Tag Archives: Overcoming Dysfunctional Family

5 Reasons You Should Watch the Shack

6 Mar

Isn’t The Shack just a made up story? Yes. Is it even based on biblical facts? Yes, in some ways, but I like to think of it as an allegory. Pilgrim’s Progress wasn’t a true story either. But wait, God is a man and not a woman, right? Well, who of us has seen God? These are some of the questions people have about the movie, The Shack based on Wm. Paul Young’s book by the same name. This book and movie have taken a lot of heat, but most of the critics haven’t bothered to read or watch it. If you are one of the skeptics, allow me to share five reasons why you might want to watch The Shack.

1. If You Have Ever Suffered a Huge Loss and Wondered Why

The Shack tries to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Many of us in hard times after a death of a loved one or some other terrible event have asked, “Where is God if he is sovereign?” This movie attempts to answer this question through telling a story about one man broken by a terrible childhood and then a loss in his adult life.

2. If You have Father Issues and Feel You Can’t Trust the Father

Early in The Shack we see Mac’s father beating him with a belt. If you grew up with a narcissistic parent who beat you, put you down or abused you in any way, you might find it very hard to trust God. This is because God’s original plan was for parents to act in the role of God to their children. When we were small and unable to provide for ourselves, we relied on our parents for everything. When they were abusive, it gave us the idea God might be abusive too. Part of the reason for this is that little kids can’t see the abuse. They won’t assume their parent is abusive, they just think they are bad. As children, we absorbed our parents’ sins and now as adults, we still feel unworthy. In the Shack, Papa goes out of the way to make sure Mac knows he is worthy of God’s friendship and love. That word friendship came up several times between Mac and Jesus. It reminded me of one of the least repeated verses in the Bible where Jesus says:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

One of the problems we ACoNs have with our parents is they often won’t release us to be their friends, because they want us to be their servants and slaves for life. Of course it is a form of love to serve our parents–but not when we are adults who are forced to submit to a narcissist abuser.

The Shack reminds us that God is not at all like a narcissistic parent, he is always concerned about what is best for us. In the words of Papa, God says, “I am especially fond of you!” And what is so amazing is that he is especially fond of every person in the world, but it doesn’t take away from the wonder and love he has for each of us as individuals. God is a good parent who loves every one of his children equally, but differently.

3. If You Have Been Afraid of God’s Wrath

In The Shack, Mac asks Papa what about God’s wrath. And Papa says, “What? What are you talking about?” Mac thinks God is vindictive and revengeful toward sinners and Papa reassures him this is not true at all.

If you have not discovered the fact that God’s wrath in Romans 1 is really about God letting people go to their choices and not about revenge, then study up on it. There will be fundamentalists who disagree, but a thorough study of the subject might back up Young’s ideas in The Shack.

This film gives a great example of letting go through the art of storytelling. While it has theological tones, the story itself is well written, well directed and well-acted. People without a religious bone in their body could still enjoy The Shack—because it is a well told story and the heart of this movie is not about religion, but relationship.

4. If You Struggle With Judging or Forgiving Others

It also shows how we can let go and still honor our losses.This movie is not just about losing someone dear, it also carries the message to stop judging others and forgive them–despite the horrible things they have done.

Every abuser was formed most likely by the abuse of their parents going all the way back to Adam and Eve. While judging and forgiving seem to be at odds with each other, the way we can deal with both healthfully is to let go.

In the situation of narcissistic parents, we are healthier for letting go. The burdens we carry don’t have to hinder us and tie us down, God can turn our pain into wisdom as we grow stronger until we learn to fly. In this story, like in many of our lives, there were characters who needed to be forgiven and there were nightmares that came from the darkness that could only be put to rest by looking to Jesus as our brother and friend.

I was particularly touched by one scene with Mac and his father. Once we see our parents’ wounds we can forgive easier and we can realize they didn’t mean to harm us, they were broken by the fall too. How many children’s hearts would be turned back to their fathers if parents only they owned what they had done and asked for forgiveness? Of course, we realize most narcissistic parents will never do this, but we can forgive them even when they don’t say sorry. We are the ones who will heal when we do this.

5. If You Have Trouble Trusting God in Any Way

About ten years ago, I went to a seminar where the speaker asked if Jesus was behind one door and the Father the other, which door we would choose to go through. My answer was the Jesus door because I thought Jesus was the good guy who had saved me from the Father. That night I learned some things starting with the fact that Jesus said he and the Father are one. God’s wrath is letting us go to our own choices. There is no revenge in the Spirit of God. That whatever Jesus would say and do for me is the same as what the Father would say and do for me. I was first in shock, then in awe of God.

The next morning I got up at dawn and looked at this amazing and gorgeous sunrise full of pink and gold. As I stared up at it, I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart that this display was for me. That Abba, Papa, Father–whatever we call God was shining his love on me and I began to weep. I asked him, “Father, can you really be this good?” I will never forget that morning—it was the day that changed everything in my life. I have never had a worry about the future or my salvation since. My feelings were similar while I watched The Shack. I was profoundly touched by God’s love.

The Shack gives us a little God’s eye view of humanity where we can see how God loves every person. One of my friends who went to see it with me said, “I wish I could go and stay at the shack for a long time.” Why? Because to dwell in that shack is to be nurtured and loved unconditionally by God. To get answers from God. I believe The Shack is a little taste of heaven and it will change your heart, but you’ll have to see it for yourself.

NOTE: Some will have theological questions about this, while I am not a theologian, I will share a little of what I have learned from others.

Some Theological Questions About the Shack

God as a Black Woman?

The biggest criticism of The Shack has been its portrayal of a black woman as God the Father. But people who have trouble trusting God as a father might need to see the feminine face of God. God said, “Let us make humankind in our image.” If Eve as Ezer Kenegdo was created in God’s image, then certainly God has a feminine side. Jesus himself said he would like to gather the people in Jerusalem like hen gathers her chicks under her feathers (Matthew 23:37). There is a Bible verse which says, “Even if a mother forgets her nursing child, I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15,16).

The fact is God is Spirit. None of us have seen God. We know throughout the Bible God has manifested as the angel of the Lord in various places (Genesis 22:11–15). And God has manifested as a human even before Jesus was born, when three visitors came to Abraham and at least one of them was God. Even here, maybe the number three has significance (Genesis 18). When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit was manifested as a dove (Matthew 3:16). Paul says Jesus was manifested as a rock for the Children of Israel (I Corinthians 10:4) and he was also the cloud which protected them by day and night (Exodus 13:21).

