The Problem with Viewing Other People as Monsters

Continued from here.

I’m continuing a series based upon this quote from the movie I Can Only Imagine:

My dad was a monster. I saw God take him from being the man I hated to the man I wanted to become.”

I truly believed that my childhood abusers were monsters, and I based this perception on their monstrous behavior. How could someone engage in monstrous behavior like raping and torturing a child without being a monster? And yet I gave myself a pass on the monstrous ways I treated other people (typically through my negative words) because I was broken. I never stopped to consider that perhaps those who inflicted monstrous behavior might themselves be broken.

This dynamic was powerfully portrayed in the movie The Shack. Mack, the main character of the story, is given the opportunity to serve as judge. When he’s shown a scene of a man savagely beating a child, he’s asked whether the child is guilty. Mack says no but then learns that child grew into the father who beat him. His father committed monstrous behavior when he beat Mack as a child, but he was not born a monster. He was broken by his own father’s monstrous behavior and then, out of his brokenness, inflicted the monstrous behavior onto the next generation. Mack’s father experienced the same pain and brokenness that Mack experienced. Yes, Mack’s father was guilty of monstrous behavior, but he was also a victim of monstrous behavior, just like his son.

When we view those who hurt us as monsters, we set ourselves up to view ourselves as victims. After all, how can a broken person slay a monster? Because a monster is, by definition, much more powerful, we set ourselves up to go through life living as helpless victims. Some react to this victim mentality by trying to seize control and engaging in monstrous behavior toward other people. Others turn that monstrous behavior inward in the form of self-loathing and self-harm, not necessarily through self-injury but also through addictions, compulsions, and negative self-talk that breaks their spirit. A powerful moment in my healing journey was recognizing that something another person said only once continued to hurt me because I repeated it to myself thousands of times. The other person was guilty of saying it, but I was much more guilty of repeating and believing it, which meant I was actually the one inflicting this monstrous behavior on myself.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Shack. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

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