Most of us who grew up with narcissistic parents
knew if we dared to break the silence,
it was guaranteed
we would eventually receive the silent treatment.
Silence takes many forms in a dysfunctional family but shunning is a sort of final silence. Before shunning there was first the silence of the controller who chose not to reveal the truth so they could manipulate an outcome. There was the silence of children who were afraid, to tell the truth for fear of what will happen when they got home. There was the silence of conspiracy where the enabler keeps their mouths shut out of loyalty to the abuser. And then when all the lies hit the truth and someone spoke out, there comes the silence of shunning where no one talks to you anymore because you have broken the rules and you are now officially ostracized.
It goes without saying that sins of omission are often fueled by silence. Silence has enabled racism, sexism and the cruelest abuse this world has ever seen.
Our lives begin to end the day
we become silent about things that matter.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
A few years ago, I choose to tell the truth rather than be silent. I felt it was the only way to be just and the court record still states the truth I gave. It also reveals the truth about me–that I wished no harm on anyone involved. Because I chose to tell the truth, I’ve been yelled at in the Spaghetti Factory parking lot and ignored. When I chose to walk away from the verbal and emotional abuse, I was shunned. I’m not sure which is worse–the shaming or the shunning.
Many parents punish their adult children with the silent treatment. The message they send is if you disagree with me, “You do not deserve to be a part of my life anymore.”
It’s not only sad for the adult child, but it reveals a lack of wholehearted relationship o the part of the parent. If we can’t stand each other because we disagree, our religion is hollow. Such behavior is very unlike God. When a family shuns, the message they send to the other members is, “If so and so stays away with their bad attitude, we’ll all have a better time.” It’s not true of course, but somehow the members believe it and will keep believing it for years unless someone wakes up.
Sometimes when people are abusive we need to erect boundaries because they don’t have control over themselves. If they yell and scream and call us names, they are not meeting us in the relationship with mutual respect and we have to walk away. The only way to solve such disagreements is to meet on common ground with mutual respect.
Cold and stony silence was never a part of God’s plan for the human family. We were meant to live open and honest lives. We were meant to stand up for those who are abused and tell the truth. We were meant to live in total naked honesty with nothing to hide. Those who endorse silence usually have something they want to hide. There is no faster way to harm yourself and your entire family than to be silent about things that really matter.
But he’s already made it plain
how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.