The Shack portrays God manifested as a black woman, an Asian woman and as a Native American Father. I see no reason why such portrayals would shock anyone who understands how God bends close to the earth to meet each hurting human in the place where we most need God.

Universalism?

Other critics have accused Young of writing about Universalism which states that no one will be lost but all will be saved. I didn’t get this idea from the book or the movie. But it is important to note that God is especially fond of everyone—the question is will we allow God to heal us? Some may not, but it has always been God’s dream to save everyone–he just won’t force anyone.

When Mac asked, “Then are there to be no consequences for sin, Papa says, “Oh there’s always consequences.” Then Papa describes how God gives everyone freedom of choice–if this is true, then God either must win every soul to his way of thinking, or lose some.

I was reminded of two verses:

1. The Wages of Sin is Death (Romans 6:23).

Some say the wages paid by sin is death. This is the law of sowing and reaping. Some call it karma. Jesus taught about the parable of the sower. If there is no sowing, there will be no reaping. We all will reap what we sow.

2. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Some say sinners can’t follow God unless they are scared into it, but that is not God’s way, that is the enemy’s lie. How do we know this?

God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

The true biblical explanation of God’s wrath is actually letting go (Romans 1:18-32). We would all be wise to notice this passage is about all sin–not just the ones mentioned by the fundamentalist Christians. I believe when God lets go, the Holy Spirit releases people to their own choices.

The poison vine Sarayu warned Mac was deadly when helping him dig up the weeds in the garden of his heart, reminded me of how sin kills us. And if we refuse to allow Sarayu AKA the Holy Spirit to help us clean up those toxic parts in our hearts, we could become damaged and in danger of walking away from God altogether.

Disconnection from God is what is so deadly for all of us humans. This is why God’s enemy puts up so much opposition to The Shack. If people are afraid to watch it because some Christian warns them it’s dangerous, they might miss out on trusting God and having a better relationship with him and that could be a tragedy.

Where the Spirit of God is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Let each person decide for themselves.

Celebrate Only in Freedom

20 Nov

This is the time of year we hear lots of quotes and comments about being grateful. Sometimes we even read or hear admonitions to be grateful for what we have and for those of us who have fractured families, it can feel like a slap in the face.

Such messages usually come from superficial friends or people totally in denial and of course the flying monkeys. They come in a mixed bag of word salad disguised as compliments and good advice when in reality these people are completely ignorant about narcissistic abuse or devoid of brains.

This week someone complained how the main narc in their family keeps doing rude things. I wonder how long they will keep going back for more punishment. I mentioned there’s no way around the fact this person is a narc. If it walks, talks and squawks like a narc, what more proof do you need?

Some people might mean well, but we can’t take advice from them because all their nice platitudes don’t apply to narcissistic abuse. I’m sure you’ve heard these remarks:

“Well we’re family and family sticks together.”

Yeah, like super glue between your finger and your thumb? With some people you can’t get anything done.

“Be grateful for who is still alive–we never know who won’t be with us next year.”

Very sad! And you know what is even sadder? People who are still alive being lied to and lied about and treated with no respect. What kind of life is that? No thank you!

“We need to forgive and forget.”

This is often said by the abuser. When the abuser says it, it’s because he/she doesn’t want to remember their abusive behavior and they certainly don’t want to apologize for it. They just want you to forget the knife they put into your back so they can have the thrill of doing it again. Narcs are not normal people. They do not have empathy for their victims and some get a high from hurting others. When the flying monkeys say this, they are just channeling the narc, because they can’t think for themselves.

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

Because we can’t give up honesty and freedom to get along. When the family peacemaker says this, whether they are aware of it or not, they are acting as a flying monkey and taking sides with the abuser. Or they self-righteously feel good about themselves because they are not the ones in the drama. They might feel good about saying, get along, but getting along is what kept slaves in their place. Getting along is what sold many Jewish people into the hands of Nazis. Getting along is what keeps people in gangs. Just sayin’.

If you have family members or friends spouting these platitudes and asking you to come to the big family dinner, here is a litmus test to see if it is worth your time. Ask yourself these two questions–

1. Are they honest?
2. Do they treat me with respect?

Honest Elephant, Cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant-words

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I don’t think this is asking too much, because without honor and respect, we’ve got nothing.

So back to being grateful. I am grateful! I am grateful every. single. day. for my freedom filled life!
I am grateful for so many things, but the height of my gratitude is to know that God is not like a narcissist and gives me freedom to make my own choices. I am grateful for the knowledge I have about narcissism so I can quit trying to play a game I could never win. I am grateful for freedom.

A few years ago after the Worst Thanksgiving Ever, I wrote a poem and shared it with one of my family members. It was about other people telling me what to eat and how to worship and how to spend my money. I was thirty-five at the time and trying to find my voice and trying cut the control strings from my family of origin.

My poem basically said I was reclaiming my own right to these things. My family member listened to my poem, then said, “Wow! That’s a very selfish poem–it’s all about you.” I was stunned. The words of this family member echoed what my parents had taught me and I didn’t know how to separate myself from the lies, so I ripped up the poem and asked Jesus to forgive me for being so selfish. It would take me another ten years to wake up.

So every holiday I am very grateful to be awake, I am grateful to no longer be brainwashed to live my life to please other people. I am grateful to discern lies from truth. To know myself and know my God.

So if you are feeling sad about all the mind twists and gaslighting and being ostracized this holiday season, remember to look for the silver lining. Here is the sad truth: narcissistic people bring us joy only in their absence. If they weren’t narcs, they would use honesty and respect to bring us back home, but by their very nature, narcs find truth, love and freedom impossible.

So here’s to a narc-free life–with truth, love and freedom! I can drink to that!

The Hidden Elephant of Narcissism

9 Sep

There’s a phrase, the elephant in the living room,
which purports to describe what it’s like
to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser.
People outside such relationships will sometimes ask,
“How could you let such a business go on for so many years?
Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?”
And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation
to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth:
“I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in.
I didn’t know it was an elephant;
I thought it was part of the furniture.”
-Stephen King

The Persuader came after me twice when I was seventeen. Once was for not cleaning the kitchen fast enough and the second time for running away because my parents wouldn’t let me go to school.

