I believe that we cannot prevent child abuse until we take a soul-searching look at ourselves.
I see abuse on a continuum from yelling at children who are doing developmentally appropriate child behaviors, calling someone names or making fun of their differences, kicking the dog or using your child as a punching bag because you had a stressful day at work, to road rage because someone cut you off in traffic and you took it as some personal affront to you, getting impatient with a loved one because they haven’t met your expectations, etc. You get the picture.
We are stuck in survival mode where minor everyday occurrences have become a matter of life and death. Couple that with the means to do massive destruction with weapons and a hair trigger that humanity is turning on itself. What kept our ancestors alive (solution) has now become our road to self-destruction (problem), unless we wake up and makes some changes.
I believe that we cannot prevent child abuse until we take a soul-searching look into our individual lives and how we non-consciously contribute to the ongoing violence in the world.
We hear multiple reasons for what makes a person violent to a child: they were abused, they were drinking or on some type of drug. Often the child is blamed for the adult’s behavior, “If they had just shut up crying, I wouldn’t have hit them.” How often do we make our children responsible for our feelings? “Daddy gets angry when you spill your milk. Don’t do that.” Or “You are just trying to make me have a bad day by not brushing your teeth. Now we have to go back and get it done.” How are children to learn they are responsible for their behavior if we don’t model that in ours?
We have our reasons for all manner of behavior that we do. But at the end of the day the reasons don’t really matter. Reasons change nothing. Children still experienced what they have experienced at the adults’ hands.
We have laws to protect children, yet abuse continues. Children are removed from abusive parents, yet abuse continues. People are arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced, yet abuse continues. With all of what we are doing why hasn’t child abuse become an idea whose time has gone?
And what about the subtle ways we injure our children that haven’t been labeled child abuse? What about emotional absence? What about giving our children things but not ourselves? What about being emotionally absent from each other? Our divorce statistics point to that. Our children are learning by watching us model what love is (for good or ill). What are your children witnessing?
Laws, legislation, sermons, and education do not change the heart and souls of humans. Transformation must come from within. How can transformation happen when we continue using punitive, punishing, fear-based tactics as the solutions to violence? How can we teach people that violence is wrong by using violence against them? Have our solutions become the problem?
In my wondering and searching for answers to these and other questions, I have come to realize that in subtle ways I contribute to the energy of violence when I don’t treat myself well, beat myself up for something because it didn’t go right, don’t take the time to slow down and take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs, my judgmentalness when I compare myself to others or compare others to myself (and we both come up less than), when I allow my stress to boil over and react to day-to-day frustrations as though they were life or death and feel justified by my rage, when I support violence in what I read, watch on television, see in the movies and when I show a lack of patience by talking down to those closest to me that I say I love (which I would never think of doing to strangers).
Often I have questioned, “Deborah, do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” My answer has been, “Part of the solution.” I believe for the most part my life reflects that; however, with my new vision I see in ways I haven’t before that my finger-pointing and judgment of others sometimes blinds me from my contribution to the problem I’m trying to solve.
I’ve puzzled at times about the comment, “Think globally and act locally.” I think I’m beginning to get it. Though child abuse is a world- wide problem and at times thinking about it overwhelms me, there is still much I can do and so can you.
Somewhere in the Bible it says something about taking the beam out of your own eyes. That’s what I’m doing. I think that it is very practical to do so. Beginning with how we treat ourselves, then those closest to us, then those in our work place, in our community, and spreading the message that the time for violence on a tiny scale or a large one is no longer viable on this planet. It seems like Gandhi’s words continue to haunt me, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Therefore, in order prevent child abuse which is violence against children I need to begin with me by embodying my own message. So, you may be thinking, “Deborah what are you doing to make this happen?” This is what I have done and am doing to move beyond fear reactivity and conditional love:
1. Took time to assess what my values are.
2. Made a conscious decision that my measure of success in life was to live consistently with those values.
3. Out of that choice I became aware of how my reactivity affected my body and my emotions.
4. This over-reactivity was so draining that it kept me out of focus for long periods of time. It began to make no sense for me to do this to myself.
5. I knew some unfinished business was triggering me however, I acknowledged that in the present moment there was nothing happening that warranted that energy. That is when I realized my reactivity perpetuates a violent energy toward myself. Though shocked at this discovery I chose to acknowledge it and nurture myself using the knowledge and compassion I give to everyone else.
6. I now own I have a choice: continue to react or respond to the situation and do what is needed.
7. I found a Health Coach who is teaching me about what is best for me to eat and the best exercises for my Blood Type and I am following her directions.
8. I have slowed down internally and am connecting to experiences of soulfulness I had forgotten. The wisdoms from those experiences are helping me to develop a strong soul sense to respond from and keep my reactive survival self in check.
9. I focus on what I can do about what is going on in my life and take appropriate action.
10. I allow myself more time in nature.
11. I have created beautiful spaces to nurture my soul and connect me to my Creator.
12. I am finding that as I am kinder and patient with myself I am kinder and more patient with those I say I love.
13. I bring a calmer soulful presence to my work.
14. I sometimes sit and just feel my body, emotions, and connection with life.
15. I watch less television, movies and news.
16. I have reconnected with my heart’s longing and inner healthy creativity giving it a chance to blossom and grow.
17. I still live and work for a world of peace, love and care for everyone and now this journey includes me.
I believe when we embrace the emotionally undeveloped reactive child inside and nurture our development, we grow into emotional mature and soulful beings. From that emotionally mature and soulful place we bring a shift in consciousness that offers others who choose, a kindred soulful partner in maturity and growth. When we do that child abuse will be prevented because no one will hold a thought consciously or unconsciously of harming anything or anyone in life. I live for that day.
This article was originally published at http://deborahchelette-wilson.com/blog/april-is-child-abuse-prevention-month-part-2/. Reprinted with permission from the author.