My Mam’s mother was abusive. My Da’s mother and father were both abusive. But neither Mam or Da were angry at their abusive parents. They’re a little sad. A little hurt. But not angry! Surely not. That would be wrong. That wouldn’t be nice. No, they love their parents — their distant, dysfunctional, cold, neglectful, and abusive parents.
So the beat continues.
All of my grandparents in some way abused their children. Those children, now grandparents themselves, have never allowed themselves to be angry about the abuse they suffered. They never faced it. They never dealt with it. They were too virtuous for that.
Not that they weren’t angry. They were! But they refused to identify and focus the cause of their anger where it belonged. Instead they focused it on their children.
Welsh farming families in the 40s and 50s were so large, the overworked, frequently pregnant mother simply had too much work to take the time to actually bond with her children. Well, that’s the story anyways.
The closest Da ever got to his mother was when she gave him his weekly bath. It was her opportunity to scrub him so roughly, sometimes she drew blood.
But Da wasn’t angry. He was just sad.
Having failed to learn any warmth, affection, or relationship skills from his parents, Da was unable to give his wife and children the whole-hearted acceptance we craved. Criticisms and bickering were his normal. His sons, who craved fatherly approval, were especially wounded and became the angry men they are to this day.
Similarly, Mam isn’t angry at her Miss Havishamesque mother. Oh no! She loves her. She loves her so much she chose to ally herself with her mother, allowing her to abuse my siblings and me in exactly the same ways.
But Mam isn’t angry!
That would be wrong, she says. No, she loves her mother who did her best, she’s quite sure.
Similarly, my Da is not angry with his father. He’s hurt, he’s wounded, but not angry. He’s not angry with the father who expected superhuman perfection but never gave approval, no matter how well Da succeeded, no matter how unmercifully Da drove himself to win his father’s attention and approval.
But Da’s not angry.
Hurt, but not angry. Somehow his pain morphed into white-hot blinding rages that left his own sons so terrified they struggled with bed-wetting well into their teens.
My parents were so busy trying to be ‘nice’ they became not very nice indeed.
You’ve heard the old adage ‘Give credit where credit is due.’ We must also give anger where anger is due. If we don’t, it’ll find an outlet somewhere quite inappropriate and unfair.
It may burn against the next generation. It may seethe at our spouse. Most likely, we’ll turn it inwards at ourselves where it becomes depression.
No, not being angry at an abuser is no virtue. I would argue, it is actually a vice.