The Agony of Empathy

Empathy

The agony of empathy.

I’m the “completely willing, totally aware, intentionally vulnerable for the sake of a deep principle I believe in, the principle that believes good people choose sacrifice because I’m convinced that sacrifice is an undeniable, even vital ingredient of any true version of love” kind of idiot.

You could say being a relationship idiot is my superpower.

And this is my origin story:

I grew up being known for all the signs of an extreme ADHD kid, but this was in the 70s and 80s before anyone had ever heard of that term and any kid who had any form of attention deficit was considered lazy, stupid, or undisciplined.

I had a pretty busy life, filled up by constantly failing at school, getting in trouble at home, and doing my best to be better in public but failing anyway and endlessly being rescued, encouraged, inspired, built up, loved, and feeling adored by the only person I believed valued me or loved being around me at all — namely my mom.

She inspired me to want to be the kind of man I knew she would admire. She made me admire the idea of being a good man before any masculine hero inspired me to want to do anything.

AT THE SAME TIME IN THE SAME HOUSE I GREW UP WITH…

A father who was far less impressed with anything about me. A man who didn’t spend as much time WITH me as he did relentlessly judging me, silencing me, rejecting me, beating on me, and/or humiliating me as an ineffective (but very painful) way of what he believed would be…motivating to me.

Sadly for both my sense of worth and his expectations of me – I was never able to find motivation through humiliation.

When I was a kid, it always felt wrong to believe I had an ounce of strength when my own dad knew better than to have an ounce of faith. 

Anytime my father interacted with me it was like I was being given a letter grade for how well I was performing as his son — like I was some new form of a walking life-test he was endlessly grading, and I was endlessly failing. The name of this intense exam was “how a young son should act, think, speak and generally behave to make his father proud” — and I was a walking, breathing, real-life example of what a disappointing F looks like in the eyes of anyone who knew all the important answers.

I never knew any of the important answers that all the good sons somehow knew to make their dads proud.

And every time he looked at me, avoided me, shushed me, told me to stop shaking my leg, stop talking in the car, and stop doing or thinking whatever felt natural to me I could feel the bright red fat magic marker corrections he was mentally making all over every aspect of me.

Every 6 weeks the most memorable time I spent with my Dad/Teacher came from him walking into my room at night with a 2-foot piece of wood in his hand, complete with 3 metal nuts embedded into the end of it to really drive home the message to me that I needed to be better — at everything. It was his way of underlining, circling, minus-ing, and exclamation-marking that big red F that was my life — and I have to hand it to him, he left no doubt what he thought about me or my chances of passing the class of life, much less being a teachers/father’s favorite student.

I was a disappointment to say the least — and even the things about me I felt tempted to believe might be…impressive in some lesser way, were always handed back to me like I had turned in the wrong assignment to the wrong teacher.

• My teacher sent home a note telling my parents she had never seen natural ability equal to mine when it came to drawing/illustration. My Dad said artists lived wasted lives who contributed nothing to be proud of throughout their lives. “Seems like a wasted way to spend your life doesn’t it?”

• My teachers and friends’ parents would tell him how funny I was — how fast my mind worked, and he would smile at them, and then signal me to shut mid-word by snapping his fingers.

• I was the fastest kid in gym class and the fastest 9th grader on the football team — but sports and athletic ability showed no admirable intelligence. No accomplishment worthy of pride.

• I told him I wanted to write and draw comic books because the heroes were inspiring to me. I loved that they fought evil without fear. — He threw my 400 issue comic collection into the furnace and made me watch to drive home how worthless my ideas of success were to him. Apparently, the beatings stopped being effective enough at communicating his feelings (oddly enough he never stopped giving them to me)

• I was sensitive and affectionate. I wanted time with my dad and wanted him to watch me play football, take me to karate tournaments, play a video game with me once. — Occasionally he would make me play chess with him. He beat me every time. I noticed he never taught me how to play other than by beating me every single time. He knew I hated playing but would never tell him “no” — and I knew he would make me play even if I ever did say “No — I hate playing!”

• I was diagnosed ADHD at age 16, tested with an IQ of 129 (later 136, later at 145) — my dad didn’t believe in such a thing, and equated my struggles to laziness

• Later I was told by my college professor I was the best writer he’d seen in 26 years of teaching — he said he always knew I find something I was good at, and it was why he stopped caring about whatever I was doing.

