The Meaning of Life, Part 2: “Beauty in Brokenness: My Journey of Lust, Hatred, and Love of The Opposite Sex”
By David Metcalfe
September 4, 2017
An Odd Occurrence: Peril Of The Prostitute Pursuit
At a university campus in Edmonton, Alberta, two young men sat in an old Honda Civic. In the driver’s seat sat a typical drug dealer: a scrawny, scraggly bearded man covered in tattoos. The young man in the passenger seat, however, was of vastly different appearance. He was a clean cut, educated man, who, if someone were to happen upon them sitting there, would notice he looked terribly out of place. As any good drug dealer does, he had supplied this first time customer with a joint, free of charge. Although the drug dealer was, of course, a drug dealer, this young customer was not looking for drugs, but rather the knowledge that a man who lives beneath the law might be able to provide. He inquired of the drug dealer, “Have you ever hired a prostitute?”.
He had seen in movies that a woman in high boots and excessive makeup would stand on a street corner, where men driving by would call out to them, and the prostitute would get in the man’s car. He was surprised to find out that, in the age of the internet, very little prostitution in the city of Edmonton (and most major cities) is done that way anymore. Instead of going to a store and buying things in person, a huge number of people just buy the things they want online with “Amazon” or “Craigslist”. Buying women for sex is done the same way. There are dozens of websites in Edmonton alone that have a similar appearance to Facebook profiles, but instead of an “Add Friend” button, they have a “Purchase for the Night” button. Upon clicking it, you will typically get to a page that gives you a phone number to text. The young man, sitting in the drug dealer’s car, texted that number.
When a man contacts a number on one of those sites, it is common to arrange meeting at a hotel room. After the initial text, the prostitute will typically respond with the amount, the services being offered, and once agreed upon, will text a hotel address and room number. When the man goes up to the room, three possible scenarios may occur:
1) The prostitute is there, whereupon her and the customer proceed to engage in sexual activity. The following morning, the prostitute receives her payment and leaves.
2) Police officers are there, and proceed to arrest the prospective customer for knowingly attempting to purchase sex.
3) Some men are waiting there to rob the prospective customer of the money he brought to pay the prostitute.
Needless to say, involvement with prostitutes carries with it a lot of potential dangers. The additional anonymity of the internet gives possibilities, for both cops and criminals, to take advantage of sex solicitors.
Now, you might be wondering how I know so many details about this story, and how I obtained this information about prostitution. Well, that’s because the young man in the car that evening was me.
If you know me at all, you probably think I’m lying. I myself can’t believe it’s true when I think back to it. But in fact, I never deleted the text conversation that I had with that prostitute. I still have it on my phone today. Fortunately, that’s all it was, a few texts. I didn’t go through with it for a number of reasons. For one, all of the obvious dangers mentioned above. Secondly, it cost $600 for a night. So even if everything went ideally, I would still be out $600, and as a newly graduating student, money was not in abundance. And thirdly, my beliefs surrounding the sacredness of sexuality haunted my conscience, making it difficult for me to justify following through on my desire.
But even with that information, you still shouldn’t believe that this really happened. There are a few inconsistencies worth noting. For one, why was I so desperate for sex? I was seriously considering not only paying over $600, but also risking potential jail time! It seems that in order to think in that way, I would need to suffer from some type of hypersexual disorder. Secondly, why on earth would I go to a prostitute? As a good looking young man with an ability to perform socially, wouldn’t it have been much easier, cheaper, and more legal to just pick up a girl at a club and have a one night stand? And lastly, why was no one aware of my struggles? Since I often share these blogs on Facebook, I guarantee that some of my friends and family members are reading this like, “WHAT?? Is he serious right now?”. Yes, I am serious. And the fact that I didn’t share this with anyone is also important to consider, because it is very odd. There are lots of very kind people who would want to help me if I told them about my issues, so the fact that I didn’t communicate that to anyone carries some level of pertinence.
