Surely they don’t mean it

“I’d rather burn in hell than pay her any money.”

A guy said that to me the other day. It’s nothing new. People say it all the time. It doesn’t come from all the folks we deal with; not even a majority of them. Still, despite our lofty goals, the harsh truth of my job is that you can’t always turn bad people into good people. There are some folks who seem to be so full of hate and spite that no amount of assistance, persuasion, or punishment (when it comes to that) seem to be enough to bring them around. If there’s any concern for the well-being of their kids in there, it’s buried deep.

In order to do my job well, I try to understand. I try to imagine the circumstances that would bring someone to this point. I don’t know if it’s my sheltered upbringing or my relatively uneventful life, but sometimes I can’t see it… not really. Even if I thought the mother of my kids was spending my money unwisely, surely I’d see that cutting off all the support for my children was not the answer.

Most days I like my job, but I wonder if a growing inability to relate to these folks (on some level) is a bad sign.


  1. I guess I’m a little afraid of the day when I walk into a room and assume the worst of someone. I hope a day doesn’t come when I expect all parents that come in to see us are this bad.

    When someone comes in and says terrible things like this, I try to give them a little benefit of doubt (initially and internally)… hoping that these words come from some recent trouble which has stoked the flames of anger, rather than an underlying lack of concern for their children. If it is just something recent, it’s something that can be talked out (not all that often, but it’s possible)… with a little patience.

    I know I’m being naive holding out hope that a few minutes with me is going to change years of bad behavior, but I want to be able to believe there’s some good in there that can eventually be tapped. I want to believe that a few minutes with me, combined with other (hopefully good examples) can make some difference. I want to believe that conveying a little understanding of the sum of an individual’s circumstances, while still not approving of the behavior that’s brought on my agency’s involvement, can be of some use.

    This entry came from one of those days when I was temporarily cured of my naivete, and I just wanted to go home and give my kids a big squeeze.

    Unfortunately, we get too many folks that sound like your ex. Those folks come in seemingly deluded with the belief that their actions are defensible – or that they can do no wrong, and we shouldn’t perpetuate the delusion. Thankfully, I’m not the guy they talk to when it’s time to talk punishment – I’m obviously not well suited for it ;-)

  2. Why would you want to relate to them? I’m not sure what your job is, but maybe some people don’t deserve your compassion. Your professionalism and unbiased service delivery, yes, but are you required to be empathetic always?

    I’m in a situation where I’m owed almost $100,000 in back child support from my son’s father while my current partner pays more than one-third of his salary in child support to his kids. I sit on both sides of the receiver-sender divide, covering the lion’s share of our living expences in order to pay support while not collecting the support due me.

    If you met my ex, you’d likely think he was a pretty nice guy. He wouldn’t say that he didn’t want to pay the support. He’d act very concerned and tell you how much he wanted to do what was right. Once he’d strung you along as far and as long as the legal system would allow, he’d drop out of sight, move even, so that the slow legal system would take months or years to catch up with him again. It’s been 16 years so far. I’ve received three payments.

    Some people, even those connivers who appear to be nice, don’t deserve much of your heart and soul.

Give the gift of words.