I recently wrote a book review for a book by Shannon Thomas titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. I found her book compelling because she uses the term “hidden abuse.”  I hadn’t heard that term before but I really like it. I like it because for most of our lives those of us who grew up with narcissism in our families struggled with invisible bruises and scars. Like the elephant hiding in the room, we couldn’t always see it for what it was, but we felt it. And we aren’t alone.

The neighbors didn’t see it. The pastor didn’t see it. The teachers didn’t see it. The grandparents didn’t see it. Aunts and uncles didn’t see it. Because the abuse was hidden. It was hidden behind closed doors. Shame poured on like syrup on pancakes if we didn’t go along. It was hidden in the dark corner of the house and the darkest corner of our souls where so many times we couldn’t even see it ourselves. Sometimes it was hidden where nobody could see it except for God.

And the question for many of us is, “Where was God?” We can take comfort in the fact “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And Jesus says, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17).

I personally have no desire for vengeance or revenge. I believe such feelings are harmful, but I don’t blame people for having these feelings. It’s easier for me to release resentment because holding a grudge has never been my style. And part of the reason for this is I often didn’t realize how much I was affected by this hidden abuse. I justified my feelings. I rationalized my abusers’ behavior. It was so hidden sometimes I couldn’t even see it.

People have asked me why, thirty years after the fact, I feel a need to write this memoir. Because of hidden abuse. Because the abuse of thirty years ago has left welts on my soul that never seem to heal and it wasn’t until I read Shannon Thomas’s book that I understood why. It’s the secret. The cover up. The denial that I joined in to save my own mind at times. And it would be great to say it’s all water under the bridge, but it’s still not over. When your parents lie and talk about you and try to turn everyone away from you, you know it’s not over.

What bothers me the most, is the lack of honesty. When dealing with right talkers, they see every conversation as a game to win. It seems some want to win by a technicality where they don’t speak an actual lie, but they live one. Or they use that old trick of all politicians and say they don’t remember. They figure if they can just forget an incident I can too. And if we all forget it, it never happened. The problem comes because I am still reeling from the effects of the past and now dealing with the lies repeated to me.

Honest Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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Not every lie sounds like a lie. Sometimes lies are simply a piece or part of the truth. Sometimes lies are told in silence through facial expressions which fail to reveal the heart. Sometimes lies are told by telling a part of the truth and omitting significant details.

Sometimes lies are told with vague words and lack of commitment as some do when they say your outfit is weird or unique or interesting when they really mean it’s ugly. Or when they ignore the rest of the truth and speak only enough of the truth to entice the listener to accept their words as the end of the conversation when in reality so much more has happened and needs to be discussed.

I think the worst lies are those said to appease the conscience. When some says I love you, but they can’t stand you enough to call you once a year or share what is going on in their own life because they merely call you to say they called you or to get information to carry back to the narc.

This is how I was taught to be dishonest as a child. To prevaricate and rationalize our position to soothe conscience and say the least I could, so as to not to be caught in a lie. It might seem like a white lie, but such subtle techniques destroy relationships and families. And it helps us confuse God with our parents which is just another lie.

As I think about my life and where I long to be, it’s always, always in that place of honesty where faces are true and we can look into each other’s eyes and not hide a thing. I crave emotional honesty. I soak up spiritual honesty where our stories are messy, but we can tell the truth about our dirty secrets anyway.

A huge part of the pain of this hidden abuse continues because of the secrets we have had to endure and the fact we can’t mention the past long enough to heal because it might offend the narc. So yeah, thirty years later and we still don’t talk about it. I am reminded of an episode of the Judds where Ashley told her sister about her memoir. Wynonna was upset and said, “Why did you have to do that?” And Ashley replied, “Because you and mom wouldn’t listen any other way.”

My heart ached for Ashley. She gets it because she has lived through hidden abuse. Sometimes people don’t respect us and probably won’t respect us–even when we write the memoir, but we must respect ourselves because our stories matter and God himself does not ask us to hide in the dark.

Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
And memories–good and bad,
Can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.
-Cherilyn Clough

How to Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse

7 Sep

It’s been three years since a friend invited me to join a private group on Facebook. I didn’t believe the group was for me so I ignored the first request. After a second offer, I joined to be polite. Within an hour I found the answer to a puzzle that had been plaguing me for most of my life. I discovered the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, God gave me the great gift of understanding and peace.

I’d been writing a blog about God and my own questions and doubts, but this understanding of NPD healed my struggles on a new level because it helped me realize it wasn’t God who had abandoned me, it was my parents.

If you are new to understanding Narcissism, here are three tips that have saved my life:

  1. Find Community and Support for Your Dreams

No one can face life alone. We were created for community, but many of our narc parents didn’t stay in community. We were forced into isolation because we grew up moving a lot or had to avoid people to keep the family secrets behind closed doors.

Finding a good therapist and group of healthy friends is your most important job. No one can survive alone and by making you the scapegoat, the narcissist wants you to feel you have no one to turn to, but the good news is the world really is full of loving people.

  1. Don’t Let Others Define You

The Narc can try to put you in a box or send you out from the camp as the scapegoat, but this says more about the narc and flying monkeys than it does about you.

There is a line the Narc likes to use: “If everyone else has a problem with you, then you must be the problem.” This is a narc fantasy and only works for the narc in their limited world. Think about it. How many friends does the narc have? I’m not talking about Facebook connections which are mostly acquaintances. I’m talking about real friends who live in community with them for years. Most narcs don’t have many friends because they are judgmental and litigious. They either can’t stand people who don’t meet their needs or they sue them.

The Narc might think of you as the scapegoat, but what does this say about them? They are cowards who use group think to control others? They are so ashamed of their own choices they would rather lie about you than let you speak the truth about them?

What does it say about you that you have been used as their scapegoat? You must’ve been courageous enough to speak the truth or taken a stand that defied their plans. This means you stood out in the crowd by thinking for yourself.

  1. Re-Parent Your Child Inside

Every person will need to decide for themselves what they missed as a child and what they need today. I believe it’s possible to be re-parented by God. God showed me what Narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. It was a painful blessing, but this road led to peace because now I have a name for this hidden abuse.

Keep your eyes open and read the gospels because as time goes by, you will find little signs from Abba that you are his beloved! We are all his beloved, but only a few seem to grasp this concept.

As I began my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I began to paint and write about what I discovered. This has helped a lot of people and I really can’t take credit for it because I’m just passing on what has been given to me. I have dedicated this year to writing my memoir and writing my stories has brought a lot of healing and peace too.