Well friends, you are in luck. Since I overthink everything, I have gone ahead and overthought this one so much that I have identified the problems, answers, and solutions to nearly every contributing factor leading up to this behavior. I do not suffer from a hypersexual disorder, and never have, so a singular psychological symptom offers nothing. I am fully capable of picking up a girl at a club, so social dysfunction offers nothing. I had social community, including family, friends, university, and church, so social isolation offers nothing. Instead, I will offer an underlying framework of “seeking affirmation” to later draw upon concepts of masculinity, mental health, and social community, and by the end will have effectively solved the mystery of the young man and the prostitute.
My Life As A Lazy, Selfish, Wimpy Little Faggot
A lot of people have trouble believing that words have power. One of the goals of many anti-bullying programs is to convince people that they do. I have never had trouble believing in the incredible power of words, especially their potential to devastate an individual over time. To this day, there are certain words that make me cringe, even sick to my stomach. Those words include “Nasty”, “Lazy”, “Wimp”, and a host of other ones, but especially those three. I have been called those words probably one thousand times each, 90% of which were spoken to me by my Dad.
Although my Dad was often verbally, and at times, physically, abusive, I desperately sought his approval. When he asked me how my day at school was, I used to make up stories that I thought would get approval from him. He had been bullied terribly in school, so he loved to hear stories about me beating up bullies. They didn’t always stay stories. One time, I saw a kid throw a basketball at another kid. I proceeded to grab that “bully”, punch him in the face, throw him on the ground, and smash his head into the pavement multiple times. When I told my Dad about it, he was elated to hear that I was hurting other kids. He said, “Good job, son”. I loved hearing that.
But as I grew older, I didn’t hear much “Good job, son” anymore. I started to hear a lot of “you little turd” (because of course, my Dad was too good of a Christian to say “shit”). It sounds funny to me now that he would call me a turd. It wasn’t funny when he was screaming it at me as I stayed silent, hoping that if I waited out the yelling patiently that he wouldn’t hit me. When I was a teenager, I decided I was not going to respond to this type of authoritarian parenting. Instead, I decided I would do what I knew to be right, despite what my Dad said. As a 13 year-old atheist, my understanding of morality had already far surpassed that of my Bible college graduate, prayer obsessed father. It was not met well. One afternoon, after enduring verbal and physical abuse for not organizing my room the way my Dad wanted, I ran away from home. My Dad was angry, and proceeded to call all of my friends so they would come find me. Two of my friends went bike riding in my neighborhood and found me walking by the park. When they told me that I needed to go back home, I broke down crying. They were confused. To their knowledge (based on what my Dad told them), I ran away because I refused to clean my room. To them, I was nothing more than a rebellious little shit, and worst of all I cried, which makes me a wimp.
My Dad has an obsessive hatred of homosexual people. He loves Leviticus 18:22, but doesn’t much care for, oh say, the entirety of the gospels. His homophobia has largely defined his life and his relationships with people. He has literally accused nearly everyone in the family of being homosexual at least once. About five years ago, my older sister updated her profile picture to a photo of her and her friend. My Dad looked at the photo, disgusted, and said, “Looks a bit lezzy to me”. That’s literally all it took. Since I never dated any girls as a young teenager, he subtly found ways of accusing me of being gay. Later, when I was 19, I overheard him talking to my mom and siblings, telling them his theory that I am a gay pedophile. He had no evidence to think that at all, and to this day I am disgusted that his twisted mind could ever accuse me of something so awful. But what might be even worse, is that instead of objecting, my mom and siblings all nodded in agreement.
If my siblings all had to describe me in one word, they would say, “selfish”. It comes out in subtle, and obvious, ways all the time. When I ask for money from my parents, there is incredible opposition. They say things like, “You’re just selfish, David!” “You’re stealing from the parents, and that’s not ok”, etc. When I have been studying a particular topic at length, and share my opinion with them, they say that I’m “just trying to start an argument” or “being a know-it-all”. But that’s manageable. It doesn’t significantly impede my life in any way, other than the emotional degradation. However, not long ago, my older sister accused me of committing child abuse, even threatening to call social services to report me. Just like the many other horrible accusations against me, this one was again without evidence.
According to my family, especially my Dad, I am a lazy, selfish, wimpy little faggot. But there appears to be significant dissonance between their accusations and the reality of my actions.