My Dad didn’t believe in sacrificing much for any of his kids. He never saw sacrifice as having anything to do with love. Don’t get me wrong — he was a hard worker. He was and always has been one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known in my life. He’s also one of the most capable — if not the most capable human being I’ve ever known. If my father set his mind to doing or achieving anything he had the intelligence and sheer unbreakable determination to accomplish it, and any obstacle didn’t even get acknowledged as having the potential to do anything other than motivate him more. He’s a remarkable man in a number of ways. Empathy is not one of those ways — and deciding to make certain his children are more valued to him in his life than his bank account or material wealth has never been something he “set his mind to” living out. Not even close.

I think in many ways his lack of concern or empathy and affection have served him very well when it came to accomplishing his goals. After all he never had to wrestle with guilt over time missed with me as his son. No regret about all the talks and bonding moments we never had. No regret about not sharing an interest or encouraging a gift I had as a low self-esteem kid. No second-guessing about the mistakes he made or the wounds he left in any of his kids. He’s too busy feeling somewhat justified pride at all the things he’s been able to do, and all the $$ he’s been able to build by NOT being overly invested in his kids. Part of it is his awareness that his singular focus of accumulation has paid off for everyone in the family in multiple ways at some point in time just by virtue of being part of his immediate family. I even willingly admit I had many advantages simply by having him as a father. I had a nice house. I had decent clothes. I always had food to eat, a car to travel in, and modern electronics in our home like multiple TVs, VCRs, stereos, video cameras, and whatever the current modern standard of technology was at the time.

On top of all that as he became more and more successful at work we lived in bigger homes with nicer amenities like a swimming pool, a family boat, a basketball court, and even a tennis court for a few years. I wasn’t hurting in a lot of ways other sons were suffering, and I was blessed in many ways many sons will never know. I always knew that.

But none of the things he gave me or provided the family were based on him wanting to work hard and sacrifice for any of us. I knew that too.

In other words, if I had never been born, if my sister or brother had never been as much as a consideration nothing my father did or didn’t do would have changed. Even if my mom had never married him and he’d stayed single his entire life I still can’t imagine any goal or timeline or target accomplishment in his life would have been different in any significant way. It was like being his son was part of the checklist he had in his mind of what a successful white Christian man’s life would look like. Doting wife with 3 kids and a dog — with the unspoken agreement that the dog would be given away the moment it was too bothersome — and the kids would be punished and ignored the moment they weren’t worthy of being HIS children.

My Mom on the other hand — was another kind of hand altogether.

She was kind. She was loving. She was encouraging. She was life-saving and worth giving in every way I so desperately needed saving.

She loved me so much it even made her want to spend time with me. She thought I was “good” somehow — so much that she would tell me how proud, grateful, and blessed she was to have me for her son.

She told me I was the answer to prayer if you can believe that — and I did believe it. And it made a difference in how I felt about myself. It made me feel less embarrassed about being me anytime I was around her. She taught me what it meant to be a “good man”, but she never spoke to me as though she were telling me because I was failing at being a “good boy” or a “good son”. She spoke to me like she had no doubt about the good strong brave and man I already was — she was just excited at the idea of me growing into a man because she seemed to have a very clear vision about how wonderful I would be at being a man.

She sacrificed for me not out of duty but out of unmissable compulsion and need for me to know how much I meant to her. She would buy me clothes not out of some weighty sense of obligation and expectation of what moms are supposed to do for their sons, but because it made her very happy for me to know she loved me — and knowing that made me very happy.

Before I understood enough to be able to say the words out loud or to be aware of them as coherent thoughts in my head I knew — What my mom felt for me was powerful, meaningful, life-changing real love. And what my dad felt for me, whatever it was, even at it’s purest and in its kindest moments — was something else. Whatever it was, it was fleeting, conditional, endlessly evaluated, and without question deemed non-essential.

They both made eternal impacts on me and my life.

They both left no doubt in me when it came to how I would decide if my life would be considered a failure or a success. They both taught me how I could and would know if I was a good man, a good husband, a good father, or good in any way. And I knew how I would know if I was a failure. I knew how I would know if I should be ashamed at the end of my life or proud of what that life stood for when I was gone.

Did I care more about people more than things?

Did I do what I knew was right just because it was right? What if it cost me something? What if no one else would know but God?

If I believed in God — did I live like I cared how He felt about what He saw when He was watching me? Or could I expect Him to grade me on a curve? Maybe just pick a different version of God, one less concerned with personal details like how I treat people, right and wrong non-gray areas, who I slept with, and how much I actually “did unto others as I wish they’d do unto me”?