Memoir Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23081518-memoir-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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I’ve had flying monkeys question me about my blog and upcoming book as though I am writing to hurt my parents. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love my parents no matter what they’ve done or not done for me. I simply wish to have an open and honest relationship with my family because the dysfunction and lies were making me sick and I was forced to take the road less traveled if I wanted to be true to myself and God.

After years of combing through my memories and writing about it, I want to paraphrase my own version of that famous quote by Eric Lidell: God gives me insights from my life and despite the pain, when I write, I feel his pleasure.

In writing this memoir, I have learned a secret:

Memoir is not about the mean things that happened–it’s finding meaning in the things that happened.

How to Know When It’s NOT Your Fault

18 Aug

When I was five years old, I was standing outside the swimming pool when my mother asked me to watch my one year old brother while she went inside to get my new born sister who was crying. I watched my brother faithfully. I watched him flip over on his little paddle board. I watched his feet kicking in the air. I watched him just like she told me to until she ran back out the back door and thrust my baby sister into my arms and flipped him right side up. Like a good baby, he was holding his breathe. My Mom was naturally upset, but then she accused me of trying to drown my brother. For the most of my life, she has referred to this as “the time you tried to drown your brother.”

My dad came home and gave me a pep talk on how since I am the oldest, I need to watch out for the younger ones. This led to a lifetime of me serving my family long after my siblings were adults. By birth order, I felt responsible to make other people happy.

After studying child development in college, I discovered something about this incident. Children under the age of eight process words literally because they can’t think in abstract. I was a normal child who had no intentions of harming anyone. To be labeled as someone who tried to harm a sibling was unfair, but my mom probably didn’t realize this at the time. Plus I was standing outside the pool. I had no training for lifesaving. We had just put up the pool for my sister’s birthday and she took to it like a fish, while I was afraid of the water.

My mother gave me an impossible task and I was asked to play a game I could never win. What was even more unfair was the responsibility put on me by my father to serve my family at such an early age. This included cleaning house and childcare at that age, but later turned into giving them my babysitting money and later providing for my relatives and paying their bills while I often neglected my own. I was taught to put everyone else first because that is what Jesus required of me. Like Carol Cannon says in her book, Never Good Enough, “I learned to give myself away before I even had a self.” While the Circle of Giving requires us to give, such giving can only come from the heart.

My Own Person, cherilynclough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15253730-my-own-person-sunflower?asc=u&c=540742-survive-to-thrive

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Fast forward a few years and this concept of being responsible for others was extended when I was high school aged and wanted to go to school. My mom said not to mention my depression about not going to school because it might cause my dad to have a heart attack. She was asking me to choose between having a high school education and supposedly killing my father. There are names for this kind of gaslighting. My mother in law calls it a mind-F_, but to be nice for the internets, I will call it a mind-warp. It’s the same thing.

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, chances are you have been given impossible mind-warps. Perhaps you felt responsible for the rest of your family.  Maybe you’ve even been told you will be responsible if you go no contact because someone was abusive to you. I have a friend who was accused of giving his mother cancer because he didn’t allow her to continue verbally and emotionally abusing him. These accusations are not only cruel and unfair, they are just plain wrong.

I had a friend who was suicidal a few years ago and I spent hours–no weeks listening to this person talk for hours on end. I tried to do everything they taught me as a volunteer at helpline. I did my best and yet this person lied about me and later told others I made it all up. That’s the day I walked away from the role of hero I accepted when I was five. Today, relationships have to pass three criteria if someone wants to stay in my life—respect, honesty and taking responsibility for their own choices.

  1. Respect

Many narcissistic people have very little respect for others. They would like to use your time and money and anything you are willing to give them to meet their needs. This is called narcissistic supply or narcissistic feed. It could be money or it could be ego stokes. In either way, the narc wants to use you. When you realize someone merely wants to use you, it’s time to move on, because there is no relationship without respect—anything less is simply a transaction. I say let them get a job and go to their own bank.

  1. Honesty

Very similar to respect, there is nothing to base a relationship on without honesty. Otherwise people are just pretending to be someone they are not. This is what happens when someone falls in love with a narc. Or even the fantasy of a trauma bond that some people cling to when their parents are proven incapable of loving them unconditionally. Even if you could believe their lies and ignore reality, you still wouldn’t have a real relationship. Don’t let people lie to you.

If someone uses you and then they lie about how they used you, it’s time to realize you are not their kind of people. You’re not the one making the choices here, the person who uses you and lies to you and about you is responsible for their behavior and lying and pretending to be someone they are not has consequences. Which brings us to number three—taking responsibility for self.

  1. Each Person is Responsible for Their Choices and Behavior

We are always responsible for self before we can be responsible to others. And there is a big difference between being responsible for others and being responsible TO others. When you have a job, you are responsible to do whatever you have agreed to do, but you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to what you do.

When you fly, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This is not selfish, but the only way to help others. To say putting on the mask will kill someone else who refuses to put on their own mask is unfair. They might never say that on a plane, but people use similar distortions in real life all based on the false idea we are responsible to please others while they abuse us and lie about us. I don’t buy it.

When people blame us because this person might die or will never be the same because we asserted our right to live drama free without manipulation, those blaming us are simply shifting the responsibility around. This is often the heart of dysfunction and codependency–refusing to be responsible for self and while blaming others for our choices. Yes, there was a time when I bought things for people instead of paying for my own bills, but it was my choice and when we know better, we do better. I can own that responsibility and I own the responsibility today to allow only true relationships in my life.

There are still warped people who will blame you for the choices others make because you supposedly failed to cover (lie) for them. It’s not you, it’s the narc. There will always be ignorant people who accuse you of not honoring your parents because you stood up for truth and respect. You won’t be able to help the blind, but remember this for yourself–honesty is always, always married to honor. You can’t have honor without honesty and you can’t honor someone who lies to you and about you.

Most of these mind-warps would be hilarious if they weren’t true and just in a movie. But sadly, mind-warps are the symptom of broken relationships with self. Before the narc had a broken relationship with you, they had a broken relationship with their own self. They refused to be honest with self and failed to give themselves respect and in turn, stopped being responsible for their own choices and looked for a scapegoat to continue their fantasy.

