• (Crazy) Courage. No Matter What.

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    I have friends getting married this weekend. Theirs is a powerful love story, and I’ve been churning the question of what makes it so.

    What makes a love story one you can’t forget?

    It’s common to think that an element of tragedy is what makes a love story unforgettable. This is somewhat true. But the first word that came to my mind was, “Courage.”

    Courage is what makes a love story unforgettable. Courage means your heart has a goal, and nothing else can matter more than that. It’s more like crazy courage.

    Mark Twain said it best when he said courage is not the absence of fear. It is mastery over fear. It is feeling terrified and still knowing what your soul tells you is your destiny and not turning off that message.

    No matter what.

    No matter if the love you have for your soul mate threatens to demolish everything else you think you know.

    No matter if you could lose a job, or friends, or the acceptance of family.

    No matter if no one wants to help you.

    No matter.

    When two people join their lives, for better or worse, for this thing or that thing, it is courageous. This world can sling some terrible challenges at us.

    And no one has to get married anymore. It is a choice, a choice to make a very public commitment to be the very best version of yourself you know how to be because the person you love deserves no less.

    And you both feel that way, it’s not that you are more perfect than you were before you were married. Not at all. We may be less perfect the minute we say we are going to try this hard.

    Except maybe not.

    Except though we may not be perfect in that moment, we will have hundreds of thousands of opportunities to be something better than perfect.

    We will have the chance to be courageous. Over and over again.

    Courage is asking for forgiveness.

    Courage is granting forgiveness.

    Courage is going to work so you can come home. It’s having a child together. It’s being willing to fail. It’s growing old with someone. It’s setting off into the Great Unknown, also known as tomorrow, holding your love’s hand and not letting go. Ever.

    Nancy and Jane, what you have been denied up until this year could arguably be termed a tragedy. But that is so not the end of the story. The best love stories don’t end. A new phase of your story is just beginning.

    Thank you for letting me tag along.

    I love you.

    Welcome to Married Life. We’ve been waiting for you.

  • 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.