I want you to know that I am writing this letter from a place of intention. My intention is not to pretend that I do not judge you, but to recognize my judgments and to check them at the proverbial door in an effort to genuinely communicate with you. While I know it is not my place to judge anyone for any reason, I recognize that I do judge. If I’m honest with you about this, perhaps you will listen to me.
What I think I am actively learning about life is that we cannot eradicate the flaws of our person, the transgressions of our soul, the guilts that bind us, through the abuse of another person. For when we take actions—verbal actions, physical actions, mental actions—toward others, we always seem to be taking action against ourselves. Yet, so often we do not know how to recognize this fact or we are too proud to do so.
If I tell you a personal story, will you be open to the lesson, the moral, the call-to-action? It was in the throes of shouting at my wife one day, in those guttural enunciations of misplaced aggression, that I realized I was only shouting at myself. What was I yelling about? I don’t remember the specific, but the general was a nitpick of some sort. Maybe she had not folded the laundry correctly, or had forgotten to place our daughter’s swing in the proper spot, or had failed to wipe one of the kitchen counters when she cleaned. The detail isn’t important, but the breathtaking revelation of the moment is priceless (like MasterCard—have we known each other long enough to joke now?).
The revelation was that I was shouting at myself for my obsessive behavior, for my inability to be flexible, for my own overbearing strides toward impossible perfection. My frustration was not with the counter left dirty, but with the bitter parts of myself that exist after years of commanding self-inflicted standards. No one has put this upon me but me. However, to admit that is too painful. To admit that requires a level of change I fear I do not have the strength to undertake. To let that simmer within my person is harmful, and I feel the burn of the heat it creates in my gut so I must expel it. Do I ever expel it. I expel it through my ranting diatribes in the form of verbal abuse towards my wife.
Are we that different?
For she is your wife, and to be taken as such, she must hold some value to you. When you raise your fist in her direction is it such a stretch to suggest you’re raising a fist at yourself? What form does the anger take that harbors in your person? The source of that anger, the reason that comes back to you—that is the answer I urge you to look for beginning today. No other source will do. It must be a source so intimately intertwined with your own identity that it cannot be extracted from your person. It must live in you, create in you, be you. Identify the anger so powerful within yourself that you wish to harm yourself.
That is the anger that is beating your wife.
There is so much in this that can benefit you. I’ll admit, I find the idea of you ceasing all physical attacks toward your wife a lovely idea indeed, thank you very much. However, think of the positive kickbacks: your wife is happy, your marriage is ultimately preserved, the police no longer visit your home, the neighbors stop their hushed whispers about your family, and the real gem—your anger dissolves into self-acceptance.
That anger cannot be eradicated from your soul by coloring your wife black and blue. Stop attacking yourself. If my letter provides the why but not the how, ask someone for help. Please, ask someone for help with the how. There is never going to be a better time then right now. The wife you’ve chosen deserves better. And whether I like your behavior or not, I know that you deserve better as well.
Think about it,
*The choice to address this letter to a man is a stylistic one. I recognize that domestic violence is a serious issue that can affect men, women, and children alike. Men are victims of domestic violence as well.
This blog post and letter is dedicated to Jessica Leigh Mock. May she forever rest in peace.