I’ve rarely met someone who is estranged from their parents or child who doesn’t still love them. It’s true there is a difference between narc shunning and no contact, but most people who go no contact only did it as a last resort because continuing to have contact was too much for their own health and sanity.

When people break any relationship by acting in dishonorable and disrespectful ways, you can still love them and pray for them from a distance even when they won’t say sorry, but you are not responsible for their choices and you are not obligated by scripture to meet their needs or hang out with them. Allow me to repeat, you are not responsible for the choices of others. God created us to live in freedom and it is not right to allow others to take it from us.

So How are We Responsible to God and Others?

God has asked us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), but how does this play out with those who are abusive to us? To do justly means once again to be honest and fair. This means we don’t pretend hitting children is okay. We don’t lie to protect the family secrets. We do justly because God does justly and God never changes or denies who He is to soothe the minds of warped human beings.

To love mercy, means we will be open to letters of apology and treat even those who have harmed us in a kind manner. Our God is a God of second chances and when someone sincerely asks us for a second chance, we can offer hope to them. But—(and when dealing with narcs there is a big but)–the person who has been abusive in the past will need to show sincerity and ask with honesty or it’s not real.

To walk humbly with God reminds us of the proverb, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We are not better than others. We do not esteem even our abusers as less human or less made in the image of God than ourselves. We have simply learned there can be no relationship without these three—respect, honesty and responsibility. For those sincerely willing to try living an authentic life with these three criteria, we can always open the door, because with God, all things are possible.

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book Review

6 Aug

It’s not the load that breaks us down–heaven knows if we could see it all at once we might just shift our hips and find a better way to carry it–no, it’s the shrapnel of life that keeps turning up in our relationships or the gloom we feel when we’re alone due to the painful reality of a heart being torn out and left bleeding on the couch.

It’s not so much the shape of the matter as the absence of love–like a hole left behind when one piece of scripture is wantonly ripped from the Bible and taken out of context. It’s not the big things that tear us up, it’s a million little rocks in the soup of life that ruin our meals. It’s not the actual mass of the load as much as it is the way a thousand little things stick to our back like ornery burrs on a dog’s coat.

This is why recovery can’t happen all at once or even as fast as we hoped. Have you ever sat in slivers and had to get help in taking each piece out one at a time? That’s basically what recovery from abuse looks like. There ain’t no hurrying what cannot be hurried.

For those who are on this survivor’s journey, you’ve probably discovered healing is a continuous process. Now that we’re awake, we’re always learning new ways to heal and deal with in life. So what can we say to our friends who ask if we are over it yet? The first thing I want them to know is this is still me with a few scars. Like the skin horse in the Velveteen Rabbit, I’ve survived some rough handling, but I’m still here and I am myself now more than ever. I’ve also just read a new book that can help lighten the load.

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book, Shannon Thomas

The book is titled Healing from Hidden Abuse and I’d like to tell you a little about it. The author is a Christian counselor named Shannon Thomas. Her writing style is comforting. Thomas understands what it means to be abused, (I won’t give away her story here) and that might be why this book seems like a like a conversation with a good friend.

At the beginning of the book, Thomas reminds us that abusive people are everywhere—at work, at church, in the family, etc. It’s not enough to get safe from our abuser, because part of our healing is learning how to recognize unsafe people and maintain our boundaries to avoid future abuse.

In the last three years since I learned about narcissism, I’ve read at least a dozen books about abuse and I can tell you this is one of the best. Healing from Hidden Abuse especially hits the mark for ACoNs and those who have dealt with the hidden abuse of narcissism.

The first part of the book is very validating. For many of us who grew up with abuse, it’s been hard to recognize and name this abuse because what we lived through seemed normal to us at the time. I appreciate the way Thomas defines the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse. She says people can be emotionally abusive due to drug addictions, alcohol, etc. yet still have empathy for other people, whereas psychological abusers will abuse others because they get some sort of thrill from it.

Regardless of why such abuse happens, one of the most puzzling things for a survivor is the secrecy and clandestine nature of the abuse. When no one else sees what we’ve gone through or the abuser questions us like we are the abuser, it sometimes makes us question ourselves. If this is happening to you, this book will help you realize this is a form of gaslighting.

One of the most healing truths I discovered in this book is that our good points—resilience, empathy, and compassion actually made us targets for psychological abusers who were looking for people like us so they could milk us dry. I have often thought it was a flaw of mine that caused the abuse, but reading this book, I discovered it was not my flaws, but my strengths that allowed me to be targeted by the abuser. If you are the type of person who likes to make lemonade out of lemons, this is truly a book for you. There is nothing wrong with making lemonade–but we need to learn who is safe to share it with.

This book is easy to read, yet it packs a lot of information. I found myself marking the book and going back to re-read pages again. Sometimes I wondered if I would end up marking the entire book. It’s not only a validating resource, but it is also a great reference to have when issues or situations flare up again.

The first section examines patterns of psychological abuse. This book grew out of an online survey as a research project. If demographics are not your thing, just skip that chapter because it basically just affirms why the rest of the book is necessary and why Thomas’s six stages of healing actually work.

Thomas explains many terms we use in recovery community such as flying monkeys, hoovering, smear campaigns, love bombing, etc. I’ve written blogs on many of these topics before, but I found Thomas’s in descriptions informative and fascinating. I learned a few things here and I am sure you will too.

My favorite part was the recovery section. Thomas reminds us that the word survivor means to carry on despite hardships and to outlast and persevere. She points out the goal of surviving is to remain functional and what last half of the book is about.

This book is packed full of practical suggestion to help you overcome the emotional pain in your life. One of my favorite tips for those who are struggling with no contact is to put a photo collage of all the good things in your life on your phone. This is a reminder of what is going well in your life and why you need to protect your heath and the relationships that matter to you and not waste your time arguing and being emotionally attacked by your abuser.

This book describes in detail six steps of healing from psychological abuse. These are solid and easy steps to understand and follow. And it also includes understanding the ways we have contributed to our own abuse. Yes, we are responsible for the ways we have allowed other people to treat us, but this is not a shame walk, it’s a freedom walk. It’s a place to learn how to avoid landmines in the future.

When I read Thomas’s six stages of healing, I recognized these different stages in my own journey. I am sure you will too.