I got straight A’s in school, I have a Bachelor’s Degree, I volunteered at church since I was a teenager, I’ve worked hard at difficult summer jobs, and currently, between my full-time job, my research pursuits, and this blog, I work nearly 80 hours a week; I’m not lazy.
Even though I’ve never made much money, I have given thousands of dollars to various charities, I have volunteered at summer camps and church groups, I study sociology every day in hopes of helping to solve problems to make life better for people, I work in full-time ministry for barely enough money to survive; I’m not selfish.
I like girls a lot. Too much actually. So much that it has been very difficult to avoid pornography addiction and looking at the girls around me with lust. I have never felt any degree of sexual desire towards anyone other than women; I’m not a faggot.
However, despite the fantastic evidence to support that who I am does not resemble any of these things in the least, I am constantly haunted by them. Just to do basic things, like get out of bed in the morning, go to work, hang out with friends, etc., I need to constantly use positive self-talk, saying in my head, “You’re great, you’re intelligent, you’re capable”. It will be ten years of me saying that by the time I get even close to the number of times I’ve been told negative things about myself. The things people say about us end up defining us in ways that might be entirely contradictory of our reality. I don’t need to be convinced that words have power; I’ve lived that power every day.
Setting the Stage For Gender Performance
As an avid proponent of evolutionary psychology, I think that human nature essentially boils down to what will best increase our survival as a species. Everything that we instinctually desire can be traced back to how it benefits the continuation of humans. This makes sense, because if we did not do things that benefited us as a species, we would have gone extinct long ago, like 99.999% of species that have existed at some point in history. Since survival is dependant on reproduction, and reproduction on sex, sexuality has become ingrained in the subconscious desires of the human mind.
How those subconscious desires are expressed, however, is largely a product of the culture that we exist in. It’s important to distinguish a person’s sex from their gender. Sex is purely biological. It’s a result of your chromosomes being XY or XX, and creating certain amounts of hormones that eventually create sexual organs. Gender, however, is socially constructed. As a society, we create certain standards of what it means to fulfill your gender, and we undergo various “performances of gender” to meet those standards. For example, why don’t men wear dresses for special occasions like women do? There is nothing biological about it, and there’s no foundation for it in any sacred text. American culture has many standards for gender that are purely social constructs. It is important to note, however, that many of them have a biological basis, although they are rarely rooted in anything innately biological. The three central concepts of socially constructed masculinity in America can be summed up in three things: get paid, get made, and get laid.
A Basic Theory of Masculinity
1) Get Paid: In prehistoric times, a woman was making an important investment when she chose her mating partner. While she was pregnant, and initially caring for the baby, her ability to provide food for herself was drastically reduced. If she did not have someone to provide for her during that time, starvation was a likely outcome. She needed to choose a mate that would be willing and able to obtain the necessary resources to sustain them both.
We are not so different from our Neanderthal ancestors. In fact, it’s a trait that we received from them, and it continues to play out to this day. “Real men” are providers, and in our capitalist, extravagant culture, they are wealthy. The obtaining and display of wealth are not only intrinsically tied to mating selection, but have come to define who a man is (Buston and Emlen, 2003).
2) Get Made: “Someday I’ll make a man out of yooooouuuuuuu!!!” “Mulan” is a fantastic film that draws upon themes of gender performance throughout. In fact, it’s a perfect example of the difference between gender and sex. Although her sex is female, her gender becomes male since she goes about performing gender according to the culture she lives in. The iconic song, “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” effectively encapsulates what the social construction, or “making”, of a man is.
“Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Huns”: Men need to work hard, accomplish goals, be strong and victorious, and display physical prowess in the face of danger.
“Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons?”: If you don’t conform to their definition of masculinity, your gender or sexuality will be called into question, in order to degrade you as a person.
“You’re a spineless, pale, pathetic lot”: If you don’t succeed at meeting the demands of your gender performance, you will be ridiculed, and deemed unworthy (Wilder and Zippel, 1998).
