I think I mentioned once or twice about my background in art. I wanted to be an animator, make things like Disney or Studio Ghibli does. Maybe this is why I like animated stuff more than I do live-action, but then, most of the animated things are more wholesome, teaching lessons with the simple wisdom of a child.
Some are obviously not as good as others. I never saw the whole movie of Paranorman; it looked really dumb in the trailers. I do love the climax though (which I’m about to spoil, so scroll down past the line below if you don’t want to be spoiled).
Norman, this little boy who can see and talk with ghosts, goes into these woods to confront the witch that’s been making all kinds of zany, scary stuff happen in town. As the only one who could see and hear her, he’s the only one who can stop her. When we see the witch, she is actually a very angry ghost of a little girl who had the same abilities as Norman, but was wrongfully hanged as a witch 300 years ago.
She has this very electric energy about her: psychic lightning zigzagging from her hair and into the ground, and her face would sometimes split into two faces, the difference of emotion growing between the split faces as she got more upset. She does this in spades as Norman starts to talk to her, acknowledging in an impromptu fairytale telling her story that what happened to her was horrible and unfair, but he still called her out for what she’s doing to the town: “They did something awful, but that doesn’t mean you should, too! This is wrong, and you know it!” After a lot of resistance and anger that gave way to fear, Norman reached her, telling her to remember the good people in her life.
Agatha changed, the woods changed, becoming bright and calm. She remembered her mother, she cried, was vulnerable, and Norman just responded with kindness. She soon made peace with her murder, and passed on under the tree she was hanged, the same tree her mother told her stories that “all had happy endings.”
Everything about Agatha in that scene just expresses so well how children often react to trauma and abuse. The way she seemed to be splitting apart, the angry energy, her dialogue, those are all things I experience. Just like she said to Norman, “Go away! Leave me alone! Shut up!” I loudly think those repelling things when reminded of someone or something that hurts. I’d get so angry sometimes over everything that happened to me, how I seem to be the one being punished instead of the ones who hurt me. I’d get angry too at people I thought were trustworthy or caring, but ended up rejecting me, leaving me feeling betrayed, hating myself.
Like other things, this is something I had to build up to: I was afraid to be angry for a very long time, and even more afraid to be vulnerable. To be angry meant to be just like my mother. To be angry is to be “evil” according to my mother, really both of my parents. One of my siblings even called me, when I got mad about them harassing me, “abusive.” I’d force it all down, shove it all away. I still do it. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to experience it.
Anger is a tricky topic for a lot of victims/survivors, or really for the world as a whole. There’s a lot of it going on, particularly over the Stanford rapist. In light of all that, I figured this might be good to talk about today.
I think “anger” is a largely misunderstood word today, like “love,” “hate,” and “tolerance.” At its base, anger is the flame that stokes our hearts, making us drive forward, and encourages us to pursue the right thing, the just thing. Meanwhile, hatred turns that flame into a boiler-bursting inferno that causes us to derail, and potentially destroy whatever’s nearby. Using this image, we can see there’s a difference between hate (unbalanced, wrongful anger) and indignation (balanced, rightful anger). Hate is the thing we want to avoid, what my therapist calls “wanting revenge for evil’s sake.” Indignation wants justice while hate wants revenge.
“But what about mercy? Forgiveness? Tolerance?” Mercy, by its true definition instead of my dad’s and the world’s definition, is the fulfillment of Justice, not the denial of it. It doesn’t mean what the courts are doing in the Stanford rapist’s case. That is unjust, and a false mercy. It isn’t hatred, also, to demand the many violent ones among the Syrian refugees who have been raping girls and women with reckless abandon to stop what they’re doing. This is also an injustice and a false mercy.
Ultimately, justice is something we put in God’s hands. Chances are very good that none of my abusers will see any sort of civil punishment. The best I’ve gotten so far is police intervention to keep my parents from harassing me, and now I have to play dad’s game to try and get my uncle behind bars.
This isn’t right or just in any way, but it wouldn’t be right or just for me to go over and set my abusers on fire, right? Of course not; I would rightly be sent to jail for that kind of “justice” (really, revenge). Besides…it won’t even make me feel better. Maybe at first, I’ll feel good, feel vindicated, but I know that I would have to fight tooth and nail to keep that vindication going. Ultimately, it’s not worth it: I’d be the one in jail, and I would as be angry and miserable as my mother.
I already talked about the benefits for forgiveness in my Matthew 18 post, so I’m not going to here. It’s anger I want to talk about anyways. Remember, if you still feel hurt and/or angry after you made the decision to forgive, don’t be discouraged; that decision will help ease the pain, but it won’t (usually) make it go away, at least all in an instant.
In the meantime, there might be something we can do with our rightful anger, something constructive. I’ve done art therapy and written PSAs online, spreading awareness for abuse. Part of the reason I made this blog in the first place is out of the anger I have over victims/survivors being unheard and uncared for in the world while their abusers instead being the ones who are coddled and pitied. “Boys will be boys!” the world likes to say, “Get over it. You probably wanted it anyways.”
It all makes me so…furious. I wanted to speak to the victims/survivors out there, for them to the ones who don’t understand. It’s so unfair, I couldn’t stay quiet about it (Can’t! Won’t!). All the same, I’d like to be like a rainstorm, different from the typhoon, hurricane, or tornado: it has the wind, thunder, and lightning like the other natural forces, but it nourishes the world with the water it needs to live.
Friends would encourage me to be angry, loving me so I don’t give in to hate like I would be tempted towards at times. I just have some answers for what we can do about the anger we feel about being abused, but there’s more out there. We can become the adults we needed as children for the children today. We can challenge the current, broken system that favors the abusers through research and advocacy. We can become social workers or civil servants. We can even just heal – that’d be enough to fight against the evils that hurt us.
It’s easier said than done, but it nonetheless can be done. We can win, but first we have to be brave enough to be angry.