Truth and kindliness (was Re: DWJ in Israeli newspaper)

Ven vendersleighc at
Wed Feb 18 00:02:49 EST 2004

Melissa quoted me

>I'm going to declare a personal interest in all
>this. While I certainly wouldn't win an unhappy
>childhood contest with  either Harry Potter or
>Cat Chant I did have an early brush with death.
>Worse than the incident itself for me was the
>cover up. I believe that when things finally 
>out into the open it was the best thing not only
>for me but the others involved.  
>Hence I am entirely of the head on confrontation
>camp. I much prefer to have my demons out in the
>open where I can see them than lurking behind a
>consoling facade from which they can jump out 
and >ruin things at any time.........>

<........People who go out of their way to
distance themselves from reality are often headed
for serious problems in relationships, in
economic matters, in mental health.>

Not that facing up to this particular reality has
exempted me from that kind of trouble..... I
don't want to give the impression that I think I
am all serene and sorted, just better off than I
was in ignorance.

>There is also an issue of forgiveness that to 
see people as flawed or incompetent makes it 
possible to forgive and to achieve

I suppose by people here I meant parents, or
adults in general. From a child's point of view
they are in control, they have the knowledge and
the power so they may be judged more harshly when
they fail. The adults in Dwj (the ones who are
not monstrous) are presented as imperfect, as
failing because thats what frail humans do, thats
what mnakes them forgivable.  As I have grown
older it has given me a jolt on more than one
occasion to realise that I have reached the age
my parents were when this or that happened  --
and that they probably felt no more "grown up"
than I do. 

<Another example of people glossing over the
in order to stay safe.
Sometimes forgiveness is more painful than 
constant suffering.>

Something like going through a moment of intense
pain to remove a splinter rather than trying not
to use the afflicted part. Actually I was talking
top someone the other day about people who put
off going to the Doctor because they are afraid
of finding out what's wrong. Something that can
have tragic consequences.


Melissa wrote (at the end of a post, but this 
caught my eye because it
chimed in with something I had been considering, 
on and off, all day):

>Another example of people glossing over the 
truth in order to stay safe.>


Truth may not always be the best thing, though.  
There's a "dilemma" in
today's Independent, sent in by a chap who had a 
brief affair 21 years ago
and has stayed sporadically in touch with the 
married lady in question; he
has just been told by a friend that her 
21-year-old son is his spitting
image, and is now sure it is his son, and not 
having any children wants to
know whether he ought to try to meet the young 
man and (presumably) spill
the beans or at least cause them to spill -- if 
they look that much alike
it wouldn't be something easy to hide from the 
younger man.

Now, I would say that in this case "glossing over

the truth" is not only a
matter of "staying safe", it's a matter of not 
destroying three other
people (more if there are siblings in the 
family).  .......snip........
So what good does not glossing over the truth do 
here, and to whom?  Is it
better for the son, even if it destroys all his 

Just my opinion but I think  the truth is already
out there and will have already been working like
a canker at the heart of this family. The mother
must know or at leaast suspect the parentage of
this child, the father may also, whether or not
they have discussed it. This will affect the way
they interact with their son and each other
and any other children. There are also practical
aspects -- son to mother "my fiancee is a carrier
of Snape Weasley syndrome but that's OK we don't
have that in out family do we?"
The dilemma now is whether to reveal the secret
or leave it to fester some more. At the very
least this chap should approach the mother and
find out just how things do stand. And this,
incidentally is why I'm not in favour of hiding
things from children or spouses in the first
place. Getting personal again, when the secret in
my family came out it was incredible how many
things finally made sense, people's resentments,
overheard arguments and why I was so often
allowed to get away with certain things........
It was as though the furniture in my head had
always been upside down and was suddenly turned
the right way up. it certainly made it a lot
easier to think. 


