I had no doubt you would answer sooner or later, Erik. Glad it was sooner. My heart, like yours, is surprisingly resilient. Trauma makes or breaks us, right? Sometimes the breaking is only temporary. A little distance, a lot of healing, and the passage of time mend better than stitches and staples.

I am listening to the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson about his work with U.S. prisoners on death row and how tragically unfair and broken our system is. I have to listen in small doses because the stories are so heartbreaking, so discouraging. He writes about brokenness — the courts, the justice system, families, schools, and society as a whole.

He says we should be merciful and strive for justice because we are all broken but in different ways. Instead, we often deny our brokenness and lash out at those who are broken as much or more than we are to take attention away from our personal pain and suffering (bullying, for example). Because we cannot heal, we want to hurt and punish others. We don’t want justice or equality because we fear if applied to ourselves, we will hurt more, we will lose more, or our guilt will be revealed. Because we cannot always punish those who hurt us, we long for others to be punished for something, anything, even if unjustified, even if our desire for unwarranted retribution is based of our prejudices and fears, even if the punishment of someone else will do nothing to ease our suffering.

His legal cases often involve people of color who were convicted of crimes they could not possibly have committed. Our system wants those who are convicted to be punished even if it can be proven that they are innocent. The legal hoops to jump through for reconsideration by the court are often impossible or time is too short. People are executed for crimes they didn’t commit. They are executed because someone wanted to hurt someone else and because the system allows the abuse of power and the concealment of the truth.

In case you are interested, here is a TED talk he gave:

We are all damaged. That is what I love about Medium — many writers here are so honest about their brokenness, mistakes, cruelties received and cruelties inflicted, and their paths to forgiveness, rectification, and healing. My heart often breaks when reading a story like yours but it also rejoices because you were able to tell the story, especially on a public forum like Medium and because others read and understood and wrote Me, too.

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I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.

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