3) Get Laid: As previously mentioned, sex is an integral part of the subconscious mind, and it generates a primal desire within us. Prehistorically, men were most often the initiators of sex, while women were the resisters. If a man has sex and gets a woman pregnant, the man is able to perpetuate the species at no cost to himself. The woman, however, will have to deal with the pregnancy, which is of great physical cost to her. Since our decision making is based off of a cost-benefit analysis, the increased benefit, and reduced cost, for men, inevitably leads them to want to engage in more sexual activity. The woman, however, needs to resist. She needs to evaluate the man to decide whether it will be beneficial to her, based on a few criteria: Will he provide for her during pregnancy? Does he have good genes (height, strength, health) that should be passed on? Is he the best possible option for her to mate with, out of the available men? If the answer is yes to all three, she will likely agree to mate with him.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this. We find all kinds of expressions of this Neanderthal mate selection behavior in our culture today. The first mate selection criteria (will he provide for me?) is expressed in the “Get Paid” aspect. The second criteria (Does he have good genes?) is expressed in the “Get Made” aspect. By performing gender, you are essentially proving the value of your genes. The third, and last, criteria (Is he the best possible option, out of the available men?) is where competition comes into play. Just like how male rams will ram into each other, human males also engage in various competitive behaviors to impress and “win” sex from young women (Clutton-Brock and Huchard, 2013). Basically, the best men get to have sex, and the “lesser” men don’t. This is why men brag about their sexual conquests of women. By having sex with a woman, it proves that she has deemed you worthy.
Problem for me is, I don’t meet, or even aspire to meet, any of these social constructions of masculinity. I’m not interested in making lots of money and becoming wealthy. I don’t think it’s a beneficial thing to have dramatically more than you need, I would rather give any extra money I have to poor people who need it. I don’t support violence, and I don’t have a high regard for physical labor tasks. I’ve also never had sex in my entire life. So basically, if to be a man I need to do all those things, then I’m not a man. And once again we find a dissonance between what is being said, and the reality I know to be true. I am in no way feminine, and I exhibit many biologically masculine qualities: a deep voice, facial hair, sexual attraction to women, etc. I simply don’t conform to the subjective “ideals of manhood” that have been arbitrarily set by the prevailing culture.
By now, you hopefully understand three main concepts:
1) I severely lacked positive affirmation from my family in my teenage years
2) I am considered a “lesser” man for not conforming to standards of masculinity
3) In our culture, when young women are willing to have sex with you, it means you are considered worthy
Ill Jill: It’s Better To Have Love And Lust, Than To Never Have Love At All
Last September, I moved back in with my parents. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea, it was much better financially, as I didn’t want to incur more debt than I already had. My idea was that I would just stay in my room majority of the time, come to the kitchen for meals, and spend the rest of my time at the university, so that I wouldn’t have to interact too much with my family. Although I did that, I wasn’t able to steer clear of the damage of my family’s poor behavior and outright stupidity. After being insulted constantly by my younger sister, I got fed up with it one day, and told her she needs to stop that or leave the house. She refused to stop, so I yelled at her to leave the house, which she did. A month later, harsh, unevidenced accusations came against me from my parents and older sister. They accused me of “beating up” my sister, and being a “violent, out of control nutcase”. I was subsequently kicked out of my parent’s house, and I moved to a small, crappy apartment. My younger sister later admitted to lying about the occurrence, saying that she made up the story to make it seem like I was violent. But since my parents are complete idiots, they chose not to punish her for lying, and instead rewarded her with a new car, and made no effort to restore the damage done to me.
At this point, I had no positive relationships with any females. Well, except for a young lady named Jill. I had met her in the summer at a party. Now, Jill was not particularly intelligent or extraordinary in any way, however, she was a joy to be around. Unlike my sisters, she was pleasant, kind, and most of all, she affirmed me. She laughed at my jokes, she listened intently when I recited my latest research pursuits, she spent time with me for hours and hours, we had fun together, and within a couple months, I grew to love her. And as my affection grew for her, I found her to be more and more attractive. She quickly became the most beautiful girl in the world to me. There were times when we would just lay on the couch next to each other, staring into each other’s eyes and telling stories for hours.
After months of hanging out together and growing close with one another, I invited her over to my apartment, and asked her to be my girlfriend. She said no. I asked why, and she refused to give a reason, just saying “I don’t feel that way about you”. I was very disappointed, but I figured that I would be ok. The next day, she sent me the worst text I have ever received in my life. In it, she said that I treated her like crap, that I’m a bad person, and that she never wants to see me again. The one girl in my life who actually affirmed me, and who I admired so much, now became another person making false accusations against me. I was devastated.
