Mercy

In a recent post, Life in the Slow Lane, I make a blanket statement about women’s lack of mercy. And I feel that I need to elaborate on that brief and somewhat misleading statement. Amazingly no one has called me out on that but I keep hearing it in my head and it makes me uncomfortable which is good and right.  It should make me uncomfortable.  I said:

Why is it women have no mercy when it comes to men?  I know girlfriends want to have your back and everything but they’d be all over his ass if I wanted to take a break and he refused to understand and acted out badly, called me names, etc.

I really meant that I wonder why our girlfriends are so willing to go to battle against our lovers.  I know that many men have a history of abusing women, leaving women to raise kids alone, being unavailable emotionally, financially, all kinds of things.  You know what? I picked the guy.  So when you call him all kinds of names you’re also commenting on my choice, my decision, me.  That battle commentary puts down both parties and I resent that.

A lot of my rants on this blog about people’s comments about my relationships (and a few other areas) were secretly directed towards R.  I tried on several occasions to talk to her about the things she said but not once did she look at her own behavior.  She had a million excuses.  She said she said certain things because she cared about me.  Look, if you care about me, why not try to understand how I tick instead of judging someone you have never met?  If you care about me, why not respect my wishes?  And never, ever, tell me what to do.  Defiance is my middle name, I will bristle every time. I know she cared in her way, so did I.  It simply wasn’t enough.  I could so write a rant about her but I’m trying not to.  Once I gave up all hope of the business side of our relationship bearing any fruit I left.  I’ve left as many women because of their small minds and tight hearts as I’ve left men and that’s the truth.

I think that the way our society brings up its men is atrocious.  We teach them that certain behaviors are not acceptable and then, once they are grown and exhibit no trace of the very behaviors we beat out of them, we get all mad and declare that they are unfeeling and behave badly.  I think men have been more severely damaged by the status quo than women.  Yes, women have been beaten etc…  Yes, men have done ugly things. The list is long.  In my experience though, those women have kept their humanity, their compassion, their ability to love and care about others.  Men have been trained not to from birth and they are the biggest losers even though we all lose.  I’d rather survive a beating and still be able to love (but of course leave and stay far far away) than to try not to love and feel and cry and live a life of complete and utter confusion and demoralization that denies my very spirit and soul.  Some men do it better (or is it worse?) than others.  I have compassion for the ones who, against all odds, are trying to be decent human beings.

Frankly I think we’ve harmed men as much as women with the silly and damaging boxes that we require the sexes to mold themselves into.  I remember reading _Men are From Mars Women are From Venus_ and thinking to myself, hey, I’m a woman from Mars.  Those boxes just really offend me.

When I was in junior high and high school it was the status quo for the girlfriends to gang up around you when some guy broke your heart. Sometimes what he did was truly cruel. But most of the time he was just as clueless as we were and he was doing what had been mirrored to him so many times by his own father and male relatives, friends, movies, songs…   And I bet when girls treated the boys badly the boyfriends of said fella ganged up around him, pulled in the wagons and went to war just as mercilessly as we did.  I hurt a boy in high school, so badly that he refused to talk to me for almost 30 years.  He still doesn’t talk to me but he friended me on facebook (That video could apply to me as easily as to men).   Does that mean I’m forgiven?  I tried to earn that and took it to be forgiveness.  I have to.  I have behaved as badly as any man I know.

When I got sober I had a really bad attitude towards men. Pretty much a major resentment seethed in me 24/7.   I went to a lot of women only recovery meetings.  And as much as I hate to say it those meetings were rarely recovery and sobriety focused.  There was a tendency to get all group therapy-ish and stray from The Program guidelines. There was a tendency to complain about men.  Women’s meetings then were considered to be fairly “whiney.”   Perhaps that is no longer so, many younger women of a different era and different sexual inclinations are getting sober these days and I very rarely go to women’s meetings so I don’t know. But the result of my not liking the women’s meetings back then was that I started going to mixed meetings.  And was stunned.  Here were men, healthy men, talking about their feelings, their desires, their pain, their regrets, their new way of living, their hope for the future, and their sadness at how many relationships with women (and children if there were any) they had destroyed.  Sober men rebuilt my faith in men.  I love the men in my life today.  I admire them greatly.  I believe the ones I know have had to overcome more than I have, M is one of them. They’ve had to teach themselves to feel deeply and I didn’t need to do that.   Your mileage may vary.

