Dysfunction exists in families because no one stands up to stop the cycle of abusive behavior. In many cases, abusers receive support from family members. Perhaps, if they did not have support, it would allow space for them to think about the harmful consequences of their behavior. Many victims, however, are gaslighted, made to doubt their reality so much they cannot see the abuse for what it is. It’s like they are living in a dense fog. They keep wiping their eyes, but still cannot see what’s right in front of them. Many victims of abuse are trauma bonded. Overtime, they become accustomed to being mistreated, accepting it as normal. Often, abuse is subtle, like an undercurrent. You don’t see it until you are sinking and gasping for air. A dysfunctional relationship is like a false lifeboat. You feel safe and secure in the lifeboat but unbeknownst to you, there are tiny pin-sized needles letting water seep in. Eventually, you have to make a choice to sink, swim, or die. To onlookers, the lifeboat may be fancy, stable, and praiseworthy, meanwhile victims are standing there with wet feet.
It is possible for abusers to choose to change their behavior. But that’s just it. It is a choice they must make! It is possible for victims of abuse to recover and reclaim their soul. It is possible for them to overcome the guilt and shame they feel when they finally decide to swim rather than sink. Individuals who are ignorant to the abuse may pass judgment on victims because they do not know the entire story. They don’t see the holes in the lifeboat. This leaves victims of abuse feeling further victimized. They feel like their wounds will never be validated. It is like salt in their wounds. This is why many victims feel the need to tell their story years later. They simply want to move on but cannot process their silent pain. Sadly, some abusers take their abuse to their grave and their victims are never heard. Victims are left with the weight of forgiveness when the perpetrator never showed remorse, never said they were sorry, and even continued the abusive behavior. Yet, the victim is expected to cover it over, as it never happened. Victims of abuse have a long and painful journey. It isn’t the abuse that is the worse. It’s the aftermath of what abuse does to a person that is the hardest to overcome. It’s a continual undoing, a reprogramming, a shedding of the old self. It’s hard work to reinvent, rethink, and reestablish your thoughts, memories, and perceptions. But, there is a way to find hope, restore your faith, and dwell in peace.
What’s the point here? The point is…Be kind and do not judge. You never know someone’s full story. You don’t know what a rebellious child may be dealing with. You don’t know that the smiles in public may turn to rage behind closed doors. You don’t know what a homeless man may have been through. You don’t know that an abuser may make intimacy a nightmare. You don’t know the overweight person may be clothing themselves in adipose tissue to mask their pain. You just do not know! Seek to understand. Have empathy, be kind, and lead with love.
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