<Some people like to say horrible
things about others with the excuse that it's 
true, priding themselves on
their honesty when they really should question 
whether their "honest"
communications are worth saying.>

Those are just opinions and yes, they are better
left unsaid, I'm talking about real things, as
you said next,

< What I was referring to, in response 
to Ven's situation, is the
kind of truth which *is* known to everyone 
involved and yet is ignored, as
though this will make it go away.  It's not about

deciding not to reveal a
previously unknown and potentially devastating 
fact; it's about pretending
that the monster in the corner doesn't exist and 
will go away if you pretend
hard enough.>

(I have managed to lose a digest so I apologise
if i have left out anyhting I should have replied

Elise wrote
<In that case I would only add -- it seems to me 
that while people might 
appear bullheaded, wayward, or wilfully blind 
when bent on ignoring what is 
obvious, it stands to reason that it's fear, 
being daunted, and feeling 
helpless (in addition to a whole bag of 
complicated stuff that may go with 
all that - guilt, shame, many things) that is 
leading to that extended 
effort of unawareness.  Seems to me that 
confronting and acknowledging the 
underlying fear/helplessness is the key first 
thing leading to admitting 
perhaps the elephant is blocking the fire exits. 

Otherwise, even if the 
elephant is acknowledged, still no one has 
meanwhile discovered their inner 
mahout capable of getting a handle on the 

That's well said and rather helpful. I sometimes
think the only thing I have acheived is to make
the wretched elephant visible. I now know that it
is there but have trouble stopping getting in the
way of things I should be dealing with.
So, where's that inner mahout lurking?*

<.......Ven's phrase "to forgive and to achieve 
reconciliation" jumped out at me. 
Personally, I never tie those two concepts 
together anymore, although I once 
did.  Forgiveness seemed very murky to me for a 
long time.  It seemed as if 
you were *giving* something to a transgressor 
and, moreover, it was 
something they were probably unlikely to want or 
need since, often enough, 
the transgressor isn't about to admit the 
transgression. lol!  Plus, that 
'to achieve reconciliation' bit.  What if you 
don't want to?  If you forgive 
someone, does this mean you have to hang out with

them some more?>

In the case of family I think you don't
neccessarily have a choice about hanging out with
them. Where ties of blood and affection, love
even, exist it is  not so easy to just walk away
(I did try that for a while). One of my personal
metaphors is to think of my family as living in a
house built on sand. Once it fell down we still
had to live somewhere.

<It seems to me that reconciliation is a separate

process from forgiveness.  
Because reconciliation *must* be mutual or it is 
just the forgiver letting 
themselves in for another round, having received 
no evidence that 
circumstances have changed.  On the other hand,  
forgiveness is essentially 
a solo act that is predicated on the individual's

sense of personal agency - 
*you* have the power to forgive and the power to 
lay down the burden imposed 
upon you by the incident that requires 
forgiveness.  It seems to me a 
difficult solo act, but preferable to work at 
instead of passive constant 

  And how annoying it is that transgressors are 
often so completely unaware 
of what they have imposed.  I am thinking of 
DWJ's biography now, and 
similar situations. If the parent is so oblivious

and uncaring in the first 
place - will it matter to them if their child is 
prostrate under the burden 
of being transgressed against? Will they notice 
that suffering and impact, 
ever? No. And they wouldn't want to, would they 
(see above)?  But by the 
same token, will forgiveness have any meaning to 
them? No, I doubt that, 
since they haven't admitted any of it to 
consciousness in the first place. 
So it's all one to them whatever happens to 
whoever they have burdened.  So 
that is why working toward forgiveness is an act 
of the individual, on 
behalf of and for the health and well-being and 
future of that individual, 
and not for the transgressor, who it probably 
wouldn't mean anything to, 
anyway.  And I say 'working toward forgiveness' 
because I don't think it can 
be hurried along or done by fiat. It just has to 
take the time it takes, 
however long, but meanwhile the person is growing

and growing.

