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We are all broken

A friend posted on Facebook recently that they worried about being too broken to love.

I’ve been reflecting on this.

To my mind, only a few types of people in this world aren’t broken. You might not be broken if…

  • you’re five, and experiencing a contented childhood
  • you’re amazingly fortunate to have lived a life without trauma or drama
  • you’ve achieved Buddha levels of bliss and are untouched by suffering
  • you’re a sociopath/psychopath and unaffected by bad stuff that happens

The longer you live, the more suffering you’ll inevitably experience. Bereavements, break-ups, redundancy, illness, debts, despair, existential dread, parking tickets and the everyday embuggerances that are part of life. And that’s just the majority of those of us living in the West, some people have the misfortune to experience far worse.

Little wonder sometimes we’re not the easiest to be around. We’ll be, at times, grumpy, sad, short-tempered, impatient, recalcitrant. Few people are sufficiently resilient to be constantly chipper.

Neil Gaiman wrote a piece about his friend Terry Pratchett – often thought of as a ‘jolly old elf’ because of the light-hearted literature he produced. No, explained Neil, he was full of rage – and this drove him to do what he did.

Perhaps I said that, ah well, it had all worked out in the end, and it hadn’t been the end of the world, and suggested it was time to not be angry any more.

Terry looked at me. He said: “Do not underestimate this anger. This anger was the engine that powered Good Omens.” I thought of the driven way that Terry wrote, and of the way that he drove the rest of us with him, and I knew that he was right.

There is a fury to Terry Pratchett’s writing: it’s the fury that was the engine that powered Discworld. It’s also the anger at the headmaster who would decide that six-year-old Terry Pratchett would never be smart enough for the 11-plus; anger at pompous critics, and at those who think serious is the opposite of funny; anger at his early American publishers who could not bring his books out successfully.

In a similar vein, one of my most valuable pieces of learning came during a self-esteem class (therapy to help with the depression and anxiety I was experiencing at the time.) The trainer drew a circle and around it, pie-chart style, he wrote emotions and behaviours – anger, selfishness, jealousy, kindness, generosity, humorousness etc. His point being, he exhibits all of these things at different points of time and in differing circumstances.

All of these things serve a purpose.

When people are cross with us, they hurl hurtful words “you’re so selfish!” and we can come to believe that this defines us. “I’m a selfish person. I’m a terrible person.” Yet we’re not so quick to define ourselves by compliments we receive “Thank you, you’re so kind!” – “I’m a kind person. I’m a terrific person!”. Interesting how easy it is (for many of us) to dismiss the compliment as only reflecting a moment in time, but to hold onto the insults.

We’re a hodge-podge of behaviours. It’s what makes me me, what makes you you. I’m ok, you’re ok. 

The likelihood is that all of us have been through difficult times. We all have a story. We went through the flames and we survived – more or less intact. To quote Harley Quinn: “Own that shit.”

We are all broken.

But there’s good news.

We all have the capacity for compassion and love too.

We might be broken, but we can fix one another.


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