• The Path Out: Can Child Abuse Be Stopped without Revenge?

    Is there a tipping point in horrific child abuse cases where we shift from rage to compassion?

    I don’t know, but if there is, I came close to it today. It came from back-to-back news stories about locked up children. One story detailed the situation of a boy in North Carolina, chained to a porch with a dead animal tied around his neck. The other children in the house were living in filth and starving.

    This story triggered my righteous anger reflex. When I read about such things it is nearly impossible for me not to “deal with it” by imagining horrific revenge meted out on the adults who would do something like this. I think our own rage/revenge reflex is a coping mechanism for the wash of sadness and powerlessness that comes over us when we have to confront the bad things done to children, the things from which they may never recover. For me, sometimes it’s also about my own anger at being exposed to something I will never be able to forget, no matter how much I want to forget it. This is secondary but it compounds my intense reaction.

    Then I read the headline for another story, one so disturbing that I have not been able to bring myself to read it. It involved a child found locked up and so desperate that she had started doing something unimaginable to herself to survive.

    I’m not sure why this was my tipping point, but it was.

    I started to feel something other than rage toward the people who had done this terrible thing. I felt sadness. For the first time in my life, I felt sadness for the lost people who have made their legacy one of fear and pain and death.

    Anger and revenge are glamorized. They feel good and they burn off painful emotions for a little while. They can even give you an identity if you need one; I have an acquaintance who makes it his business to make sure everyone knows that he will seek public revenge on you if he decides he doesn’t like you for some reason. I doubt I am going to show up on his list, but you never know. He’s vain enough to be convinced this is about him, not about social justice and not about compassion and not about forgiveness.

    Revenge, when spun out as deserved and the only means to justice, is very attractive. You can do something. You can take all of your hurt and your disappointment and your anger and do something. You can hurt back. You can tangibly show the world you won’t stand for something.

    But what if the path out is intangible?

    What if the only real way out of these terrible stories is through compassion, and forgiveness, and speaking out for those who are so damaged they are capable of hurting children this way?

    Part of me hopes this isn’t the answer because it’s so hard, and I’m no good at it.

    But part of me hopes this is right. Because moving forward in a different light, in any light, feels better than piling on to the very bad things that brought it all up in the first place.

  • What’s Your Excuse?

    She works out, has three young children, and wants to ask you, “What’s your excuse?”

    Apparently, people are freaking out about this. There really is no reason to do that.

    I think it’s just great that people who love fitness and working out have found something they enjoy and find rewarding. I confess that they make me chuckle sometimes, but only because they, like anyone who has “discovered” something that made a big impact on their lives, tend to go all ego-maniacal and think that the rest of us want what they want in a literal way.

    We don’t.

    But I do think most of us want something that we may be struggling to achieve but are holding out on making real. That is the way I read this photograph and this question.

    What do you tell yourself you want, but are avoiding?

    Most of us have something inside of us that we wish was part of our real life and not just part of our dreams. I don’t care about having a hard body. Yes, if a genie wanted to grant it to me I would accept it, but that is not the thing that I really wish were my reality.

    So I think Maria can help me, and she can help you, by pushing the issue if we only will drop the take-everything-personally drama and give it some thought.

    What do you really want, and what is the reason you give yourself for why you don’t yet have it in your life?