Cruelty’s Lessons

Betty - Salt Lake City, Utah
Entered on March 9, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in the lessons learned from Cruelty. I grew up with a cruel girl who I have always known as Cruelty. When we were eight years old, I watched terrified as Cruelty tied another little girl to a tree and poked her with cactus needles. As we grew older, Cruelty would make hateful comments to people and physically fight with other children. In our teenage years, Cruelty stopped hurting others and became cruel to only herself. I watched as her skin became deformed by scars. When I asked Cruelty about the scars she explained that her flesh was a diary, the razor her ink and each scar was a date and a memory. During the time I spent tangled in self hate with Cruelty, I made sense of the violent chaos poisoning her mind. I realized Cruelty was not born to be cruel. Cruelty was a product of cruelty. She perpetuated the anger instilled into her with fists and insults.

Cruelty is a grown woman now. She is a wife and a mother. I have periodically checked in on how she’s doing. She gently assures me she no longer fights and she no longer carves entries into her diary. Cruelty speaks to me about forgiveness. She has forgiven those who were once cruel to her because just like her, their cruelty was the result of anguish. As she speaks, I understand Cruelty was finally able to forgive herself because she was able to forgive others.

She goes on to tell me how she can feel the pain of the stray cat with the broken tail, the pain of the little girl whose father just died and the pain of many others. Cruelty speaks of feeding the cat along with more gestures of kindness she practices to ease the ache for others and in turn for herself. I ask Cruelty if she is happy. She slightly tilts her head thoughtfully and explains she has spent a lot of time trying to find happiness but the moments of happiness are rare. She tells me being content is more common and is just as comforting as being happy. I think of what it means to be content. I imagine a warm bed to sleep in, a delicious meal, and lounging on the sofa with my family on a lazy Sunday. I ask her if she has any regrets about her past. She says all of the cruelty in her life has made her who she is today. I realize everything she has experienced has taught her how to be a better person and she carries no regrets because she finally likes herself.

I am amazed by Cruelty’s unpredictable influence in my life. I admire her quiet compassion, her strength to persevere and her unpretentious wisdom. I have learned from my childhood companion Cruelty to believe in empathy, forgiveness, the wonderful force of just being content, and how to live without the self destruction of regret.