That's why I am not in favor of the phrase 
'forgive and forget.'  I'm more 
for 'forgive and remember.' I don't mean to 
remember in the sense of a 
grudge, but as something that has been thoroughly

exploited for all learning 
potential.  Forgive the stove, but also remember 
not to put your hand on the 
burner. Consider a raw foods diet if the sight of

the stove offends you.  
Banish the stove and use only a microwave. None 
of that means you haven't 
forgiven the stove, but you don't have to 
reconcile with it either.  ;)

Well, my random maunderings.  Thanks Ven and 
Melissa for sparking my mind!>

I do agree with what you say here, I had a number
of conversations along just those lines, mainly
trying to convince someone that I couldn't
forgive them unless they acknowledged not just
that they had done something wrong a long time
ago but that they had done lasting damage. 

I am minded here of the South African Truth and
Reconciliation commission, which I thought was a
very good model for how to deal all kinds of past

It's interesting that this is the direction the 
discussion has taken.  I
think something else Ven wrote has been largely 
overlooked--we were
originally talking about Dumbledore and how he 
isn't portrayed as someone
who can fail, even when he does.  Sometimes it 
seems that acknowledging
flaws (in ourselves or in others) is a betrayal 
of sorts, or opens us up to
further pain.  Ven points out accurately that in 
recognizing these flaws,
these times of incompetence, we also gain the 
opportunity to change said
flaws--to forgive others for the hurt they've 
done us, or make ourselves
better people.  I have known people for whom this

kind of acknowledgement
would be abhorrent.  They would rather try to 
paper over the cracks forever
than to smash out a wall and rebuild.  As you say

above, there are a lot of
complicated things that go into this kind of 
reaction, and sometimes a
temporary patch is what gives people the ability 
to face their fears.  So it
isn't always a bad thing to do.  But ignoring the

obvious isn't a long-term
solution, and ultimately we all have to face the 
things that scare
us...either because we choose to or because they 
come leaping out at us.

My counter-argument is that suffering and 
resolution (not just forgiveness)
are states.  How we deal with our 
troubles--facing up to them, ignoring
them, exhibiting addictive behavior, etc.--are 
the processes which lead us
one way or the other.  They aren't choices except

in the sense that you can
decide where you want to be; you can't just 
choose to be happy, you have to
take the actions that will get you there.

Reconciliation doesn't just have to mean 
agreement between two parties.  In
its root sense, it means to bring into agreement 
or unity, so it can also
mean that you've stopped letting past horrors 
affect you and that you are
personally reconciled to what you've suffered.  
This is how I associate it
with forgiveness--not coming to agreement with 
the other person, because
you're right that so often the other person 
doesn't care or will deny it.>

I have given up snipping, I can't begin to edit

Gill said (earlier than  anyone else I have
quoted here)

<Indeed, DWJ quite often ends with the children 
feeling an obligation to take
care of the adults - Nick and Maree both do, for 
example. The world is a
tangled mess and even a happy ending doesn't 
always make it go completely

And this is so often the case in the real world
as children grow up and parents grow old.

<However, many of the adults *are* inept, or just

don't notice what they
should be doing - DWJ is big on personal 
responsibility, and a lot of her
adults don't match up in that area. Christopher 
Chant's mother has
absolutely no sense of her duty to him. Nor, of 
course, do the parents in
"Time of the Ghost" (who's surprised there?). And

so on....>

This is at the heart  of the contrast between 
Chrestomanci and Dumbledore. Both have nearly
brought about disaster as a result of things they
have kept from their charges. However
Chrestomanci  ends up suffering an nearly dying
alongside Cat  for his mistake but Dumbledore
just gets to trundle up in time to save the day
and say sorry. We are even left to wonder if he
was in the right after all to avoid Harry for his
own safety. In fact I could make out a case that
DD  is forever  hiding behind Harry with the
prophecy as an excuse. Couldn't deal with you
know who meself, had to wait for the boy to grow
up. But just because Harry is a weapon against
Voldemort is no reason for DD to use him as a
shield. It is because Dumbledore seems not to
suffer for his inaction that Ii would so like to
see him sweeping floors, or emptying the
Longbottom's bedpans.

*My inner Esme Weatherwax has just demanded
"Who's doing the looking?" which rather answers
that question for me.


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