(This post comes from Mark Cooper.)
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We may still deal with that confusion. How do we reconcile our conflicting memories of pain and pleasure?
If we enjoy photographs taken with that person, or if we value a gift they gave us, are we betraying our inner wounded child? If we face the evil they did to us, are we betraying what was good about them?
I’ve had less depression, increased energy, a greater sense of purpose and peace about myself as a man, and more confidence in my relationships as I’ve accepted that my abuser indeed abused me and caused great harm in my life. But then I’d remember the turtle shell he showed me when I was ill, the time he gently held my hand to remove a painful splinter, or the oak plant stand he made for me.
Enjoying the good memories filled me with guilt. If he had been kind to me even once, then how dare I call the other times abuse? Admitting he hurt me caused me to feel as if I were to blame for the pain, just as it did when I was a child.
One day my friend Jason laid a pen on the table in front of me. He said, “The way you’re thinking makes as much sense as saying, ‘There is a pen on the table; therefore, I wasn’t abused.’” He explained what he meant. “Just like this pen has nothing to do with whether you were abused, his doing something good for you has nothing to do with whether you were abused. You were abused because he abused you!”
Now, when I start down my old pathway of thinking, I remind myself that a good memory doesn’t undo the abuse. Neither does the abuse void the good my abuser did. The truth is, my abuser did cause deep pain and damage in my life. He also did good and gave me memories that I still enjoy.
My inner peace grows as I accept that my abuser was capable not only of evil but also of good. I knew both sides of him.
I was in my forties, a grown man as I sat there in the funeral service and listened to someone extol the virtues of my dad. I was crying and I remember feeling very small. The circumstances of his death were horrific. He had shot my mother in her sleep and then shot himself in front of my sister and her husband's home at 0230. All because he had been caught molesting his grandson.
I can understand how you feel Mark. My dad did a lot of good things in his life. He also was a believer in God and I know helped a lot of people come to know God. I still have some issues with all of that. Who wouldn't. I like the pen analogy, but it is hard for us humans to separate and maybe we shouldn't. There is good and bad in all of us. I guess Character consists of how we choose when the choice is laid before us.
Are there circumstances that can maybe explain why someone chose to do such things? Maybe but I guess what I take from this is that the point is: it's about me. I can agonize over this or I can accept what I cannot change, change what I can, and learn the difference.
Thanks for this post.
This post has depressed me more than any other post has. I struggled with this issue for decades. I loved my dad, but really cannot give you one reason why, and that depresses me. So, I don't want to be depressed, so I choose not to think about him today. I let him steal my joy for decades. I'm done with that. He is dead, and the relationship is too. I do choose to forgive him, but I also choose to not try and fix memories and make good memories where none exist. I have tried for years to change the memories into ones of love and acceptance, but that just keeps me locked away in a past that is unchangeable. I love my dad for being my dad, and I forgive my dad for the evil inflicted upon me. I have to forgive to find peace.
I like that anonymous. Especially the last two sentences. Thanks.
Anonymous, you are right about to "not try and fix memories and make good memories where none exist." For years I tried to rewrite my history and it kept me in bondage and from healing.
Like Roger, I really appreciate your conclusion you've drawn above, in light of the torment you have endured for years; your decision to love your dad because he was your dad, and to forgive him for his evil, is a place of freedom.
Thanks for sharing
Roger and Mark, thank you both for your comments. I could feel your comments lift my spirits. I appreciate that both of you are so willing to share. You both seem genuine in your concern for others, and helping all of us on our road to recovery. I am 52, and I am just looking for peace.
Shattering the silence, yet we suffer in silence. The strong silent type. Who are we as men. Are we really shattering the silence or just sharing the sanitized, socially acceptable, non-threatening version of the real man that dwells deep within us. The warrior, the protector. Instead we are the confused, bewildered the ones that do not understand how the 2018 version of a man fits us. Who are we? Do we run off to our fantasy worlds because we do not understand our role in this world. How did we learn to become men in the first place? A flawed man taught us or a woman taught us how to be a man? What is you definition of a man? How do we finally break the silence, break the shackles that keep us bound. How do we really become a man, the man we should be. Not the man that Hollywood tells us to be. How?
We are so shackled by the past, that we are not living in the present. The warrior within us is defeated, is so caught up and bewildered by what happened to us that the warrior within us is held captive. The warrior is a protector. A protector of what... our wife, our kids, our grandkids, society, our church. If we are ineffective warriors the who is protecting our family, kids, society, our church. No one. Women are trying to step into these roles, but they were not built for these roles. Us men were. It is time to break the shackles, break the silence, wake up and protect our families, society, our churches. It is time to stop living in a fantasy world and being men that are still acting like boys. We need to wake up before it is to late for our families. I apologize if this offends anyone, but it was mainlu me talking to me and I was going to delete it, but maybe it will help someone else. It is time for me to leave the past in the past, and embrace the present. I have been so shackled and captured by the past, that I have been there for my family physically but not really there. Time for me to wake up!!!!!!!
I re-read my posts and they are probably too blunt. Forgive me if I offended anyone. I was upset with myself
Anonymous, it's all right. We want you to feel safe in crying out as you did.
Reading the above reminded me of something I realized the other day. I live in a world that has been quietly playing down self-control. It’s not valued anymore. It’s subtle but it’s all around me. I think society is losing self-control as a group. So many ads and marketing tells us to get it now, you deserve it now, pay later. And of course there is the sex. If you want it you can have it now; pick up the phone and call this number, go online to this website, why wait?
And if you are feeling the urge, just drop your pants and do it yourself. Whatever happened to delayed gratification? Amazon touts two day or even overnight shipping. I suspect this has created a mindset in me and most people these days of ‘why wait’. The problem as I see it now is that most of the impulse buying and eating and gratification that now occurs is not satisfying us anymore. It seems to lead to more and more searches.
I remember my quick decent into porn some time back. At first it was just underwear models, then nudes, then sexually provocative poses, eventually I found myself searching for stuff I never wanted to see before. Stuff that used to really find as a disgusting turn off, I was soon searching out of curiosity and finding it both disgusting and arousing.
The human body is designed to respond to stimuli whether we want it to or not. This leads to some confusion in rape victims. I believed that because there was arousal during forced sodomy that I must like it in spite of the pain and confusion and feelings of shame and guilt. That is not true as I learned later in life. By then, however, I was finding myself turned on by depictions of such while nauseous at the same time. What is that about?
The brain is a tricky thing and we have to be careful what we allow into our mind. It can be re trained but it is so much easier to not fall into that well in the first place. It took me a long time to give up my porn addiction but it helped so much in my marriage. Do I still get the urge to seek out stuff online, sure and nowadays you don’t even have to go looking. It can show up on your email, phone, tablet, TV, mailbox; everywhere you go.
So yeah, self-control is being silently and efficiently assaulted in all of us. It takes a lot of will to fight the current and swim upstream to freedom and it’s not without it’s failures but it’s worth it in the long run to say not to the temptation to indulge in whatever is begging for attention and stay mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy.
Thanks anonymous for the reminder.
One author I have found helpful in giving a scriptural picture of what it means to be a man is Richard Rohr. "Adam's Return" talks about how men have different processes to becoming men than in the past. There are a few key things he shares about manhood. I had an alcoholic for a father and an older brother who abused me so my ideas about what a man is are all messed up.
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