Girl Crazy: Descent Of Sanity
I had never been a believer in psychosomatic illness, until I experienced it first hand. In the subsequent days, I fell terribly ill. I couldn’t eat or sleep. My stomach hurt, and sharp pains would come whenever I even thought about Jill. I knew that if I stayed by myself in my apartment, I would go mad, possibly even kill myself, so I went back to my parent’s house for a while. Dealing with their poor behavior and stupidity was advantageous to trying to handle my severe mental state on my own. I sought help from anyone that was willing. I found that many people would chat on a surface level for a little while, but no one wanted to actually take on solving, or even helping, with the core, more severe issues of my quickly degrading mental state. The general mantra I got from my friends and family was: “find a new girl to affirm you”.
After missing the first two days of second semester due to my acute psychosomatic symptoms, I forced myself to return to class. In the first class I went to, we talked about creating social capital through community programs. I got so into the class discussion, I forgot about the pain in my stomach, and how horrible my life was. When class was over, I became depressed again, and wasn’t able to eat lunch. In my afternoon class, we talked about the theory behind logical reasoning as a method of obtaining truth. Once again, my mind was so enamoured by the discussion, I forgot all about my difficulties. I went home that night and started studying. I began to study obsessively for hours every day in addition to my course work. Education was my salvation.
More Than A Mind: Filling the Hole In My Heart
As much as I wanted to occupy my mind with excessive thinking, the mind is a limited aspect of a person, even among the highly intellectual. Eventually, my mind would lose engagement, and the gaping hole in my heart would begin to ache. Whenever the ache became too much to bear, I would find solace in gaining the affirmation of young women. If you are a single young woman who was my Facebook friend between February and April 2017, you most likely received a weird message from me, something like, “Hey, how’s it going? Would you like to hang out this weekend?”. About 50% of the girls I messaged said yes to the hang out. I hung out with probably 20 different girls in those three months. A lot of girls seemed to like the initial prospect of it, thinking something like, “A guy is taking an interest in me! And he seems nice, intelligent, and good looking, I’ll give him a shot.”
I found out very quickly that I was not all that interested in pursuing an actual relationship with any of these girls. With Jill, we would spend 10 hours together, and never get bored of each other’s company. The only reason I would leave her house was because she fell asleep, at like 1 am. These girls were not all that great to spend time with. However, I still needed their affirmation. With Jill, it was a combination of love and lust that I had for her, but with these girls, I no longer had the love, which left me only with lust for them. My goal became to get as far as I could with them physically, and if they weren’t willing to do that, I stopped seeing them. Basically, any girl that accepted my advances, I lusted towards, and any girl that rejected my advances, I hated.
Though I was able to get some physical affection from them, they never wanted to have sex. And if you’ll remember from earlier, sex is an integral part of the biological aspect of being a man, and in our culture, it is a necessary part of affirming the fulfillment of your masculinity. I craved affirmation so badly, and I saw the fulfillment of that through having sex. However, after being rejected by probably the 10th girl that month, I was feeling too insecure to ask out another girl. I wanted to have sex, but I didn’t want to risk being rejected again. What I needed, was a prostitute.
And now we arrive back at the beginning of the story. Makes a little more sense now, doesn’t it? I’ll just give you a quick recap of the questions I asked at the beginning, and the answers we now have for them.
Why was I so desperate for sex? After years of being degraded through the negativity of my family, and severely lacking approval from my Dad, I desperately sought affirmation to know that who I am is valuable. Because of my innate desire, and the culture that we exist in, I sought to affirm myself as a person through having sex with young women.
Why did I go to a prostitute? After being brutally rejected by Jill, the only girl I’ve ever truly loved, I gave up on love, and pursued lust instead. Due to a lack of fulfilling my lust through the girls I was hanging out with, I became very insecure, and terrified of rejection. I needed to find a woman to have sex with that would not risk the potential of rejection.
