Protecting from a loved one

They are not easy times when you must, I believe, protect yourself from someone you love. It can require disengaging them from your life.

There are any number of real reasons for this being the healthiest choice on the table, but none are, the person I need to protect myself from is a bad person, a bad human being. Unhealthy? Yes. Bad? No. Absolutely not. The range of problematic conditions has its fair share of members, alcohol, drugs, addiction, personality disorders, and so on. These elements know no bigotry.

That someone we may need to distance themselves from someone doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t free them of their responsibility for wounding others, as well as themselves.

When someone fires off a few sentences of verbal cruelty, say, I believe the self-inflicted wound runs deeper and does more damage to the perpetrator. Someone tangled up in behavior patterns that wound the lives of others – lacking any empathy whatsoever in some cases – already has a low self-esteem, whether they realize it, admit it, or don’t.

A person in this kind of struggle has basically two choices.  They can recognize the unhealthy patterns they’re  in, and get the help and support they deserve, and get free of them. Or, they can surrender their lives to a method of life-management that guarantees conflict, pain, suffering, heartbreak, and guilt. Everyone of us deserves the chance to get well. Not everyone realizes it when getting well is necessary.

The reason the perpetrator takes the deeper wound is this. On some level, he or she knows what they are doing is wounding and abusive and looks to degrade the target. So each time the perpetrator strikes, he or she is reaffirming the message they got taught about themselves, when some where along the line, they may have been degraded, even on a daily basis, often by some adult who could not be escaped.

In fact, I know of some wonderful acronyms for the word, FEAR. It can mean, Face Everything And Recover, or, Fuck Everything And Run.

My instinct is wedded to the former.

Banning Cruelty

And then, finally, anger. Not the pound-the-table with your fist anger, but the center of your soul anger. Anger provoked by cruelty. The kind of anger known to lift the veils of denial, confusion, doubt. 

Cruelty deserves no presence in any life. You betray no one but yourself if you fail to ban cruelty from your life.

Shoulder punchers: an interview with Smerkle Grumpy


  • Mr. Grumpy, it’s a pleasure to sit down with –
  • Smerkle.
  • Pardon?
  • Smerkle, call me Smerkle.
  • Well then, it’s a pleasure sit down with you.
  • Thank you. You as well.
  • It’s been awhile.
  • Been watching my man, Peter, from afar, as the saying goes. Watching him trying to get himself moved. Proud of him. Still patient with people, more than most, more than me. Known him since he was a boy – he’s got a real kind streak.
  • You think he is too kind?
  • Oh no, don’t misunderstand me. Not too kind at all. Glad he’s in a world that’s been short on kindness for a long time. So no, not too kind.
  • Too patient?
  • He’s more patient than I’d be, but no, not too patient. People deserve patience, some need and deserve a lot of it. Some deeply wounded folk in the world.
  • Can he run out of patience?
  • We all can. I remember a time my boy did when he was in reform school back when.
  • Can you tell us about it? Would he mind?
  • He might mind, but I’ll tell you. There was this kid, same age as Peter, in the same hall, the wards where the boys lived. Anyway, this kid, will call him Johnny, liked to punch Peter in the shoulder, doing it light at first, then a little harder, saying sorry later, then punching Pete’s shoulder next time Peter’d walk by. After a while, Peter called him out.
  • Called him out?
  • In this reform school if two of the boys were getting close to a fight, they’d let the boys fight, surrounded by their mates, the male staff watching to make sure no one really got badly hurt, and usually the two combatants became friendly after the fight. Some kind of release I suppose. Calling out was when one kid challenged another, quietly or openly.
  • How’d Peter do it?
  • Wide open. They were in the gym sitting on bleachers, about 30 boys, half a dozen staff or so, taking a break. Peter walks by, Johnny punches him in the shoulder and that was it.
  • What was it?
  • Peter ripped into him. You really want to fight with me that badly? Seriously? Just can’t help yourself, wish it that bad do you? If you’re feeling froggish, then leap, cause your wish has come true.
  • What happened?
  • One smack upside Johnny’s head and down he went. Then Peter did his thing, helped Johnny up, telling him all the time being friends was a lot easier on the both of’m than fighting. Even when he knew he had no choice and had to act, like with Johnny, or protecting someone, he always felt badly about hurting someone.
  • He felt guilty.
  • No-no, not guilty. Badly. Sad. Definitely not guilty.
  • It’s good to be talking with you again, Smerkle.
  • Good to be talking with you too.


