Bitter or Better. Honest or Dishonest. Adoptee or Not.

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A few years ago I wrote a short article called No Angry Adoptees Here for an online adoption publication. I took a lot of flack for that article and it ended up being one of the most commented upon pieces in the publication. I wrote from the perspective of an adoptee choosing to follow a path of understanding and healing rather than one of anger saying that: “I was blessed with adoptive parents who loved me . . . I am not, in any way, sorry for having grown up in the family I did.” In retrospect I wish I had said some things differently in the article but I stand by those words.

As an adoptee, I’ve spoken out about the damage caused by the secrecy that blanketed the adoption community for too long. When I hear about an adoptee choosing to be dishonest it makes me angry. When those lies are directed toward someone I love, I become livid. It matters little that the accusations are too incredulous to be true–truth twisted into something ugly, love warped into something hateful–lies are lies.

An individual’s character, their level of decency and integrity isn’t dependent on whether or not they were raised by their family of origin. Regardless of how an adoptee feels about their circumstance, their character is still held to the same standards as that of a non-adopted person. We have all, every single one of us, walked through personal muck and carry a measure of pain in our heart–and we all have the ability to choose the way we respond.

I’ve heard about adoptions that have been less than perfect–in some cases way less than perfect. I’ve also heard about non-adoption-impacted families that have been horrific. In both cases you’ll find some people with the strength of character to rise above the circumstances and live healthy and productive lives. You’ll find others who drift about making poor choices choosing to live a life of bitterness and waste; they make excuses and lay blame as a way of explaining their shortcomings.

The situation for an adoptee is unique. We ponder questions about nature and nurture; we think about what if and wonder about what might have been; we wonder who we are and who our people are. Somehow, amidst all of the reflecting and seeking we become ourselves–a product of both nature and nurture it turns out. Some, fortunate enough to become reunited with our first families, find ourselves with another family to find our way around. Blessed to have connected yet perhaps afraid of a second rejection, we struggle to navigate unfamiliar territory and that self we discovered along the way comes into play and our character shows itself in how we respond.

I’ve learned of a situation of an adoptee choosing to slander their adoptive family. Is it an attempt to garner sympathy so the first family will be more inclined to embrace them? Do they feel compelled to reject their adoptive family because they are only able to be loyal to one family at a time? Possibly. Is the adoptee acting from a place of grief and fear? Probably. Do they believe that the tales they are telling are true? Who knows.

It really doesn’t matter because, in the end, it all comes down to character and what we say about someone else says just as much–if not more–about our own character. We’re all afraid of something and we all have the ability to choose how we respond to that fear. Bitter or better. Honest or dishonest. Adoptee or not.

Today, I find myself in the position of an angry adoptee. I’m angry that someone would choose to hide behind adoption as a reason for challenges they may have faced and–worse–choose to fabricate lies and  figuratively slap someone in the face who loved them deeply. I’ll say my piece here, respectfully and honestly, and I’ll do what I can do to ensure that truth is understood by those who seek it. That’s my responsibility as an adoptee who lived too long under a shroud of secrecy and who believes in the truth.

Welcome and thank you for stopping by. I post early every morning: a quote that speaks to me, one of my photos, and a few words about . . . well . . . whatever is on my mind at that particular time.
10 comments
  1. Linda, I read most of your posts but this one was especially thought provoking. It made me realize that, though I’ve known several adoptees, I’ve never stepped into their world to look at life from their point of view. And, as you mentioned, not everyone chooses the high road and so I became engrossed about the differences of attitudes and actions you’ve witnessed from other adoptees. I’d definitely like to hear more from you on these issues.
    Also, now more curious about your own adoptee experiences, I just ordered your book!

  2. Well said Linda. And you are right – we each suffer our own personal muck, but choosing how to overcome and rise above it – be a good human being – is true for every person.

