One after one, time after time, from both men and women, young and old, white-collar and blue-collar, the message was the same, “I’m not worthy. I’m not important. I’m not enough.”
If you were asked to define “abuse,” you might not be able to give a Webster’s dictionary type response, but you would certainly be able to provide categories such as: physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse.
If you and I delved deeper into what underlies abusive behavior, we might recognize that abuse is “any attempt to impose one’s will over another.” (1)
And if you were asked to define “violence,” I’m sure we would agree that such behaviors as slamming doors, punching walls, yelling, breaking things, cleaning a gun or sharpening a knife could be seen as “any behavior designed to create fear.” (1)
But when we start trying to define “cruelty,” I’m confident we need to broaden our thinking. Why? Because cruelty involves two points: “the intentional infliction of pain and/or suffering, and the blatant disregard of another.” (1)
Somehow, in our culture, actually, in many cultures, we tend to minimize or rationalize a person’s violent behavior. We say someone is “just hot headed;” or “she was provoked,” or “he didn’t mean it - that’s not who he really is.”
And everytime that happens, someone - often a child - dies a little bit inside.
We shame, criticize, objectify, ignore, bully, threaten, neglect, gaslight, and gossip about the people we say we love.
We shove, hit, punch, kick, abuse, beat with switches, straps, belts, paddles, books, fly swatters, telephone cords, yardsticks and hairbrushes “for their own good.”
We engage in, support, and promote racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and sectarianism because we were prejudicially taught somewhere in our past that one person is better than another person based on their difference from us.
What is the response to all these actions? The response is hurt, fear, anguish, terror, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, angst, loneliness, rage, hatred, emptiness, and countless other feelings that lead us to believe we are unloved, unwanted, or unimportant.
It shouldn’t surprise us then when we seek to protect ourselves by displaying anger, hiding our emotions, turning off our feelings, becoming rebellious, engaging in dark humor, developing eating disorders, numbing ourselves with drugs and alcohol, being promiscuous, self-destructive, or disconnected.
We might find ourselves with a DUI, STD, legal troubles, divorced, unemployed, socially isolated, addicted, anxious, or depressed.
And we tell ourselves, “I am unlovable, unworthy, unimportant;” “I am invisible, stupid, a failure;” and “people cannot be trusted, people do not matter, and the world is not safe.”
Whew. No wonder the world seems to be chaotic, uncontrollable, and dangerous!
What if there was a way to overcome those abuses and feelings and build a bridge to a healthier, happier, and more honest way of life?
Well… there is. It starts with becoming an Enlightened Witness. It starts with you.
When we are willing to be what Alice Miller says is, “an understanding person who helps a victim of abuse recognize the injustices they suffered and gives vent to their feelings about what happened to them,” then we can start changing lives.
Shifting the paradigm from “what is wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?” is actually shifting our engagement with people from being unlightened to being enlightened.
Almost everyone has or has had a person in their life such as a grandparent, teacher, coach, neighbor, or friend who told them, “you are loved, you are valued, and you are enough just the way you are.” Maybe it wasn’t those exact words but it was said in their actions towards us.
Did they lie to you? No. They had no reason to lie or hide the truth from you. Can you imagine your life without them present? I’ll wager you cannot.
Today, I’m encouraging you to be someone’s Enlightened Witness. Maybe that someone is a child in your neighborhood, in your religious community, or in your own house.
Today, I’m inviting you to be vulnerable and courageous and shift your paradigm in a way that ACTUALLY makes a difference and starts to change lives.
Let people learn and know they don’t have to live in the shadow of “I am not enough,” but in the golden sunlight of “I am important! I am worthy! I am loved! I am enough!”
(1) Steve and Dorthy Halley at Family Peace Initiative. They do great work! Visit their website and check it out.
"Courage" photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., is a world renowned author, lecturer, professor and podcast host (you should see the list of guests who have been on her show).
She’s also become somewhat synonymous with the topics of vulnerability and shame. Her 2010 Tedx talk (see below), has been viewed over 54,000,000 times. I count for at least half a dozen of those views.
This week’s highlighted book is her book, Daring Greatly. It’s hard, some would say impossible, to be an effective leader without embracing vulnerability. As she states, vulnerability is not a weakness. It is “our most accurate measure of courage.”
You’re probably reading this newsletter because of your interest in being trauma informed and trauma responsive. You know talking about trauma, sharing your stories, and encouraging people to look at the world as it is, not as we ideally want it to be, can be hard - even overwhelming.
More importantly, if we feel we are not enough, not important, or not worthy of the work we are being called to do, we may remain frustrated, unfocused, and forever longing for something that will never come.
I believe Brené Brown’s book helps us understand that we are not alone in our feelings; we have a framework for understanding how to channel the fear that can come from being vulnerable; and we have permission to do what some would call the unthinkable: daring greatly.
Explore options for reading the book from Amazon: Daring Greatly.
Sometimes it's hard to wrap our minds around extremely large numbers. Really, who understands just how massive $28,000,000,000,000 is when it comes to the U.S. federal debt.
And how about the nearest galaxy to ours being 2.5 light years away when one light year is 6 trillion miles?
Fortunately, it’s a little easier to understand when we learn Brené Brown’s 20 minute Tedx talk in 2010 has over 54 million views.
What’s great is that in 20 minutes you can learn from one of the world’s most imminent authorities what it means to have courage, vulnerability, and connection.
Her talk centers on what it means to embrace the beauty of “being enough.” From her Tedx talk: “Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
When we strive to be enough, especially in the mission of helping and serving others, we learn how embracing vulnerability, even though it’s scary, can keep us stay focused on the goal of changing the world one courageous day at a time.
To watch Brene Brown’s Tedx talk: The Power of Vulnerability