending the relationship, but sometimes there is not. For those who were hurt, accepting what we cannot control and accepting the decision the other person made helps us evaluate whether it is healthy for us to continue to exert emotional labor on mending the relationship.
For a long time, I didn't understand the above at all. I thought I had to try to stay as friends, and some people would keep on hurting me regardless of whether I called them in or not. I was left in this endless cycle of feeling like trash, because I couldn't "toughen up" or "grow a thick skin." When in reality, this was not my responsibility. The harm caused was not me to take on but it belonged to the person causing harm. I did not need to "toughen up" or "grow a thick skin."
I needed to know it was okay to walk away from a situation that causes me harm, where the other person shows no intention or evidence of changing their behavior to stop causing harm. The responsibility to change is on those that cause harm. Not on us, the victims/survivors of the harm.
That is part of communal care. For friends of the person who was hurt, it can be helpful to remind them that it is okay to take actions to safeguard themselves. It is okay to create and enforce boundaries (new or old), and it is okay if one needs to walk away, especially if there isn't a safe way to mend the relationship.
For those who are still friends with the person who caused harm, it's okay to take a break and think about if you are inadvertently enabling the harmful behavior. It's okay to decide how much emotional labor you can spend discussing with the person why the behavior wasn't okay. I may talk more about this in a different post as it requires it's own analysis of how do we react when we witness or hear about situations such as these.
2. Taking Responsibility
There is also the flip side of this coin, where when we call someone in, they acknowledge our emotions, our hurt, our pain, and validate our words. They then take our call-in, think about it, and find ways to change their behavior. They took responsibility by accepting the gift we offered them, and they acted in a way that uplifted us both.
In this case, I offered the gift of what harmed me and why I feel that way, and the person took that gift and held it close to their heart, then transformed it into positive change for the better. This is the hope when we engage in calling people in for behaviors or words that cause harm/pain, and it is very hard to do. It requires the other person to take a step back, to evaluate their actions, to take responsibility by acting on the feedback and/or calling-in gift. This requires work on the part of the person who caused harm. It is something I try hard to practice, and recently, I have met people in my life that practice this as well.
This method of taking responsibility, listening, validating, and seeking to change for the better isn't easy to do, but it is the healthier way to go. It is the way of rebuilding trust and the way of healing. It mends relationships and reinvigorates trust.