I’ve done a few 4th steps in sobriety.  “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”  Four columns. For example:

  1. Who I am resentful towards  (The Forgiven)
  2. What did they do  (His inability to keep his word, disappearing when needed most, sleeping (really, just sleep) with another woman)
  3. How it affects me (Sex relations, self-esteem, security)
  4. What is my part   (I continued to trust him and shouldn’t have been so surprised at the end)

Tall order that.  Just try it.  The best one I ever did was the one I did specifically on all my sexual relationships with men, 28 years of it. It was much messier and uglier by far than my above example.  I had a couple years of sobriety at the time and there were mistakes from that sober time as well the years previous. Two incidents prompted that 4th step, things I did completely sober. I slept with a married man in sobriety.  I invited someone who turned out to be a registered sexual predator to my home during a snow storm in sobriety.  Things went very badly that time.  That wasn’t my fault but my motives weren’t pure when that phone call happened.  I was the predator but became the prey.  All because of my own inability to have appropriate relationships with men.  What was really obvious as the entire history of my relationships was put on paper was that there was a noticeable decomp in my relationships and that my own predatory behavior escalated over the years.  All the while expecting love to come from that.  I was truly messed up.  My part.  Oh man.  It was at that time that I decided to not date for awhile (as if what I’d been doing was dating).  Turned into 8 years of celibacy, spending time getting to know who I was, healing, finding true love of me.  Those were a great 8 years, best thing I ever did for myself.

Over the years I’ve watched some pretty amazing men get sober and live lives of honor and dependability.  Are they human? Why yes, yes they are. Do they make mistakes? Why yes, yes they do.  Do we women do the same things?  Why yes, yes we do.

So.  What’s my point?  I guess I prefer, in the dynamics between the sexes, to come from the standpoint that we are both good people.  That we both want to do the right thing.  That sometimes doing the right thing for ourselves will hurt the other person.  And that causes us/them pain.  Yes, there are some men/women out there whose behavior is despicable.  There always has been, always will be.  Sad fact but there it is.  BUT most of the time it’s simply the fact that men and women are different, partly due to nature, partly due to nurture.   In many ways we are the same.  We all feel deeply.  We all want.  We all desire.  We all get confused.  We all make mistakes.  We all have regrets.

I would rather err on the side of compassion and love even when I’m in pain.  Am I able to do that all the time? Not at all.  I was very hard on The Forgiven but I didn’t allow anyone else to be.  I found my compassion eventually, it was always the goal.  He still gives me the creeps and I don’t want to hug him *shiver* but I care enough to let it go now.  I’m not perfect and don’t want to be but compassion is something to strive for and I have to say that when I have taken that road less traveled I’ve felt so much better about myself and my actions. My regrets are decidedly lessened.

I don’t want my girlfriends to talk shit about men, all men but especially my men.  They can say that a certain action makes them angry. Of course.  But they can’t talk shit, call them names, deny their humanity.  I don’t want them to beat up some ex to prove they have my back, that we are united.  I don’t want the man’s friend to do that either.  I want to be friends.  Even in my worst days I usually picked good men to have relationships with.  The men who stayed? Good people.  And with his death I was able to forgive Joel completely (isn’t that sad??) so I now have not one single man on a list of resentment and pain.  Gotta work on getting R off that list next.

I believe that our lives are simply a microcosm of the large global ways.  Is it any wonder that we are at war around the world when we can’t even talk to our mates or forgive them?  If we can’t find new ways to communicate with each other in our daily lives we will never find new ways to communicate with our global neighbors.  My knee jerk comment about women being unmerciful towards men comes from my frustration.  The real truth is that I’m pretty sick of humanity’s inability to show mercy.

And that is, I believe, the way it should be.  Mercy is a grace, a gift, and with rare exception preferable to the battle.

10 thoughts on “Mercy

  1. Your posts, beweaver, on this and related subjects the past few days are resonating so perfectly with what I know and feel.

    I agree with you about not tearing down another person, no matter what your personal opinion may be, that someone else cares about.

    I have a lovely friend, B, who fell in love with a man who was cohabiting with another woman with whom he eventually had a child and then married. All of B’s other friends continually denigrated him for not leaving his first girlfriend/spouse for B and eventually B quit discussing her personal life with them. I, however, felt as you did; their criticism of him was criticism of B and completely unjustified; B could not help who she fell in love with and it was not anyone’s place to morally judge the situation. I assured her from the beginning that, whatever happened, I would support her decision and be there for her. I never told her what I thought she should do and simply comforted her when she was sad and rejoiced with her when she was happy. I became the only person with whom she could share what was happening without fear of negative or coercive input and, when she eventually ended the relationship, she thanked me profusely for my trust in her.

    And that is what I did: I trusted her to make her own choices and decisions, and accepted the effect of the consequences upon her while not letting it affect our friendship. It sounds hard, but it isn’t.

    Like you, I discovered (during a hard, contemplative look at my own “moral inventory” when I realized I wasn’t going to die — as predicted by the medical establishment — at age 30) that I was the equivalent of a “womanizer.” I’d learned, of course, from the very best — the man I think of today as my star-crossed soul mate (L) and from whom I freed myself not once but three times. With L, I was able and willing to maintain a committed relationship (whereas he could not/wasn’t capable), but I could not/wasn’t capable of doing so in relationships with other men. As a result, I hurt a significant number of very good men while remaining emotionally aloof myself and, like you, realized I had not been dating but engaging in depredation. I immediately took myself out of the game for nearly 2 years while I, too, retaught myself the core values of love and mercy — for myself and for all people in general.