When I hurt someone or fought with someone I claimed to care about did I want to see what I got wrong more than I wanted to prove it wasn’t my fault?

How much and how often would I make certain to take what I could, get as much money as I could get, keep as much as I could keep, protect whatever I could protect, and make myself as important as I could in the eyes of as many people as I could in as many ways as I could.

Did I believe in sacrifice or winning — and did I want to be remembered for being the best or the person who made people feel the best about themselves.

When I died, did the people who knew me best remember me because I made them feel judged and graded like I felt with my dad — or did I pray they felt like they mattered. Did they know they meant everything to me — that they meant more to me than me…to me? Did they feel wanted in my life and special to me as my friend, loved and cherished as my child, and worth my life and death as someone I sincerely loved?

I knew which one I wanted — It was the same one everyone else wanted, even if they pretended not to know what mattered so they could live like they had no idea.

I wanted to be:

• the good guy

• the hero

• the protector

• the sacrificer

• the defender

• the servant

• the listener

• the protector

• the giver

• the forgiver

• the apologizer

• the one willing to change

• the one who loved anyone I loved more than anyone else ever loved them

It was a noble intent — enormously naive — stunningly vain — and very very dangerous.

I should have had different goals. Something like this would have been much more realistic and safe in so many ways:

• the good guy — within reason, and when needed, after learning important details

• the hero — rarely if ever — especially with adults who are capable of saving themselves

• the protector — see comment above

• the sacrificer — within reason and when done as part of a balanced healthy relationship

• the defender — depending on situation, person, details, and circumstances

• the servant — when chosen, not demanded, when appreciated and returned at times, not when one-sided and punished for choosing not to serve endlessly

• the listener — when the words and motivations are sincere and part of a healthy relationship

• the protector — see, I was so determined I put this on here twice, delete this one

• the giver — follow the same guidelines instituted with that “servant” idiot

• the forgiver — when true remorse is shown when a humble apology is offered without reservation and without excuse when the pain they caused me hurts them more than their loss of pride

• the apologizer — when sincere based on reality, not when demanded in order to gain fake respect or meaningless peace

• the one willing to change — when warranted, when needed, when justified, and not based on the opinion or demand of an unchanging relationship monarch

• the one who loved anyone I loved more than anyone else ever loved them — maybe just do my sincere best to love my sincere best WITH honest reactions and healthy boundaries.

If I had gone into relationships with those modified goals for myself I would have avoided two marriages and multiple manipulative relationships with some of the most uncaring, conscienceless people I could have found outside of a penitentiary.

Instead, I married two people who were drawn to me like I was an idiot lighthouse advertising a safe harbor for the worst pirate-ship relationship soul assassins on the open seas of dating and marriage.

I’ve been slapped, punched, clawed, beaten, humiliated, cheated on, lied about, arrested, arrested again, stolen from, assaulted in church, fired, and nearly bankrupted multiple times by women who stole every cent, took every item, peed in my drinking water, and lied in unfair corrupt family court to take away the one thing they both knew would hurt me more than anything — my own children. My son and my daughters who loved me very much — and who knew I loved them more than anything.

In return for having them ripped out of my life for years at a time — they lied about me enough to steal as much money and control of my kids as the idiotic unbalanced family courts system in the United States would allow. All without a SHRED of evidence proving any claims and all while not allowing me the chance to present a mountain of evidence that would prove the abuse I suffered. After all — I’m a man and therefore must be evil, just as the mom of any child must be pure of heart and incapable of insidious manipulation or the kind of pure selfish evil that would make lower demons shudder in repulsion.

The two kids from my first marriage are now both old enough to decide who they want to spend time with and who they want to have a relationship with. My son lives with me now and I talk to my daughter almost daily. They are (along with my 3rd wife and 2 stepchildren) the absolute loves of my life. I used to hurt down to my soul every day I couldn’t speak to them or see them — now I feel gratitude every day knowing they’re back in my life.

But some mistakes you either never stop paying for — or you pay so long and at such a steep cost it feels like an eternity. The second daughter, who turned 8 on Nov 18th, 2020 has been kept from me for the last 4 years. The court order stated I have unsupervised visitation — which she never allowed. Then she cut off visitation even at the location it had been supervised 3 years ago and I haven’t seen her at all since.

