I believe with all my being that love is the greatest gift we have to offer. In my eyes, love is our greatest power, our greatest strength, and our greatest treasure. Without love, I believe we have nothing. Love allows us to rise up and ever strive to become our best. The gift of love can be used wisely—to heal others, to heal ourselves, and to move into our full potential as human beings. Conversely, baseness masquerading as love can be used to manipulate, injure, and even destroy. If the brand of love you have been offered is not patient, kind, honest, and caring, then it is NOT love. If the brand of love you have become accustomed to is devoid of integrity and true friendship, then it is NOT really love. If the brand of love in your world is causing you harm, then love is a misnomer.
In my life journey, I have encountered abusive behavior and domestic violence in many forms. Whether in my work as a psychologist or in other arenas, I have witnessed the damaging power of violent behavior in personal, intimate relationships. Under the guise of “love,” I have seen violence decimate minds, hearts, and spirits. In many instances, it is abuse that demolishes self-confidence, spirit, and a sense of independence. It kills self-worth; it kills vital inner beauty. If we fail to stand up against such abuse—to tolerate it in any form—we allow the problem to grow.
Domestic violence isn’t limited to physical abuse; its devious tentacles also take the form of spiritual abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse. In all cases, domestic violence is emotionally abusive; it harms the victim’s very soul. Although some believe that domestic violence is limited to severe physical harm, all forms of domestic violence take a great toll on the psyche. As one client told me, “I wish he’d made me black and blue or broke my arm; at least I’d have something to show for it. Instead, I have a million invisible cuts and scars from the horrific things he’s said and done. I wish I could at least erase from my mind the terrible names he’s called me. I don’t know who I am anymore.” This woman’s poignant words echo the sentiments of many of my clients who have suffered emotional, sexual, spiritual, and financial domestic violence. Indeed, horrible bruises may fade with time, and even broken bones may heal—but the damage to the heart and soul remains. It can be a nearly impossible task to heal from the emotional ravages of domestic abuse—no matter what its form.
One of my young, resilient clients entrusted the following poem to me, and with her permission it is offered, anonymously, below. In reading her words, a picture of domestic violence is revealed in its true cruelty:
There is a light on inside my head
It is small and faint
But it is carving out sight in a sea of darkness
This light is… new It is understanding
Understanding that I no longer have to live like the shell of the vibrant human that once was me
It is understanding
That I never had to It is acknowledgement that I am worthy
Something more than this
I don’t know what more is yet
I’ve never seen more
But I now understand that it exists
And it makes me feel…
I’m not sure
I’ve never felt my own feelings before
My feelings have always been given to me by the beast that lives within the shell
Who created the shell
Who didn’t think I needed me
Who molded me into a blank mask that he could paint on
Who painted me as he thought I should be
Who painted over the image that was there because it was not…
I don’t know
I don’t know because the beast purred that I was perfect
And everything he wanted just as I was
But… I must have been lacking
Because the beast painted me with purples and blues
To make me better
To help me be more
The beast painted me with purples and blues
They would spring up like flowers where no one else could see
In secret places covered by my clothes
And slowly some would fade to green and yellow until my body was a rainbow of misshapen flowers that continuously blossomed and faded
Like I have faded
Like my insides have disappeared until there was nothing left but a shell
Now there is a light
And it is growing
It is filling up the shell and burning out the beast
It is burning me
Burning me with…
I don’t know
But I am ready to find out
As my client read to me of her horror, I could imagine the bruises that had sprung up on her body time after time. I could imagine the other horrors that the bully had forced upon her. I could see—and I could feel—her pain. The perpetuation of violence and hatred in the name of love is impossible for me to comprehend.
I believe in love. I believe in goodness. I believe in striving to ever become a better human being. I believe we all make mistakes, yet to knowingly cause harm to another being is inexcusable, for we have the power to choose our actions. When anger arises, we choose what we do with our anger. We have the choice to lash out or to walk away. We have the choice to become violent or to find a better mode of expression. We have the choice to act out of hate or to act out of real love. We have the choice to never paint another being’s body, mind, or spirit with shades of hateful black and blue.
Join me in standing up against violence. Join me in standing up for the true meaning of love. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Reach out for support in the name of love.
Written in honor and support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.