The power of kindness

I am not beholden to that influential piece of propaganda that says kindness is weakness. Here’s one example of how wrong that propaganda is. The act of responding to anger and rage by walking away is an act of kindness because the person walking away, disengaging, if you will, is choosing not to inflame the moment any more than it already is. Yet the act of walking away is often considered weak. Rubbish. If it is an act of weakness to be kind, to walk away, then why is it so hard for so many to do exactly that?

If walking away was weakness doing it should be breeze, and it ain’t. As a human rights advocate, I’ve walked away, figuratively and literally, from some nasty, cruel and very often dishonest people, when a part of me fancied the idea of dribbling a few of them around the room and out the door.

There is a reasonable question to be asked. How is it, exactly, that walking away is, in fact, an act of kindness? If we equate the world we live in to the body and mind we live in, would it not be fair to say I am treating my body and mind with greater kindness by sparing both surges in stress and anxiety and anger? Are we not being kind to the world we live in when we choose not to add conflict? I certainly think so.

Kindness is just about as close to sacred as a human trait be, in large part  because you can’t have kindness without respect. Nearly every wound one human inflicts on another requires the absence of respect.  In fact, the depth of the wound one person inflicts on another, can often be measured by the degree to which the respect for the person is missing.

Kindness & compassion

The Dalai Lama is right when he tells us,“Be kind whenever possible” and “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

There is no doubt in my mind that  kindness and compassion  are the healthiest (and strongest) choices on the table. But being kind and compassionate is not always easy; nor is it always pain free. I would be surrendering my allegiance to honesty if I were to say I am kind and compassionate whenever possible, but that allegiance is under no threat when I say I try to be. And when I am not, and, on occasion, strike back in kind at someone who’s wounded me, I try as soon as possible to own it, apologize, and mean it.

There a few things I appreciate and value more in someone than their capacity for kindness and compassion. It takes no particular skill and little, if any, courage, to be cruel and nasty. It would also be unjust to universally define someone who’s been cruel and nasty as bad.

The online Webster Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind” and compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”    Kindness does not mean you don’t hold others (including yourself) accountable for their choices. The goal is to do so with kindness and compassion. Not easy. Very hard, when responding to someone who’s just wounded you in a moment of anger (it is helpful to remember that anger often has sadness as its underpinning) and blisteringly hard when that someone is a person you love and care about.

There is a perfectly understandable question that deserves an answer. What makes responding with kindness and compassion the healthier  choice when I’m the one who’s just been hurt? There is, I believe, a good answer. I don’t believe someone is having a healthy respectful relationship with self when they are lashing out someone in a hurtful way. In fact, I believe it is just the opposite. I think their internal experience of self  is in fairly rough shape.  In most cases their damaged self-image was not their doing. I know many (including me) who’ve lived through various forms of abuse, who’ve had acts of physical and emotional violence perpetrated against them. The struggle to rediscover and, in some cases, discover for the first time, that their truth is as valuable and good and beautiful as anyone on the planet is a steep climb to be sure.

Now, if you respond in kind, and wound them back, you are reaffirming their damaged self-image and strengthening its role in their life.  If that’s what you really want to do, then perhaps you’ve got some work to do on yourself; there’s no shame in that. If it isn’t, please consider this. During the time you are responding with kindness and compassion you are sending the following message to the person. You see their value and worth and you are not  defining them by their behavior.

While we are not responsible for the abuse and violence perpetrated against us in life, we are responsible for healing from it, and we are responsible for the choices we make as a result of it.

As for the few who think it is an act of weakness to respond with kindness and compassion, let me pose the following question. If it is an act of weakness to respond with kindness and compassion, then why is it so hard to do?