A letter to an abused child

Some people are just good. Some people are just bad. Most people try to be good, but they don’t always get it right. Some people want to be good so much that they believe they never do anything bad. But nobody always gets what they want, no matter how much they want it and how hard they try. Nobody gets to be perfect.

Hurting people is bad. Everybody hurts people sometimes. Sometimes, it’s an accident. Sometimes, it’s on purpose. Sometimes, it’s because you need to do something, and the only way you know how involves hurting someone. Sometimes, we hurt people with the things we do. Sometimes we hurt people with the things we don’t do. It’s sad that people get hurt so much.

When we hurt someone, it’s good to try and fix it. Sometimes, we can repair the damage we did. Sometimes, we can find a way to make it so the hurt doesn’t happen again. Sometimes, we can let people know that we’re sad because a bad thing happened. Sometimes, all we can do is to make sure we don’t hurt them by trying to fix things in ways that also hurt them. Being good after we hurt someone can be difficult sometimes.

You might know people who are good to you. You might love those people. Loving people who are good to you is good.

You might know people who hurt you. You might not like those people, and you might want to be apart from them. Having feelings that protect you from getting hurt is good.

You might love people who hurt you. That gets tricky. You might get really angry and want them to go away because they hurt you. You might get really lonely when they’re away because you love them. It’s hard to know what to do, especially if you’re smaller than everyone else and you don’t get to make a lot of choices.

It’s good to be alive. If you don’t get to make a lot of choices, then your most important job is to stay alive. If you do that, then you get a chance to make more choices later. You might not be happy about some important things, but the most important thing is to stay alive.

When you’re big enough to make choices, you get to choose if you want to have someone near you, and they get to make that choice too. Sometimes, one person wants to be close, and the other person wants to be far away. When you want to be far away, it hurts when someone comes too close. So it’s good to never be closer than what’s OK for the one who wants to be far away. (Or maybe not so far away, but not so close, either. Always the biggest distance out of what the two people want.)

So what do you do when you want to be far away from someone (because they hurt you) but also close to them (because you love them)? You have to choose what you want, and try to make that happen.

Maybe the way they hurt you is not so bad, so you choose to have them close. But maybe it is pretty bad, so you choose to have them far.

Maybe they helped you feel better enough after they hurt you, and so you’re OK having them close. Maybe they didn’t help you feel better enough, and you’re OK having them far.

Maybe, when you’re feeling strong, you’re happy to have them close. Maybe, when you’re not feeling strong, you’re not happy to have them close. Maybe, you’re feeling strong, but you want to save that strength for other things, so you keep them far. Maybe, you’re feeling weak, and you need to feel love, so you let them come close.

That’s a lot of maybes. And there are even more maybes than that! Choosing gets hard sometimes. We only get better at choosing when we practice doing it. It might go wrong sometimes. It might go right sometimes. You’re allowed to change your mind, and make mistakes, and have successes.

Growing up means making choices, and learning how to make better choices. It’s easier when other people make the choices for you. It’s better when you know how to make good choices.

When you get to making those choices, you’re probably going to have lots of feelings. Maybe it wasn’t safe to have those feelings when you were smaller. If it’s safe now, then it’s good to feel those feelings — feelings help you learn. If it’s not safe now, then it’s OK to not feel those feelings: they’ll be there when you’re ready for them.

If you’re reading this, then you’re still alive. And that means you’re succeeding at your most important job. That’s the most important thing. This letter might have woken up your feelings. That can be really difficult. If you can give yourself something nice (a hug maybe?) then that’s probably a good idea. And if it wasn’t really difficult, please be nice to yourself anyway. It’s good to be nice to someone when they’re succeeding at their most important job.

Written by

Nick Argall is an organization engineer, structuring activities to help businesses achieve their goals. nargall@gmail.com

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