Why was no one aware of my struggles? Not only did people not care very much, but even when they did care, they offered grossly incompetent advice. “Girl broke up with you? Oh, just find a new one.” -actual quote from all of my family and friends.
The Road to Redemption: Salvaging the Soul
I discussed already that I am more than a mind, I am also a heart. But I’m even more than that: I’m a soul. Now, I wouldn’t say that the soul exists physically. It doesn’t necessarily need to exist metaphysically either. When I talk about the soul, I mean the concept of philosophical ideas that humans hold which serve to inform our actions. The reason animals don’t have souls, in my opinion, is that they are incapable of philosophical thought, so it obviously does not inform their actions. Animals operate solely based on their primal, instinctual desires, which serve only to propagate their species. As I mentioned previously, we as humans have those primal desires as well, but they exist in the subconscious mind. The conscious mind, on the other hand, allows us to transcend those primal desires and serve a greater purpose. That recognition, and application, of the conscious mind is what I call the soul.
My friend Stephen has been through exactly what I went through. He sought affirmation from young women, and found it in places that eventually resulted in devastation. In the first week of May, he had just graduated, and had some time before he began working. I had a week off before spring classes started, and since we were both in Edmonton at the time, we hung out nearly every day. Stephen is the kind of guy who will be singing a parody of “You’re Beautiful” by turning it into “Your Booty’s Full” one minute, and then be talking about the purpose of our existence the next minute. He’s a fun person to hang out with. Upon telling him a glimpse into my recent struggles, he chatted with me at length, and recommended the book “Victory Over The Darkness” by Neil T. Anderson. Stephen is much more spiritual than I am. He’s received much of his education from Bible college, whereas I’ve received my education from secular university. But it introduced to me a new, and very important, concept: you are not valuable because someone tells you that you have value, you are valuable because you are made with value; it’s who you are. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are loved, and you are valuable (Anderson, 2000).
I met with my friend, Jesse, at a restaurant in south Edmonton. He advised me to get baptised at the church where he pastors. I recommended against it, thinking about how, just one week ago, I had been smoking weed and soliciting sex from a prostitute. There was no way that I was ready. Baptism is a cultural practice that affirms that God has accepted you into His church, and there was no way I deserved to be a part of anything, let alone a church. But the next day, I had a realization that maybe I didn’t need to be perfect to be part of a community, in fact, maybe that would be good for me. I signed up to be baptised. Throughout those next three weeks leading up to my baptism date, I studied the Bible excessively: I attended every Bible study I could, I interviewed pastors all over Edmonton, I watched theological debates on YouTube, I read extensively through academic journals on theories in philosophy, and by the day of my baptism, I was better versed in theology than most pastors. My baptism testimony was a 12-minute lecture full of the philosophy I had learned, and the application of it to my life. It got amazing response. But more importantly, it was the fulfillment of my mind and soul, coming together in unity to create something incredibly meaningful to my life, and to the lives of others; it was beautiful.
Learning A Foreign Language
My mind was now in a state of fulfillment: I studied every day, and was able to publish some articles that expressed my ideas on some topics in sociology. My soul was also in a state of fulfillment: I read the Bible, ministered to people, and engaged in Christian community. My heart, however, still ached, and the pain, although lessened, was ever present.
As a result of my mind and soul being fulfilled, and highly functioning, I got a job working for a ministry organization in Colorado as a writer and public speaker. Coming from Alberta, I expected the language to be the same. However, they used phrases that were completely foreign to me, for example: “David, you are funny”, “David, you are smart”, “David, you are awesome”. What the heck does that mean? Well, after living for two months in Colorado, I will go ahead and translate these phrases for you. They all actually mean the same thing: “you are valuable”. And it didn’t stop there. Everyone, including my coworkers, friends at church, and family I lived with, all affirmed me.
Losing Lust, Finding Beauty
It’s an absolute privilege to get to work with the amazing people at Axis. They are all gems, every single one of them. I get along well with the guys, which is normal for me. What’s different than usual, is that I get along well with the girls. Now, I hope none of the girls I work with are reading this, or it will be fairly awkward at work on Monday…but I digress. All of the girls I work with are very beautiful. Now, you probably think I mean some kind of deep, inner beauty or something. Well, yeah they have that too, but I mean they are legitimately very good looking. I also love all of them. What’s weird though, is that for the first time in my life, there are girls in my life who I love and are beautiful, but I don’t feel any lust towards them. Is there something wrong with me?