    1. So much is a choice, isn’t it?

  3. Well said….I struggle to understand why she choose to put me up for adoption and why she choose to put false information on the records….but, she had her reasons and did the best she could do at the time, as a mother I get it…..adoption does not define me…My adopted parents raised me to think for myself, and be who ever I wanted. I think my biological mother would be proud of how I choose to live my life…

    1. There are no easy answers. Adoption is complicated. I echo you in that “adoption does not define me”. I think we do a disservice to ourselves when we choose to harbour negativity about anything–our adoption circumstance included. It sounds to me like you have a very healthy perspective and I’ve no doubt that your biological mom would be proud of you.

  4. I agree with your story concerning personal responsibilities for life choices, adopted our not. I was adopted at birth 56 years ago and lived a fairly normal, happy life. The big issue for me was never feeling like I really belonged there. I adapted to my surroundings as best I could. I still to this day cannot explain the feeling or why I had it. As an adult,I searched for info regarding my bio family. This search was difficult emotionally and physically and spread out over 30 years. Three months ago it paid off! I found my entire bio family! My siblings had a strong sense that someone was missing from their lives, even though they didn’t have info about me. We all instantly bonded and are so similar in looks and personality.It’s as if we’ve known each other all of our lives! Sorry for the lengthy comment but wanted to share a very unique story, that I’m proud to say is mine!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment, Jane. I am so happy for you to have reunited with your birth family! I would love to hear more about your journey and your reunion experience.

  5. Linda,

    Regardless of whether one is an adoptee or not, behavior of the kind you mention is nothing more than ‘victimhood.” It is the result of not being able to accept what is and blaming others for our circumstances. I’ve spent time being a victim and found it to be a self-made hell. We can live a more authentic life, if we let go and find love and positivity in who we are, and where we find ourselves in life.

    Thanks for this great post.

  6. “A few years ago I wrote a short article called No Angry Adoptees Here for an online adoption publication. I took a lot of flack for that article and it ended up being one of the most commented upon pieces in the publication. I wrote from the perspective of an adoptee choosing to follow a path of understanding and healing rather than one of anger saying that: “I was blessed with adoptive parents who loved me . . . I am not, in any way, sorry for having grown up in the family I did.” In retrospect I wish I had said some things differently in the article but I stand by those words.”

    And you are absolutely entitled to stand by those words.

    I think though it is possible to go in two parallel directions where
    1) One can follow a path of understanding and healing for ONESELF
    yet
    2) One can follow a path of helping to change things and having righteous anger with many of the injustices that do take place in adoption even now.

    In my own personal situation, I am angry at no-one in my family. By seeing them all as humans in their own right has helped me feel compassion for all of them and to put things in context. I very much concentrate on the positives in my own life (without playing down the sad things either (note that the sad things aren’t about *me* per se but more sad things in the stories of others (I don’t want to go into it here))

    On the other hand (and perhaps this is because I live on the other side of the world where we do adoption very differently), there is seriously something wrong with the way you lot do adoption there in the US. It has nothing to do with the quality of today’s APs per se (and many are wonderful (as were my own :)) but about the process itself. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change how things are done. And I don’t know when the last time you spent time on an adoption forum was but seriously, it aint the adoptees who come over as the “victims” believe me. In fact, I am now of the belief that the longer one spends online, the more jaded one becomes – I think many so-called “angry” adoptees are just frustrated adoptees who are sick of not being listened.

    Btw I did like Adoption Voices. Somehow despite all the different voices, Jane managed to make it a page that everyone felt validated so it is a shame it no longer exists.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Catherine. I am in Canada but our adoption practice has been much like that in the US in the past–secretive and shame-based. I’m thankful that we are learning more about the harm done to everyone in the constellation by these practices in the past and starting to take a different path that respects. Slowly, gradually, with respect, I believe change will come. I agree with you completely that one can choose to follow a path of personal healing while still doing what they can (respectfully!) to aid the cause in general.

      Yes, Adoption Voices was a special place whose tenure was much too brief. It was a place where all were able to share their perspective and we all had the opportunity to learn from the story of another. We all have a choice how we respond to circumstances once we’re adults regardless of the well-meaning but often-misguided practices in the past. We all can choose to be respectful of one another too. Or not…and that’s the pity sometimes.

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