Here are the Six Stages of Healing

  1. Despair: The realization that life has become unmanageable.
  2. Education: Learning the specific methods of psychological abuse.
  3. Awakening: Awareness that other people have had similar experiences and recovery is possible.
  4. Boundaries: Implementing emotional and/or physical distance with an abuser.
  5. Restoration: Living purposefully to restore what was lost during the abuse.
  6. Maintenance: Returning to earlier stages to heal at a deeper level and maintaining recovery from abuse.

The book gives in depth tips for getting through these stages. If I’d had this book years ago, it would’ve taken the shame away of being scapegoated by my abusers and fast forwarded my healing, but I am grateful to be one of the first to read it now.

I recommend this book to anyone who has suffered any form of abuse and for those who have friends or family in abusive situations. This book is full of tools and wisdom to change lives. Reading it has filled me with clarity and peace.

We Are Shaped by Our Stories

14 Jul

You’ve probably heard the saying, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” One of my secrets is that my family was often homeless. It happened for a short time when I was eight years old. Then we lived in a cabin with limited utilities for most of seven years. During that time, we took our weekly showers at the state park. In my mid and late teens, we moved from campsite to campsite to motel and to cabin without any power or running water.

As I am writing my memoir of those years, I am struck by our resilience and our ability to ignore the fact we were homeless. We were more depressed over not going to school, so despite all the chaos, we never called ourselves homeless. My mom used to say she couldn’t wait until we lived like normal people. Not having real beds or a place to call home was hard, but the one thing my siblings and I longed for most was friends. We didn’t go to school so we only had each other and we missed the socialization and community of going to school.

My youngest siblings had at best a third grade education, but they only attended one year of formal school for first grade. At least I got to the sixth grade before my parents pulled us out of school. We are all good readers because of my second grade teacher who let me read all the way to the fifth grade readers. I learned so much from her that I eagerly taught each of my siblings to read before they even got to school because I was good at it and I loved reading so much.

The state of Washington had a law for kids between eight and fifteen to be in school. We were told my parents could be arrested and put in jail and we might get farmed out to foster homes if we were seen. We were told to hide below the car windows if we drove somewhere during school hours. We had to hide in the woods or the shed when someone came to our cabin or house. I lived in fear and dread of being caught.

Everything Shapes Us, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13519018-everything-shapes-us?asc=u&c=540575-healing-flowers

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All of this hiding and the loss of community and relationships further isolated our family. No one knew if we were belted, no one checked to make sure we had an education, no one realized we were homeless.  The worst part about all of this is we could not speak about these things.

Meanwhile we were told Jesus could come at any time so we needed to perfect our characters to be accepted by God or we would burn in the lake of fire. The cognitive dissonance I felt, still brings a tear to my eyes today. In my heart, I just knew I was lost because I was a fake and a liar telling people I was home-schooled, lying to bill collectors and hiding in a shed.

Whenever the world events inspired my dad to warn us about being ready for Jesus to come, I laid awake at night begging Jesus to forgive me, but doubted that he would. As I grew up and left home, these doubts still terrorized my soul. My dad referred to grace as cheap grace, so I had no faith in the grace that calmed others. I still feared for my life and carried the dread of Jesus coming far into my adulthood.

One day a film adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew began to change my picture of God. Every time I watched Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal of Jesus, I wept for the dawning realization that Jesus must surely love and forgive me. This drove me to share as much as I could of God’s love with others. It gave me great comfort to know that Jesus was homeless too. It felt like Jesus wrapped his arms around me and said, “I understand how that felt to not know where to lay your head or whether you would be safe.”

But the journey was not over yet, I had more to learn about God and little by little God brought seminars and people into my life to show me deeper truths about him and I began to trust God more with each paradigm shift. Sadly, it began to separate me from my parents. I eventually had to fire their version of Jesus to embrace the Jesus I was getting to know.

As the years go by, I’m learning more about the true Jesus and I am no longer afraid of God. The saddest thing for me is that out of my own family–my only peer group growing up, I have almost nothing in common when it comes to talking about God. Some reject God altogether, others follow and agree with whoever they are with at the time and seem not to do their own thinking. My parents, as far as representing God to us have epically failed because they refuse to acknowledge the wrongs of the past which would allow us all to move forward in truth and love.

Even in adulthood, we were discouraged from talking about being homeless, beaten with the belt and our loss of education. One of my siblings tried to speak of it in our twenties, but became the scapegoat where they had once been the golden child. Then, as I woke up in my mid-forties and realized the inability to speak of our secrets and pain had damaged me, I spoke up and became the scapegoat.

I am writing memoir today because this is history–my history. I ignored the first twenty years of my life for the second twenty and woke up in great despair for swallowing all those secrets. The only way to find relief and live a wholehearted life is to tell the stories that make up my life.

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them.
During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything?
The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important.
It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow.
But you know I was here.”
-Maya Angelou

Those who are perhaps not awake might say, “Forget the past and move onto the future.” But for me, the future is clearer when I can acknowledge my past. Maybe that’s because I am still the little girl beaten, the homeless big sister trying to comfort my mom and encouraged my siblings while we sleep on hard floors and eat m and ms for breakfast. I am still the teenage girl who weeps for friends and thrills to read novels which were taken away from her. I am still the young woman inside who determined never to let anyone control my life again. Anne Lamott is right when she says, “I am all the ages I have ever been.”

We can tell people what they want to hear, but when we are alone with the mirror, we have no choice but to tell ourselves the truth or die. I choose truth and life. It gives me great joy to know that Jesus is the Truth and he always supports those who tell the truth and he stands on the side of the truth.

Did you grow up with secrets?
Is it hard to tell the truth?
Will your family members openly discuss the past today?

Independence Day Again

7 Jul

Do you have an independence day? No, I’m not talking about a national holiday, but the day you were set free because you realized a relationship with someone you loved was not going to work any more? It seems we have many independence days along this journey from narcissism. Sometimes we have to get up and declare our independence just to get out of bed in the morning, but several years ago I claimed July seventh for my personal independence day. It started because seven is my favorite number.

My Grandma used to tell me I was lucky to be born on the seventh day of the month and the seventh day of the week. By lucky she meant blessed. She believed seven is God’s special number and in her Grandmotherly way she wanted me to know I was God’s special child. So I took joy in the number seven and adopted it for my own, but the good things God provides can sometimes be misused by his enemy.

Seven years ago my family went through what I call the great divorce. Two of my siblings divorced that summer. When I stood up for a child to have access to both parents in a nasty divorce, my parents tried to discredit the truth I spoke by writing a letter to a judge proclaiming me to be a liar and religious fanatic. They said I make stuff up just to hurt people. Of course those who really know me would realize this letter was a lie, but the fact my own parents lied about me and dated it on 7/7 was crushing. Even the date on their letter seemed to taunt me.