Well, according to the social constructions of masculinity: yes, there is. But if you’ll recall, those social constructions are based on very primal desires of manhood. But since we have consciousness, or a soul, we have the ability to transcend those primal desires for a greater purpose. In this instance, that greater purpose is the pursuit of real beauty.
Real Love Creates Real Beauty
I love my mom, but she is not “good looking”. When she was in junior high, she was a social outcast. Her clothes were old and out of fashion, her teeth were all over the place, and her giant glasses and odd hairstyle weren’t doing her any favors. She was often made fun of for being ugly. One day, she overheard some boys saying that she was the ugliest girl in school. And her looks didn’t improve in adulthood.
However, I have never thought of my mom as ugly. I think the way she looks is perfect. There are very few faces in the world that I would rather see than my mom’s. And it’s not because my mom is a beautiful looking person, but rather that she is a beautiful person. Genuine love seems to transcend our notions of what “beautiful” even is. Because I have a genuine love for my mom, she is beautiful to me. Or, in other words, real love creates real beauty.
Hurt People, Hurt People: A Break Down of Brokenness
It is well known in the academic community that abuse and difficulties during childhood dramatically increase a person’s likelihood of committing criminal activity in adulthood. Often, the deviant behavior that one expresses in adulthood is of the same type as the one committed against them at some point in the past. Anita Minh, who was working on her masters in public health at the time, along with a host of other researchers, wrote a brilliant article called, “Linking Childhood and Adult Criminality: Using a Life Course Framework to Examine Childhood Abuse and Neglect, Substance Use and Adult Partner Violence”. The article chronicles a number of studies and personal accounts of various perpetrators, and explains how their deviant behavior occurred as a result of the abuse they suffered previously (Minh, et al, 2013).
In fact, the correlation is so strong, we can actually estimate the type of abuse that occurred based on the type of deviant behavior committed with fairly high certainty. For example, a study published quite a few years ago in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that convicted child molesters were more than three times as likely to have been victims of sexual abuse (35%) than the regular population (11%) (Glasser, et al, 2001). Basically, if someone is angry a lot, it’s often because people were angry at them. If someone reacts violently to solve problems, they likely were a previous victim of violence. And so on…you get the idea.
My Dad exhibits severe symptoms of xenophobia, grandiose delusions of perceived sexual deviance in others, and an irrational discernment of perceived hostility. These things are expressed, most notably: in his hatred of Muslims and homosexuals, his absurd, unevidenced accusations of sexual deviance, and his angry and sometimes violent response to neutral, non-hostile interactions. Now, I could say that he is a terrible person, and leave it at that. However, due to my understanding of psychological and social factors as contributors to anti-social behavior and mental instability, I know better than that.
My Dad doesn’t like to self reflect on his experiences. He thinks it is better to just not think about it, and try to mask bad thoughts with positive thoughts. That’s called “repression”. When the garbage bags in your house get full, you take them outside where they can be taken and rid of by the garbage collectors. Repression is like putting the full garbage bags in your closet instead. It’s easier at first, since you don’t have to do the work of taking them outside, but eventually, it gets very full, and starts to stink. Perhaps the liquid will even seep through the bags and into the floor. Since my Dad refuses to adequately deal with the difficult experiences in his past, it starts to damage himself, and ultimately spread to those around him.
Breaking the Cycle of Brokenness
So why doesn’t my Dad seek out a psychologist to help him take the garbage out of his mind? Well, if you’ll remember back to the theory of masculinity, men need to be tough, strong, and self-sufficient. He attains to these ideals of manhood so strongly, that he would rather suffer mental instability than fail to uphold this socially constructed masculinity.
This is how the cycle goes:
- My Dad suffers abuse from his family and life experiences growing up, which causes behavioral and mental deficiencies.
- His behavioral and mental deficiencies result in my lack of affirmation, which causes me to desperately seek out affirmation.
- My desperate pursuit of affirmation leads me to engage in behaviors that ultimately harm myself.
