Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Owning Hurt

Until you can say "I was wrong" without pausing to defend yourself, there really isn't much hope.

This is really key, for me. As I was transitioning (and still sometimes now), people would commonly slip up on pronouns and my new name. And almost invariably, they'd respond defensively when I said something about it, saying "I didn't *intend* to hurt you" or "I'm still learning" or "I didn't know." 
And it's infuriating and exhausting. Because I know most people don't intend to be cruel. Even when they do cruel things, they make up all kinds of rationalizations about how their cruelty is just or deserved. It's rare that someone does something purely out of malice. People make mistakes and those mistakes often hurt others. But when they don't own those mistakes, the hurt isn't validated, it isn't "deserved" and you have to convince yourself that it's ok, alone.
What I really just want is for people to say "I'm sorry" and then to keep trying. It validates my hurt, it assures me that the other person values how I feel, I don't have to feel threatened or scared, and I can trust the person to try to not hurt me again.
Being able to own your mistakes is really difficult, but it's central to engaging difference and respecting others. I have said and done some really cringe-inducing, hurtful things out of my ignorance. But owning those actions has helped me not repeat them. I'm rather inclined to agree with TNC that any other way isn't likely to work.

(From my comment in response to this post.)

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