    I subscribe wholeheartedly to your evaluation of men and women: that both sexes are “good people” who want to do the right thing but sometimes get it wrong, partly due to nature, partly due to nurture, but at our core we are more alike than different because we all feel, we all desire, we all regret and we all deserve respect.

    I’ve always preferred love and mercy to hating and fighting. Hating and fighting takes so much energy away from the hater and far too often has no effect on the hated, but love and mercy takes the path of least resistance, creating energy within both the lover and the beloved. How could anyone pass up such a good deal?

  2. “How could anyone pass up such a good deal?”

    That is a very good question. I’m reminded of a quote that was once attributed to Herb Spencer but now they seem to be unsure of the original commentator:

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

  3. connections
    It seems that we
    as a culture spend to much energy on me-I-my-mine
    and not enough on US.

    Compassion is the ability to see fro their eyes..
    ???right?

  4. Perhaps. Sometimes I think that compassion is the ability to, for at least a moment, see through deity’s eyes… I figure if we can do it, we’re all golden. 😉

  5. It’s so sad that that is so true.

    A person with a closed mind flaunts it as both an accomplishment and virtue.

    I also remember someone saying that it takes more facial muscles to frown than it does to smile.

    The question of why humankind is willing to expend more effort on negativity when the cost of being joyful and positive is not only less but also rewarding is a question that 50 years of observation has failed to unravel and I do not think another 50 years is going to make is any clearer.

    Thank you for your stimulating post, ms. beweaver. My mind feels like it has a speech impediment whenever I type or say your name mentally, but I rather adore the sensation — it’s very clever and makes me think of bobwa walwas and Gilda Radner, Lady bless her and keep her.

  6. Wow. Really, wow.

    If you really believe this: “I think men have been more severely damaged by the status quo than women” then I can’t see how you can ever hope to have any sympathy for yourself.

    Internalized sexism is a nasty, nasty, thing.

  7. Quite the contrary Thalia. I couldn’t disagree more. Finally finding a way to have sympathy for those I hated the most allowed me to have sympathy for all, especially myself. I have plenty of sympathy for myself. That is exactly the point.

    Just because I think men are damaged doesn’t mean I excuse them from responsibility for their behavior. But it means I can’t excuse me from mine either. I can spend the rest of my life blaming my ex, Joel, for all he did to me and he did plenty. Or I can finally, after all these years, see what he did, good and bad, and finally forgive him, forgive myself, and move on into true healing.

    If I want to grow and flourish as a human I first have to see what needs pruning. Men need to do the same. My point was that I saw them actually doing it. Many, many don’t that’s for certain.

    Both sexes blame the other for all their problems. We have a saying where I’m from. “I can blame my parents and society for my first 20 years but I have only myself to blame for the second 20.” If we start from the belief that all humans have been damaged by the boxes and status quo that we use as a battering ram in our world then surely it must follow that we are all responsible for our healing once we see that healing needs to be done.

    To come from a constant point of blame keeps one in everlasting victimhood. I say that when you start healing yourself, forgiving those who didn’t know any better (because surely we can at least admit that they don’t seem to know any better or different and that it can’t all be blamed on testosterone but training), you suddenly become empowered.

    In the world of recovery it is thought that co-dependents can actually be sicker and harder to treat than the drunks. Their disease is so much harder to see and accept because they have a handy person to blame for all their problems. The drunk. But trust me, co-dependents are truly messed up. (edit: And yes, like women, they have been abused and have self-esteem to recover among other things.)

    By that model if women continue to blame men for all their problems, then they can not see how they can change themselves.

    I find this most empowering and don’t believe I’ve internalized anything. I’ve moved past all that shit myself.

  8. Your response to Thalia was spot on, Beweaver. For another take on the problem of stereotyping and boxing in the sexes has damaged men just as much as it has women, check out my post at http://wp.me/p9erV-Kq.

    We didn’t have that great 20/20 year saying where I grew up, but I figured it out for myself; I didn’t have to be the product of my childhood unless that was what I wanted — I had the power to change the course of my life once I was “in control” and making the decisions. And that was exactly what happened. Did I make perfect decisions? No, but I took responsibility and the consequences for the choices I made that weren’t so great and reaped the rewards for those that were. And part of learning how to live was learning that nobody, male or female, got to skip classes in the school of life. Mercy and forgiveness? I’ve discovered that the more you give, the more you have to give, and empathy is their core, the well spring. Empathy is not sympathy, and is one of the most neglected of the senses. Check out my post on The Art of the Empath at http://wp.me/p9erV-8a.

Comments are closed.