- As a result of the harm I experience, I develop behavioral and mental deficiencies.
- My behavioral and mental deficiencies result in other people’s lack of affirmation, which causes them to seek out affirmation.
See how 1 and 2 are the same as 4 and 5? The only difference is, I replace my Dad in the process. That’s how bad behaviors get passed on to subsequent generations, and can spread across into all of your relationships (Renner and Slack, 2006).
My Dad is not really a bad person, but rather someone who has been unable to fully transcend the cycle of generational behavioral deficiency. I am just now on the verge of transcending this negative cycle, due to a very positive combination of both innate and social factors:
My high IQ and lack of emotion make me uniquely able to rationally consider, and find solutions to, problems that would otherwise go unnoticed or given emotional response.
My slim body type and later than average puberty (14 years-old) made me less likely to use violence as a means of problem solving, forcing me to use my intellect.
My highly philosophical and analytical mind caused me to question everything I was told, and not take anything as “that’s just the way we do it.”
I was given opportunities to pursue higher education, which enabled me to develop my mind to be able to think of and communicate solutions to problems effectively.
People like Stephen, Jesse, Levi, Aaron, etc. who served as mentors and support to guide me in a practical way.
Growing up in the context of Christian culture gave me a path to go towards to restore my soul, guide my life, and provide me with good community.
Breaking Bad: Love As A Response to Brokenness
In the ancient Roman Empire, the legend of Jesus had begun to spread, much to the Romans dismay. One man, who originally hunted and killed Christians but later converted, wrote a letter to a church in Rome, explaining to them the essential teachings and implications of the supposed Messiah. While writing about the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, he makes an essential point on the nature of real love: “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
The central concept of Christianity is this: people are broken, and through love, people are restored. That’s why it’s vital to view bad behavior not as a result of a bad person, but rather as a result of a broken person. People break as a result of a lack of affirmation of their value. Real love is the affirmation of a person’s value. Lack of affirmation is the cause, brokenness is the illness, harm is the symptom, and love is the cure.
I don’t forgive my Dad for mistreating me, because he’s not sorry for what he’s done. Forgiveness is always dependant upon repentance. I do, however, choose to love my Dad. In fact, I talk to him on a regular basis. Yes, he’s broken, but if being perfect was a criterion for being loved, then I certainly don’t deserve to be loved, and if you think about it, no one would. That’s why that verse in the letter to the Roman church is so vitally important. Responding with love to people in bad situations is the fulfillment of restoration. That’s why I take joy in meeting people who are mean and exhibit poor behaviour. It’s an opportunity to show love to someone who has not adequately received it in their life.
Give Thanks In All Circumstances
How is it that we can be thankful in all circumstances, when there is so much brokenness? If you’ll recall, love creates beauty. When we respond to brokenness with love, we are able to find beauty even in the worst of circumstances. Despite my difficulties, here are some examples of places I have found thankfulness:
I am thankful to my Dad for teaching me the power of words, for inspiring me to understand brokenness, and for the opportunity to learn how to love imperfect people.
I am thankful to Logan and Levi for putting up with my insanity, to Stephen and Aaron for being solid spiritual influences, to Jesse for engaging my crazy theories, and for all of the people who were willing to spend their time and heart with me over this past year.
I am especially thankful for where God has brought me, for the wonderful people He has placed in my life, and for the opportunities I have on the horizon to use my gifts to serve others.
The most important aspect of humanity is value, and that value needs to be affirmed in order for us to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, brokenness continually harms people, and causes others to become broken, and then go harm more people. That cycle needs to stop. In order for it to stop, we need to transcend our primal, instinctual desires and arbitrary social constructs so that we can freely choose to love others no matter what. When we love others, we affirm their value, which leads to restoration.
Every human is a mind, a soul, and a heart, and all three need to be fulfilled for true restoration. Education restores the mind, morality restores the soul, and love restores the heart. The proper sequence of events that lead to the betterment of humanity despite hardship are: brokenness creates love, love creates beauty, and beauty creates meaning. Ultimately, to have meaning, we need to find beauty in the brokenness. That’s why the second meaning of life, is beauty.
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