Being Gentle From the Cruel

To all the battered souls:

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and breathe in fresh air. You are safe.

You have lived in fear too long. You feel broken beyond reconstruction. What happened is not your fault. Tell yourself that. Every day. Say it again and again until you believe it. Then never stop reminding yourself.

You gave your heart to him and began to build a beautiful partnership. You laughed with friends. You danced and sang at concerts. You found his words and his ways intoxicating. You felt content. Years passed and you fell more in love with this man who became the center of your world. As you focused more on him you didn’t notice that you no longer spent time with your own friends. As you created a home for him you forgot that it is your home, too. As you lived your life for him, you were slowly dying.

It happens in small bits. You become isolated from friends one by one. You are given an allowance for purchases. You are expected to ask permission and give explanations for the things you do, what you buy, who you talk to, where you go. It’s doled out in a nurturing way, so you accept it. He checks the mileage on my car to see if it needs servicing. He doesn’t let me talk to her anymore because he sees that she’s not good for me. He criticizes dinner to help me be a better cook.

Then it comes in big explosions. Like the night dinner wasn’t ready when he wanted to eat. You never expected that bottle that suddenly came at you. Even in your bewilderment you were able to dodge it in time. No harm done. Next time you’ll be sure to plan better so dinner is done on time. Or like the time his voice got very low and deliberate and loud, demanding to know who you were speaking to on the phone. It’s fine that he grabbed the receiver and slammed it down. You shouldn’t have been talking to that friend anyway. There is housework to be done.

But there is harm. It’s not okay.

I know the serrated edges of his words ricochet off your bones in the quiet moments of life. You hear the echos again as you try to rest. They invade your shower, your drive, your sleep. Always there to tell you again that you are not enough.

You’re lucky I’m with you – no one else would want you.

Are you ever going to be able to cook something that doesn’t taste like it will kill me?

I don’t know why you can’t get all the housework done when I tell you. You’re just lazy.

You’re an embarrassment to me around my friends.

You’re too stupid to learn anything.

You just keep getting fatter. I don’t know why I stay with you.


They’re just words, you tell yourself. It’s no big deal. He didn’t mean it. During the good times he holds you close and tells you he loves you and you’re happy. They’re just words.

But the good times are fleeting. And the beer purchases are increasing. And the nights out at the bars are expanding. In time the words change. It is no longer the steady drizzle of blunt pricks to your ego. It deliberately becomes impulsive piercing – driving to your very heart with hurt and anger and malice. In the silence between the words you find a new hell. As if the intensity of his words are fueling his body, any object nearby becomes a projectile. Breaking your spirit was not working fast enough. You were dutiful, but you kept smiling. So now he tried to break your body.

They’re just things, you tell yourself. It’s no big deal. He didn’t mean it. He never laid a hand on you so it’s not really abuse. He says he is sorry the next day. They’re just things.


Remember those times now. Think back to what it was really like. Please, understand how amazing you are to have finally stood up to that. You got out. You found your voice, even if it was silence. It doesn’t matter if you left in a fiery blaze or in the cover of darkness. You left. You need to be proud of that for so many reasons.

You were handed hatred. You walked away with peace.  You were dealt condemnation. You abide in forgiveness. You were shown anger. You live in love.

Do not take lightly the trials you have overcome. Understand that you have been changed in horrible, immeasurable ways. But it is from that change that you will rise to be stronger. I know in the sleepy darkness your mind continues to play those words back to you. I know in the mirror you see the failed remains of a hopeful, young girl. I see you clench at raised voices. I see you flinch at thrown objects. Your body will relax in time, I promise you. Your soul will find peace in time. In time.

Give yourself time to understand the lies from the truth. Be forgiving when you fall back on believing the wrong things. Give yourself permission to be open to trust again. Habits were formed that must be changed. Give yourself space to discover the you that retreated to deep within your soul when the traumatic became too much. She is there. She is beautiful. She is worthy. Read that again, please. She is beautiful. She is worthy.

You often will not feel worthy. You will feel broken most of all. You will feel unable to discern the good from the bad. You will not trust others, but the saddest part is that you will stop trusting yourself. You will feel deserving of great prejudices and hurt. You will feel unlovable from your very core. You will feel blame and responsibility and shame and regret. You will feel a desire to hide from every part of living. Let yourself feel all of this, every bit of it. But, then let it go – push it aside. Be gentle with yourself as you find your way in the light again. It takes time for your eyes to adjust from the darkness you’ve lived.

You must believe in the good. You will feel safe again one day. You will feel love again one day. You will trust again one day.

The cruel things that were done to you were acts by an unkind soul. They are not you. You are beautiful. You are worthy.


Gentleness is the antidote for cruelty. – Phaedrus

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