I’m more interested in armor than vulnerability. In war, we don’t expose our throat to the enemy. When we are being assaulted, our poetic professions of pain do not cause a perpetrator to pause in their cruelty.
We continue to believe all the displays of outrage and empathy, calls to higher ground and virtue are how we get through this. But, having had some experience with abusers and predators, they serve as a raw litmus test of what you will do to protect yourself and those you love.
Your ideals form a container within which you are accustomed to acting. Boundaries of principles. You are practiced at these. But you built your container for the world you take for granted. Then the unthinkable happens.
Conventional wisdom says trauma and abuse cause irreparable harm. I have heard all my life about trauma damage and nothing about those of us who have dealt with predators and abusers and what we’ve learned from the experience. We are strong in places you are not. We know a few things about ourselves and the world that you — still offering platitudes — don’t know.
We know where our “red line” is. We know what the worst of us is capable of. And what we’re willing to do to stop them. When there is a hand at your throat, when those you love are about to be devoured you either have a red line or you perish. Crisis calls out the courageous and the predators. I hope you can tell them apart.
Some of us, having had experience with someone who got up in the morning making a plan to hurt others (us) and seen the twisted pleasure they took when their effort paid off, aren’t clinging to a fairy tale of innocence. We’ve seen the curl of contempt and satisfaction on the face of a predator. Watching others suffer to feed their own sick soul. Not everyone is as shocked as you may be — they did not grow up in a world designed for them and their comfort and success. They’ve had to make terrible choices. To survive. To protect.
If you want to hang on to your humanity you must let go of the belief that these predatory beings can be dealt with within the tidy bounds of principles crafted in peacetime. If you’re in a position of power and you don’t have a red line because you’ve never needed one — it’s time to make one. Past time.
I have a small number of people I call friends — people I trust. If you’ve never faced the unthinkable, and never found your red line, I’m not sure I know who you are. And not sure you know who you are. I make my friends among those who’ve stared into the abyss. And did not dive in and were not devoured.