Recently, a woman on my Facebook page, a leader in my community, admitted she had been abused by her father while she was growing up. Stunned by the revelation, I marveled at the manner in which she’d lived her life, holding positions of great responsibility which betrayed nothing of her past. I couldn’t help wondering how she came to terms with the suffering of her youth and marveled, too, that she was strong enough to reveal it to others. As this is a woman who exudes compassion, I have no doubt about her intention. Her pain was a gift she gave to others, urging them to be strong.
Katherine Mosby is an award winning author of three novels who teaches at New York University’s Stern Graduate School of Business. She, too, is a woman of accomplishment and she, too, long carried a secret wound. Her father was an alcoholic who eventually abandoned her, remarried a woman with money and started another family. Despite the grief that came from being cast aside and the financial penury that followed, Mosby built from the ashes of that warped legacy a wonderful life. .
Abuse and neglect isn’t a formula for raising a happy child, but those who learn life’s the bitter lessons become wise enough to control their destiny. Hemingway, as Mosby reminds us, once wrote: “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it – don’t cheat with it.” (“Forgiving my financially absent father,” by Katherine Mosby, More, 10/2014/pg. 80.)
To transform hurt into a positive outcome isn’t as easy as my Facebook friend or Katherine Mosby make it seem. If that were, then our world already awash in hurt would be a different place. Nor was Hemingway able to follow his good advice. He killed himself rather than struggle on. Still, those who grapple with adversity and wrestle it to the ground do more than triumph over evil. They point the way to new beginnings for all of us. Strong is the rose that blooms in the dessert… and beautiful.