My journey into learning about kindness takes me to another place. I have struggled with the idea of injustice all of my life. I am passionate about injustice and about changing circumstances in our society so it is less likely to continue. Injustice makes me angry, makes me sad, and makes me want to blame those who commit the injustice, those who are responsible for it. Does being kind mean one must transcend that anger that naming those who commit these acts, particularly the ones of unspeakable horror and violence toward others, must now stop? Are we to ‘turn the other cheek’, to forgive and forget? My answer is a very strong NO!
There are those who say you must turn the cheek, you must forgive. And some who say the act of forgiveness is for the one who was wronged, that you don’t have to allow the other to commit the act again by remaining in their presence. In other words, leave the situation such as when an abused spouse leaves her/his abuser. I have considered all of these ideas and I respectfully, though strongly disagree. First, the idea of turning the cheek, of allowing an abuser to go and on with the abuse, is to me absurd. It is much like allowing a spoiled child to continue to behave miserably with others. The child learns nothing but that they get what they want when they want it. And these type of children grow up to be really awful people who will always expect to have everything their way and will never rest until that happens, sometimes even when it puts them in prison. We don’t need those kinds of people in our society, even when they learn to cope enough to stay out the criminal justice system. They will still be very self-centered and selfish and will make others suffer without taking responsibility for it to get their way. Many of them fight their way into positions of power and corrupt their work places, their departments, their corporations (remember Enron), and even the world.
The other idea, the idea of ‘leaving the abuser’ to create a better life is only half right in my opinion. Yes, of course, do not allow the abuse to continue. Walk away from abusers, the sooner the better. But why let abusers off? I am not talking about taking out retribution here, I am talking about claiming the right to tell the world what happened. The ‘forgive and forget’ idea doesn’t work. If you have been abused for years whether as an adult or a child, it leaves marks, deep marks on your soul. Forgetting it and creating the ‘great life’ will not easily happen when you have been indoctrinated to be a ‘less than’ type of person.’ And what I mean by that is something like the Stockholm syndrome. People in that situation, even those who are most committed to change, will often have an experience of taking a few steps forward, and then a few back. Sometimes it takes years, even a life time, if ever, to create that satisfying life. And often, even those who succeed, will continue to suffer bouts of anxiety, depression, and times of extreme self-doubt.
What I propose is to normalize the idea that one can move on and claim a right to state that what happened to them was wrong! I say that strongly as I feel it passionately. Too often, those of us who suffered abuse in the past are told to come to terms with it. We are told to ‘get over it’, or even worse, ‘grin and bear it.’ I say no more. I say we must now be ‘allowed’ by society to openly state how we suffered, that it was wrong and to be able to say it as many times as is necessary for our own healing to take place.
How long is that? How long does it take to heal? Perhaps a decade, perhaps 2 decades, perhaps a lifetime, perhaps several lifetimes. The idea that we are to take a little time to heal and then come out shiny, bright and new a perfect person is ludicrous.
What I do know, is that no one has exactly the same experiences and no one person is exactly the same as another. Those two variables alone (if you have a basic understanding of mathematics) create a vast number of possible healing experiences. In other words, only the one who was victimized can state how their own healing will happen. No one, not even another person who has experienced similar abuse, can tell someone how they must heal and when it is time to be ‘fully recovered’, as if such a thing will ever happen. We know, by the way from research on adult survivors of child abuse, that we don’t ever ‘forget’ what happens to us. Instead, we learn that the healing comes by continuing on with the experience remaining as a part of us. We learn to create lives of fulfillment by allowing that experience rather than by denying it. Eventually, the better life experience we learn to create overwhelms the bad memories and we learn we have developed a diminished need to revisit the bad times.
I do not consider this discussion as any kind of ‘final word’ on this subject. Rather I view it as a beginning of a discussion on dealing with the reality of the cruelty, injustice and violence that exists while being a kind person to others, as well as being kind to ourselves. In short, kindness doesn’t mean you can’t point out or call out injustice, cruelty and bullies. And sometimes, we usually kind people, may do so with a bit of zeal.