Then today I got papers in the mail informing me I owe her 23k in back child support (I don’t) — and telling me my rights as a father are close to being terminated because I “abandoned” my daughter. They want to take my name off of her birth certificate and replace it with the latest fool blind enough to marry this physical and mental abuser. It would be like I was never her father. Like she was born to some man I’ve never met. Like I wasn’t the man who raised her every day for nearly the first two years of her life while I was working from home. Rocking her to sleep every day and night, learning her sounds and adorable noises so we could talk for long minutes at a time. Like I wasn’t the one she cried for when I walked out of a room or the one she reached for any time I walked into one or she could hear my voice.

I had her stolen completely — and I was stolen from her even crueler — without understanding, without reason, without compassion, without hesitation, and without mercy — by her own heartless, soulless mother with the willing participation of a pathetic one-sided justice system too concerned with public votes and unreasonable demands for sexist standards and the cowards of the churches and families that knew and still know full well who the more loving parent is and always has been.

I have no idea what I’ll have to do or if there’s anything I’ll be able to do.

I know losing my daughters and my son based on nothing more than the dishonest words of hollowed shells of mothers disguised as humans has been by far the most painful thing I’ve ever had to experience. I can’t imagine anything being worse for any parent, man or woman who actually loses a child to a monster pretending to be anything but the emotional predator they actually are in everyday life and in every meaningful way.

But I got here because I was determined to NOT be the kind of person that hurt me the most as a child — because I thought no one would ever knowingly manipulate, humiliate, and do their pathetic best to destroy someone who they knew had always done the very best they could to love them as much as humanly possible and in spite of any and every degrading moment they had to endure to stay in a relationship or marriage with them.

I was an idiot.

I trained these narcissistic psychopathic soulless demon shells that there was nothing they could do to me to make me give up on proving what “true love” was willing to endure for them — just so they could finally know they were sincerely loved by someone awesome enough to demonstrate it day in and day out. Like a complete fool.

All I did was prove to them every day that I was so utterly without boundaries when it came to their disgust for me that there was no insult to deep, no spitting on to humiliating, and no dignity shredding act of arrogance and selfish motivation I couldn’t find a way to ignore. I added tons of dirt on top of my own mountain of reasons for them to be repulsed by my staggering lack of self respect until they couldn’t even begin to remember why they ever would have been attracted to me in the first place — and then I had the nerve to be surprised and even hurt that they looked at me like I was something several levels beneath a begging dog.

I’m not a dog anymore — I’m a very very angry man — and the idiot determination to love gutless, loveless, worthless pretend humans is as incomprehensible to me now as common decency and any fear of God is to these life-draining vampires who seem like safe humans to anyone lucky enough to never get too close.

I highly recommend you never get too close.

If you have — take the advice of an angry victim of these human vultures without empathy or remorse — and carefully, quietly disconnect as completely as you can, record and document every abuse and shameful action and word you ever forced yourself to forgive, and get the hell away from these hell-bound false humans who will never ever ever seriously NEVER love you the way you still foolishly believe they loved you once upon a time when they were hooking you during the early days so they could get you addicted enough to that feeling to spend the rest of your tormented life trying to WIN that feeling back into the abyss void you somehow still believe holds a heart somewhere deep inside.

Accept the truth — Accept forever that deep deep down these people don’t have a “deep deep” down part to them. Everything about them — is about them. And you will never truly be anything other than the tool, the fool, the life force, the energy, and the happiness they drain away to keep themselves drunk on some feeling of delusional superiority when in reality they aren’t anything other than phony, weak-minded, weak-hearted, pathetic and frail weak people who can only win by sneaking up on good people and hitting them from behind, crippling them from a position of trust and safety, and manipulating some advantage by pretending to be actual humans until they trick you into vulnerability and then patting themselves on the back for being stronger in some laughable way.

If there was anything strong about them they would be honest about who they were and attack from the front in broad daylight. They wouldn’t need to manipulate kindness and trust out of decent people in order to gain the upper hand if they weren’t such pitifully weak frightened and cowardly people.

So please — stop seeing yourself for the weak person you aren’t based on the treatment you keep getting from the shadow fraud person you refuse to see for who they really are and always have been — and get away from them before you end up paying the cost of trying to prove your love to someone who has no interest in showing you even an ounce of respect.

Do it now — before they hurt more than your heart and steal more than your self worth. Do it before they steal your children and leave a scar in someone too little and too defenseless to make the choice you could make right now.

Stop being a humiliated consistent fool — and decide you’re going to be a ruthlessly protective and loving parent.

And don’t even think of looking back.

Ever.

Coach Ken

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