“Shit for Brains”

Everyone was sitting comfortably. He stood up.  He was a tall, athletic, good-looking redhead young man of 18. We were discussing parenting and the good and bad we had experienced. Matter-of-factly with an underlying sense of emotion, he stated: “When I was four, my mom told me, ‘You have shit for brains.”’ 

Stone silence in the classroom.

He had lived with this terrible hurt by keeping it a secret until that moment. By uttering those five simple one-syllable words to us, he began the healing of a devastating psychological burden he carried for all those years The betrayal and pain inflicted upon him by what is supposed to be your number one protector from life’s cruelties made me as compassionate towards him and angry at his mother.

Fortunately, what happened next made me proud of his fellow students. They fully supported him by revealing deep emotional hurts they had never told publicly before. He seemed relieved to unburden himself. With every supportive comment about his courage and how tough his childhood must have been, he relaxed a bit more.

In that moment of confession, he had broken the spell that had haunted him for nearly his whole young life. 

Our class had learned to become more aware and compassionate that day. And we re-learned about the powerful hurt that words can trigger. 

I was stunned and grateful. When a human exposes a hidden and deep vulnerability, it is a powerful moment. Not only for the storyteller, but for the listener who can identify. Empathy results. It is the way we are neurologically wired. 

I was grateful for the students, not only for their support, but how expressive they were in their support for an environment where this young man felt safe enough to candidly express a dark secret