If it weren’t for God, my loving husband, my sweet friend Mary Lou who adopted me and a father and mother in law who gave me reassuring love, I’m not sure what I would have done. Since then, I’ve seen my parents twice in seven years. The first was when I asked them to join me at the Spaghetti Factory. It ended with my mom trying to shame me for telling the truth and my dad yelling at me in the parking lot and calling me mentally ill.

A year later on a bright blue sky New Year’s Day, I was sitting in church and felt it was a good time to let bygones be bygones so I asked my husband if we could leave in the middle of church service and I called my parents and we drove to their house. I felt they loved me and wanted us to have a relationship, but sadly the relationship could only be on their terms and part of their terms was for me to stop writing about my peripatetic childhood and most importantly the use of the belt and my being refused a high school education. They believed my only goal in writing about my pain was to cause them pain.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey to emotional freedom from narcissistic abuse. Back then I had no name for my distress. I would never think of my parents as narcissistic because they’ve never been vain about how they look. I had no clue narcissism is often manifested by the fear of what other people think. And this fear propels narcissistic people to control and belittle those who don’t do what they want.

When I confronted my father about the letter to the judge, he laughed at me and challenged me to tell him what it said. Then he said he didn’t remember what he said because he just wrote it to discredit me. I’ll spare you the details of our three hour long conversation. Most of it was about my theology.

Wherever I’ve lived, I never really felt I needed new friends because my main friends were always my family, but after the great divorce everything changed. It felt like most of my family died in a bus wreck—except they were still alive—just not speaking to me. I think the death of cherished relationship before someone dies might even be worse than physical death. How I wish there was some magic cure for all of our misunderstandings about God, self-protection and narcissism.

As I was working on my memoir today, I noticed the date with great sorrow. It’s been seven years since they wrote the letter and over five since I’ve seen my parents. I’ve never been a grudge holder, but I’ve discovered without honesty and respect, it’s pretty hard to keep a relationship going.

I still love my parents–both of them. But the question is do they love me enough to be honest and treat me with respect? We can’t keep calling people who have very little to say to us and we can’t make people appreciate having us in their lives. Even God lets people go to their own choices. Fundamentally these lies have broken our relationship.

I’ve even had family members say you never know how long they will live, but then do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow? I used to be the one who called everyone in my family to stay in touch, but after the great divorce, I realized relationships are a two-way street. I still wish I could be near my parents and do things for them, but I can no longer do it at the cost of my emotional, physical and spiritual health. Even Jesus said we have to shake dust off of our feet rather than stay and fight with people who can’t support us. If we are to reunite it will be up to their choices and Jesus.

Sophia Owl, cherliynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/22403369-sophia-owl?c=541259-soul-sanctuary

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Every year on July 7, I celebrate my independence day, because without that letter and the subsequent conversations, I might never have used the knife that stabbed in me in the back to cut the apron strings. Discovering the truth about narcissism a couple years ago, filled in another piece of my healing puzzle. Today I realize it’s not mean to tell my own story. As a matter of fact a good memoirist tells on herself as much as she does anyone else. This book I’m writing has been prayed over with many tears because I don’t want to hurt the people I love. At the same time, truth brings healing to all who embrace it.

So now it’s been seven years since that sad day on 7/7, seven years of mostly silence from my family, but I’m still celebrating my freedom from the control and expectations of others. I celebrate that I have a husband who has stood by my side and loves me for over twenty six years. I have now officially been with him longer than without him. I celebrate that I am loved by a loving father in heaven. I celebrate all the wonderful people who have loved me and befriended me in the last seven years.

And through my celebration I will continue to release and let go and of my own pain and expectations.  I will release art. I will release stories and books and I will release my gifts and love for God and people who are worthy of hearing my story.

So this is a little insight into my memoir writing and why I am doing less art and writing less blogs while I am focusing on my book.  I hope this encourages you if you are struggling to stand up to tell your story. Memoirs have been called modern fairy tales. We can never have too many stories because all of our stories matter.

Peace and freedom to all!

What the Bible Really Says About Honoring Our Parents

15 Jun

About a year ago one of my relatives took offense in my belief that women should be treated with equality in the church and after spouting all her venom on my FaceBook wall, I removed her as a friend. I sent her an email explaining why and suggested we talk in private through email rather than on my wall. She sent back a long diatribe and ended with the words “And besides, the Bible says we are to honor our parents, so when are you going to start doing that?”

By then I realized this was not a conversation, it was an indictment. I could only guess her last remark was in reference to my blog. The ripples of narcissism echo far and wide in my family tree. I’m not saying she’s a narcissist, but possibly a flying monkey because she’s bought into the lies of the narcs.

It’s sad because I’ve had to remove more than one person I love from my FB because we grew up with a lack of respect and messy boundaries. If there is one criticism we ACoNs keep hearing, it’s about honoring our parents. I think it’s time to take a look at what the Bible actually says about this.

For starters these comments are a reference to the fifth commandment which states:

Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land
the Lord your God is giving you.
-Exodus 20:12

Does this mean God will shorten our lives if we don’t comply? This is the only commandment with a promise and it simply promises a long life for honoring our parents, but it doesn’t threaten any kind of vengeance from God.

One of the most dangerous things in Christian fundamentalism is proof texting where one verse is used by itself as a weapon to refute the common sense that comes with comparing other verses. This verse has the capacity for abuse when it’s used without empathy for hurting people. When we compare this with other verses about relationships, we find a much bigger picture.

Problem of Evil
On one forum someone wrote: “Because of the Decalogue, Christians have this flawed idea that you can’t have issues with a parent, but some people are dealing with parents that are more than flawed, they’ve done evil.”

Yet even in the face of such evil, there will be people who accuse us of judging our parents, they seem to forget Jesus taught us to test the fruit of people’s lives.

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit,
and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
A tree is identified by its fruit.
Figs are never gathered from thornbushes,
and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.
A good person produces good things
from the treasury of a good heart,
and an evil person produces evil things
from the treasury of an evil heart.
What you say flows from what is in your heart.
-Luke 6:43-45

Some believe when our parents gave us life, we became obligated to obey them for as long as they live, but the verse in the Bible that says this, specifically states:

Children obey your parents in the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:1

When confronted with such black and white thinking, we can take courage from the wisdom of Jesus.

