Nature or Nurture…

I’ve listened to many conversations lately regarding a close friend of mine. He was abused as a young child and, at times, lashes out. So many of these people I thought were trustworthy have begun saying that there was nothing else his parents (adoptive) could have done, so it MUST be genetic.

That thought process pisses me off so much. By that logic, my having been abused means I could suddenly turn into my parents. I could become a self obsessed narcissist or an alcoholic jackass at any point. When I mentioned this, all voices fell silent before a chorus of “of course, we/I never meant YOU”. Yes, yes you did. 

As adults, admitting, confronting, and dealing with abuse we suffered as children, is seen as weak. The stigma around it if you’re male is even worse. I’ve been told I need to get over it. Live in the now. Let the dust of the past settle. Let it go. Just think happy thoughts. Or, in other words, deny, deny, deny. Stop talking about it all together. For those people, if I have to have them in my life, I don’t talk about things with them anymore, if I ever did. Ignoring the past though, isn’t an option. The longer you ignore it, the harder it is to deal with. 

From my support groups I’ve been in, I’ve often been told how lucky I am. I got out in the winter of my 31st year from my primary abuser: my mother. I was lucky because so many of them had to wait until their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and even then a lot of it was because their abuser died. 

Confronting your past isn’t shameful. It’s brave. Going up to those who hurt you and telling them (when you’re ready) to fuck off, is an amazing and liberating moment. For me, the euphoria lasted about a year. Then it was replaced with an enormous sense of loss. I’d lost my fantasy parent, my actual parent, 2 brothers, half a dozen uncles and their wives, and countless cousins. I was alone. Singular. If not for my wife, I would have only my child, my 91 year old grandma, and an aunt I had wished to have as my mom my whole life. That kind of loss affects you, but not as so many would think. It makes you stronger. It makes you resilient. It makes you brave. 

I finally lost it a couple days ago, when the topic of this friend came up again. This time it was about how he was a lost cause and maybe it was time to walk away. I told them they were right. Our friend doesn’t need people who see the worst in him around anymore. He deserves better than they are ever going to be willing to give. My outburst was seen as combative and bitchy, but that’s okay. Their smug sense of charity was gone and I’d shown them a mirror. Sometimes, when those who are supposed to nurture you, years later, you have to do the work yourself.


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