“I feel like crap,” he tells me.
“I’m a failure.”
“In every way. My wife says I’m insensitive, so I feel like a bad husband. My son’s failing Math and my daughter has social anxiety, so I feel like a lousy dad. I don’t make enough money, so I feel like a bad provider. I don’t have time or energy to fix what needs fixing around the house, so I feel lazy and irresponsible. I’m overweight, so I feel like a physical mess. And you tell me I’m out of touch with my feelings, so I’m even flunking fucking therapy.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “Let’s do this right.”
I reach under my chair and bring out my hammer.
It’s an old hand sledge, five pounds of rusted metal.
“Here,” I say, handing it to him.
“What this for?”
“Give yourself a good whack on the knuckles.”
“Are you crazy? That would break my hand.”
“Probably,” I say. “But the pain would go away, and the hand would heal in about six weeks.
“What you’re doing to yourself now — calling yourself a failure and collecting evidence to back it up — that causes permanent damage. And the pain it creates is endless.”
For anyone who find this parable too metaphoric, let’s be clear:
Beating yourself up should not be mistaken for honesty, or courage, or discipline, or high standards, or determination, or toughness, or personal growth.
It is simple self-abuse.
It consumes energy, kills hope, warps awareness and destroys the spirit.
And those who indulge in it rarely grow into the people they are meant to be.