I had a profound – and profoundly disturbing – realization this morning as I spoke with my prayer partner. I was telling her about an upsetting conversation I’d had over the weekend and, as sometimes happens, I started to hear myself speaking as if I were sitting on my own shoulder. From that place, I heard the truth:
For my entire adult life, I’ve been trying to find someone who would love me even when I’m angry at them. (Oof – that looks even uglier in print than it sounded in my head.)
When I was a kid, it was not safe to be angry with my father. No matter the situation, he would turn it around so that I was the one who was wrong and bad. I learned to hold the anger and pretend that everything was okay, even though it often felt like my world was falling apart.
I remember one afternoon when I was about 12. I got so angry at my dad that I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and I stormed out of the room. I went to cry in the bedroom. He came in and tried to make some jokes to get me to laugh (which was his usual way of not having to talk about whatever was really going on). I was too upset to even make the “correct” response. I said to him, “Go away.” What I really wanted was for him to sit down and hug me and tell me that he loved him. Instead he walked out of the room and didn’t speak to me for a couple of weeks. That was life with my father.
And so I have searched for that person who I could rage at and still have them sit down beside me and say, “I know you’re hurting and it’s okay. I love you anyway. I love you so much that I’ll sit here with you until it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. I’ll be your safe place.”
I’ve wanted it so much that I think I may have created reasons to be angry at people (more specifically men, since this is clearly a “daddy” issue) in order to test them and see if they would stick around and still love me.
I talked all of this out this morning and my prayer partner said, “What about you? Can you still love you if you’re angry?”
WOW. Good question. And it’s the crux of the issue – if I’m not able to look at myself with compassion for the hurt and angry little girl that lives inside, why would I expect anyone else to?
And then she said something else profound – “There are a whole lot of men walking around with hurt little boys inside.” (This wasn’t a jab at men, it was a recognition that this society doesn’t teach our men how to deal with hurt, only to stuff it down and act macho.)
So let’s imagine this: I’m searching for a male who can satisfy the the needs and longings of the hurt five-year old girl inside me. Most of the men I encounter in the world are trying to satisfy the needs and longings of the hurt five-year old boy inside of them…no good can come of that scenario.
So I continue my work. No, I don’t expect that I’ll ever have perfectly dealt with all of the issues. But days like today are important – days when I recognize another little piece of my personal melody and perhaps stop playing the same tune over and over.