Most of us want a reason. We want to know why someone treated us like something less than human with their beatings, their calloused cruelty, their systemic stripping of our ability to trust.
Tragically, too many of us blame ourselves. We try to reconcile our living nightmares by transferring responsibility onto our shoulders, “I need to try harder to be better. If I am better, they will be happy. They will love me.”
“Trying to be better” looks different for everyone. In my observation, we hold up something (achievement/beauty/social media following/a million other things) like a title to a new paid off care. We wave it around as if to say, “Look! Look! Here is the tangible proof of how much I’m worth. I paid my debt. You can love me now!”
For me, “trying to be better,” meant performing with perfection. I believed if I could PERFORM, I would PROVE my VALUE.
As an elementary-age student, I identified academic performance as the most beneficial pursuit. Luckily for me, I enjoyed learning. I had an insatiable hunger for reading and fancied myself a mathematical genius. I wanted to know everything faster than my brain could understand or than anyone could talk. I always felt ecstatically impatient.
I loved school and adored my teachers. Nonetheless, I was no scholastic prodigy, much to my chagrin. I earned good marks and brought home exemplary report cards. I met my parent’s expectations, which meant I didn’t get in trouble.
Because I assumed that smart equated earning 100%, 100% of the time, every red mark and lost point sent me into a panic. My heart seemed to quadruple in weight and double in speed as heat rushed up to my cheeks, and tears formed in my eyes. To me, mistakes were not learning experiences; they were proof of my inadequacy.
Several years after graduating from kindergarten, I discovered that math includes letters. The concepts did not come as quickly as before. I began to entertain the idea that perhaps I was an idiot. An incompetent idiot incapable of learning hard things. I kept trying, but rather than feeling confident, I was discouraged. The decline was like running a long distance on a hot day, healthy and confident turned to question sanity.
Pause – Full Disclosure – mental illness also played a part in my ability to focus and learn as I progressed through school.
Once I determined that academics were no longer an option (why bother if you can’t be the best, right?) I turned to running. I knew I wasn’t a particularly fast or efficient runner. One of my cross-country coaches told me I looked like a truck stuck in the mud – lots of effort with little forward momentum. Where I lacked talent I made up for with determination to keep going when other people stopped. Still, I wasn’t good enough. I was adequate, average. My performance laid my soul to waste a second time.
I believed to my core that if I ran faster, beat the competition, and came home with a blue ribbon, my home would turn from hell into heaven. A futile and exhausting effort to be sure.
In a lot of ways, I still have the same belief system as it relates to my relationships and nearly everything else. Fortunately, I am now aware of it and can work through my unhealthy thought process.
I tell you of my struggles because I want you to understand this: No excuse exists for abuse. None.
The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the person CHOOSING to treat you like filth. You will NEVER find an acceptable reason because there isn’t one.
Yes, we all say and do things we regret, things we don’t want other people to know we did. If we are decent human beings, we acknowledge our behavior, apologize, and strive to repair the damage we have caused.
Abuse, on the other hand, is the constant or recurring cold-blooded and vicious treatment of another. In every case, the results are crippling until healing happens.
Please know this: You Are Not Responsible. You do not have to search through your abuser’s past for explanations. You do not have to absolve them of the consequences of their actions, especially if it means suffering through days and weeks of torment every time you see them because you feel an obligation to have a relationship.
Yes, forgive them. Don’t let the pain turn to hate that lasts for years and eats away at your soul for years. But, forgiveness does not include letting someone who has repeatedly proven themselves dangerous and toxic be a part of your life.
You are not the reason for the abuse you suffer or have suffered. I beg you to let go of the burden. It was never yours to carry.