A Rant: Fear Is Not Respect

Trigger warning: Contains topics of child abuse.

I wasn’t really planning to write any kind of ramble post until much later in the week, but this event has triggered me so much and I didn’t want it to add a negative spin on my next ramble so I thought I’d write and hopefully inspire a few better choices now. I can’t change the world, sure, but hopefully I can still make it a little bit of a brighter place to be.

Yesterday, while hanging out on Facebook, I saw a post that my cousin shared. In the post it talks about days gone by, about discipline and the way that we were raised. It takes about playing outside and remembering to say please and thankyou, and fair enough, those were all qualities that I was taught too. I’m not quite sure how a man who fails to return a call (twice) is one to talk about being taught respect and good manners, but more besides the point.

There was one line in the post that really stood out for me:

“It was called discipline, not abuse.”

It was called discipline then, yes, but why? Because we were uninformed. Because our parents were uninformed, and because our parents weren’t told that they too were victims of abuse. They were never told that they too had better choices that they could make, which is the message we hear today. Abuse doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is learned. It can be unlearned just as fast if you like, you just have to start making the choice not to commit the same pains inflicted on you, and to forgive those who have caused you suffering. Not easy I know, but it is healing.

My father too was a victim of abuse, and it sickens me to recall the way he used to try to intimidate us in a bid for “respect”. Eventually we stopped respecting him and we even started laughing at him, robbing my Dad even more of that respect that he so craved. In the end Dad learned that the way to get our respect was to respect us first. If he gave us options, nearly always we’d pick the right one. Even if we didn’t, compromise became an equally good, equally mutually beneficial option. We respected him more because he respected us.

With my mother, however, things were a little different.

My mother wasn’t afraid to go where my father wouldn’t, resorting to physical violence or locking us in our rooms to force compliance from us. Mum would opt for threats and guilt, and likewise we eventually stopped respecting her too. She rendered Dad completely helpless, verbally attacking him if he tried to stand up for us.

At 18 I ran away from home for the first time, successfully and for more than three nights in a row. It was over something pretty stupid – I told a friend that I was uneasy with my mother proof-reading my disability benefit forms to make sure I painted the worst case scenario. My Mum read the message and confiscated my phone and laptop, threatening to drop and damage both as the ultimate punishment. I’d had enough of her torment.

I packed a spare mobile phone and a strip of my birth control in a pair of socks, stuffed them into my hoodie pocket and I left. I walked most of the way to Matt’s home, fueled by little more than a burning rage. It was three days before my mother called me, four before I was willing to go home. She was apologetic, we made up, the cycle continued. Social services got involved.

It took me moving out of my family home for me to be finally freed from the grip that my parents held on me, and finally free enough to say that I was a victim of parental abuse. I do not consider my parents as abusers; my parents are loving, highly anxious people who made some very bad decisions, fueled by fear alone. They were just like me at one time, ruled by fearful parents who also used fear to control them.

This prophecy, it seems, happens in many, many types of abusive relationships. Very few people get any gratification from the pain that they inflict on those they supposedly love.

But this is where you too can change. I may not know you, Dear Reader, but I know that you are better than the pain that was inflicted on you, and that you may be inflicting on others right now. I know that you are stronger, smarter, and more loving than what you have been through, and you too can make better choices. I know this, because I was once just like you.

Without making that choice, who knows what could have become of me? Without making the choice to treat people with kindness (and for as often as I can do), who knows what could have happened? Anger begets anger, whereas kindness begets kindness. Fear will lead to more fear if you let it.

Don’t let it.

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