The Courage to Leave Toxic Situations

Leaving a toxic system is never easy. You need courage to be able to do so.

The memoir Spare by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, provides a window into the life of Britain’s royal family. While I have not read it yet, (like many Americans, I’m in a long library queue), I have watched several interviews and read about it. I am fascinated, partially because of my interest in family systems, and partially because I also share many Americans’ fascination with the royal family.

While this book is not the first time Harry has allowed us an “up close and personal” window into his life, it does cover more material than before. Since moving to America, Harry and his wife have sat down with Oprah for an interview in March 2021, filmed the six-part Netflix series, and now Harry is on the interview circuit to promote Spare

Harry shares his love for his family of origin and the family he and Meghan have created. Eventually, circumstances led him to need to choose between differing family obligations, and he chose what he felt was right in his heart. He is his mother’s son. The physical, mental, and emotional health of his family is his priority.  

Leaving a toxic system is never easy. The cycle of paparazzi following the royals’ every move, and the way Harry claims the family used the media, the “Royal Rota,” causes many problems. I cannot imagine living my life feeling like someone (or everyone!) is watching. Harry had courage to exit the system, even though it meant leaving his Mother Country. He chose health over his “royal duties.” In 2020, Harry and Meghan updated their media policy on their royal official website, which you can read here:

Because Harry’s book has made him prevalent in my news cycle, I have been thinking a lot about him, which led me to Hebrews 10:32-37.

 But remember the earlier days, after you saw the light. You stood your ground while you were suffering from an enormous amount of pressure. Sometimes you were exposed to insults and abuse in public. Other times you became partners with those, accepted the confiscation of your possessions with joy, since you knew that you had better and lasting possessions.  So don’t throw away your confidence—it brings a great reward. You need to endure so that you can receive the promises after you do God’s will.” (Common English Bible)

Standing your ground takes courage, especially when you are suffering. As Harry describes the process of standing up for his wife and children, he demonstrates courage. He and his wife certainly have been “exposed to insults and abuse in public” for years.  He made the difficult choice to leave the life he knew, separate physically from his family of origin, and to “step back” from being a “senior” member of the royal family.  In addition to the emotional toll, Harry and Meghan had to repay $3 million for their renovations of Frogmore Cottage, their primary English residence. They also had to relinquish their money from the Sovereign Grant, and the support of their offices from the Prince of Wales, which makes them financially “independent.” However, this means that they must pay for all their travel. In addition, they must now provide for their own security team, which Forbes magazine reported in 2021 could cost as much as $3 million annually.  Despite these enormous financial costs, Prince Harry felt so compelled to depart from the royal machine that he relinquished much in their agreement. (You can read more of the terms here

Once God places knowledge in your heart, “seeing the light” as Hebrews 10:32 states, you can’t unsee it. It is not easy to stand your ground, and when attacked, it can be easy to lose confidence. This passage from Hebrews reminds us that we are not alone in this experience. In fact, confidence in knowing you are doing the right thing, following your heart, when many are telling you that you are wrong, “brings a great reward.” Harry continues to tell his story.  It is his way of releasing any power the British media, specifically the “Royal Rota,” has over him. His commitment to the health and wellness of his created family gives him courage. In his desire to protect them, he extricates himself from a system that was not working for him. That part of his story is inspiring.  

I’m sure that I will continue to be fascinated by Harry and Meghan’s life together, and eventually read Spare for myself. I hope that they continue to do what is best for their family. May they continue to live out Hebrews 10:39 “But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved” (Common English Bible).

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