Damaged vs. Damaged Beyond Repair vs. Work-in-Progress: What’s the Difference?

The words “Damaged Beyond Repair” or  “DBR” get thrown around a lot in BWE-centric and similar spaces. But what does it mean? In truth, there are two qualities that must be present for this to be an absolute.


First a person must be damaged. How that person comes to be damaged varies by life experience, but whatever it is has marred their existence in some way. There are also levels of damage which determine how well a person can function in society. However, the level of damage does not actually determine the “beyond repair” part. Indeed, there are a LOT of DBRs thriving in today’s world. So don’t make the mistake of assuming that if you move away from hoodrats, you’re moving away from every DBR there is.

The second part is that the damage is so normal, that it’s the truth and it’s a truth worth defending.

An example of this is something I observed a number of  years ago. A young woman was outed in an online community as being in a sexual relationship with her father. I was not there when that particular event happened, but I was there for the fallout. No one was picking on or shaming this young woman. Quite the contrary: People were trying to be supportive, assuring her that it wasn’t her fault and that she had been manipulated by her father. Her own words seemed to signal that: Her father began making advances on her as a young teen and eventually forced himself on her. She distinctly remembered not wanting his attention, but over time came to accept his “love” and believe the lie that their relationship was necessary because “her mother was not giving him what he needed physically and emotionally.” I remember that quote because it’s forever burned into my brain. Meanwhile the mother supposedly was unaware of the relationship and her daughter’s resentment of her  (not in the “why didn’t you protect me?” sense, but rather as a rival). There was nothing anyone could say to convince this young woman that there was anything wrong with her relationship. The community was wrong. Society was wrong. Her relationship was true love and there was nothing wrong with her or her father.

It’s been years but I’ll probably never forget coming across that situation, and I do hope that young woman eventually woke up and got away from her father. But regarding what I read at the time, this was a textbook example of DBRism of the highest order:


– A person is damaged through a life situation, in this case involving sexual abuse

–  They are manipulated/indoctrinated into accepting those circumstances as normal, even desirable

– They do not fight the indoctrination/manipulation or the person harming them. In fact they feel the situation is what’s best for them and they love/defend the person(s) who has manipulated and gas-lighted them into being damaged.

– They don’t see the harmful behavior as damaging, but rather an expression of love or being helpful

There is no way to explain or change the minds of someone regarding their damage

– This is because to them being damaged is NORMAL and they don’t want the circumstances to change

They will fight non-damaged persons over their damage and cling to their damaged thoughts and their indoctrinators.

– To a person damaged beyond repair, everything in their life is in order and they don’t want to change because they don’t need to change. It’s the WORLD that needs to change to suit them, and they feel such an impossible expectation is perfectly rational.


A person with damages to their life, heart, and or mind that recognizes that something is wrong is NOT damaged beyond repair simply because they acknowledge the reality of their situation. You might say they are on the fence. A person who is damaged may become damaged beyond repair when they accept their circumstances as unfixable and say “what’s the point?”. They eventually slide from being damaged because they feel they are powerless to change to feeling resentful of any notion that they should have to change themselves at all, even if a lack of change works against them. DBRs expect the Earth to move rather than they be obligated to put one foot in front of the other.


A person who is or was damaged may go in the other direction, towards being what I call a “work-in progress”. A “work-in-progress” is someone who has recognized that there are issues they need to work out or that they are in a situation that is unhealthy or undesirable. These persons then begin actively working on themselves and their life. Understand, no one makes everything right and perfect overnight. Some people can turn it around in a matter of months through a few adjustments. Others take YEARS to get over a lifetime of trauma and pain. And not every work-in-progress makes it to the finish line.


One very important thing a  “work-in-progress” can say a person damaged beyond repair can’t? They are working to progress to a better place and be a better person. And that’s something to be proud of.


Question: What are some other ways to differentiate between someone who is “damaged beyond repair” and a “work in progress”?

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