My mother and brothers are those
who hear God’s word and put it into practice.
-Jesus, Luke 8:21

Jesus seems to define family ties by those who obey God. Now to be honest we have all disobeyed God at some time.  I don’t think Jesus means for us to belittle our parents and hold their mistakes against them, but when it comes to how far we do what they ask, we have a commitment to honor our Heavenly Father first.

To put God’s word into practice is to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. To do justly is to be honest and fair. Most narcs don’t follow this rule 90 percent of the time. To love mercy is to manifest love and empathy for those who have wronged us and those who are hurting. And to walk humbly with God requires introspection and asking for forgiveness as we try to live out God’s lifestyle of other-centered love.

Another verse in the Bible mentions being unequally yoked together.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness
and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
-2 Corinthians 6:14

This illustration is a reference to the way oxen are hooked together to pull a plow. When they both wear the yoke, they need to work together while traveling in the same direction to succeed at the task.

Many pastors and counselors refer to this verse for those who are marrying unbelievers, but I would say it could be just as much a problem for two Christians who have opposing views on how to live the Christian life. In the same way, if we are trying to come together with family members who see things differently and belittle us for our political views or religious convictions, it will be very hard to get along. In many cases the narcissistic parent or sibling can be very abusive.

A prophet in the Bible put it this way:

Can two walk together,
except they are agreed?
-Amos 3:3

Before we realized what narcissism is and how it operates, most of us tried many times to reach out in love to our parents. Like a little kid who keeps going back to the broken bubble gum machine to get a gumball and loses his quarter, we kept repeating the patterns over and over. But what we didn’t realize back then is we can never fix a narcissist no matter how nice we are and how hard we try.

The narcissist is fundamentally broken in the love department. He or she is stuck in survival of the fittest mindset and is willing to kill you (or at least your reputation) to save self. This lack of agreement is obvious when we try to refute the narcissist’s lies. Anyone who has ever been gaslighted, will confirm it’s impossible for two to even talk together unless they are agreed.

The Problem of Further Abuse

If we continue putting ourselves in such destructive situations, it will impede our healing. It can be very traumatic to keep dealing with angry and disappointed parents. Such fighting is bad for the health of everyone involved.

I find it interesting when people quote the fifth commandment and I like to offer them a couple Bible verses which most of them have never heard of before:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
by the way you treat them.
-Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not aggravate your children,
or they will become discouraged.
-Colossians 3:21

Do you think it would be fair to say that a father or mother who angers and exasperates their child to the point of discouragement is unequally yoked with their child? And as we know narcissism can be cruel enough to drive some to suicide and self-wounding because they feel no self-worth. These verses speak to the wounding that occurs from growing up with narcissistic parents.

Even worse, such parents have broken the third commandment by taking God’s name in vain and misrepresenting him to their children. In turn these children grow into adults who imagine God is like their abusive parents, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus Loves Children of all Ages

Many of us endured beltings and emotional abuse as children of narcissistic parents. Back then we were powerless and true victims because we had no power over our own lives. We were completely reliant on our parents for food and shelter, so we had no choice. Today we are adults and we are no longer victims because we can choose to separate from those who abuse us.

Jesus saw how we were treated as little children. He is fully aware of our wounding and scars. He shows great compassion and affection for little children and he has no less compassion for us today:

If anyone causes one of these little ones–
those who believe in me–to stumble,
it would be better for them to have a large millstone
hung around their neck and to be
drowned in the depths of the sea.
– Matthew 18:6

Why does Jesus make such a statement? If we believe Jesus lives out the non-violence he taught in the Sermon on the Mount, he is not threatening the abusers, but proclaiming the natural result of reaping what they’ve done.

When the narcissist has gone so far they have no remorse, Jesus is describing the futility of their existence because they have lost their capacity for love. I’ve heard people joke that when Jesus says “Suffer little children,” there are narcissists who make it their mission to make this happen.

The True Meaning of Honor

Yes, we can love those who do not love us, but love is manifested in many forms. Love is not indulgent and does not reward abuse. Love stands up for good things like right doing and honest living. And love most certainly stands up to bullies, but even more important love cannot be faked, but must be honest and honorable.

The word honor is married to honesty. They go hand in hand. There can be no honor without honesty. They are one and the same. So ultimately to honor our parents and especially our heavenly Parent, we must be honest.

Honor includes saying I will no longer allow you to threaten me or shame me or belittle my life choices because I sense no love in your attitude toward me. If you want to tell the truth and apologize for your lies and abuse, we have a starting point where we might agree and that would be a wonderful thing. But if you insist on your lies and abuse, the only way I can honor you is to let you go and honor my heavenly Parent.

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Daring Greatly–The Courage of the Roosevelts

29 May

Jeri grew up with a narcissist mother who put her down and told her she was stupid and ugly. She has now come to a place where her marriage has failed, her family seems to do nothing but criticize her and her health is of some concern. The other day, she explained how the prospect of surviving a lonely existence on her own terrifies her to the point she wonders if the world even needs her. Jeri represents thousands of ACONs who lack confidence from narcissistic parents and are still reeling from the pain of betrayal, but it might surprise her to know she is not alone– she stands beside some great people who have overcome similar abuses and some of them bear the name Roosevelt.

I’ve recently watched the PBS documentary by Ken Burns about the Roosevelts which is now on Netflix. It is titled “The Roosevelts, an Intimate History.” I have often heard people refer to the “good Roosevelt” and the “bad Roosevelt” meaning whichever political party they ascribed to, but I have been greatly inspired by both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as Teddy’s niece and Franklin’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt (who ironically never had to change her name.)

These presidents were fifth cousins and both were supportive of each other. Their family tree though intermingled, was not a very compatible one. Eleanor was the strong link between the two of these men because she was Teddy’s niece and FDR’s wife and both empowered her to live out her own life of service to others.

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Teddy Roosevelt was older and born sickly with such bad asthma that no one expected him to grow up. His younger brother was stronger and more popular than he was and because Teddy was bullied and picked on because of his size, he was afraid to go places without his brother when he was a child. He overcame his illnesses and grew up to become a very strong figure both physically and mentally.

After falling in love with a beautiful woman and marrying her, he lost his wife two days after childbirth as well as his mother to Typhoid fever in the same night. He was left with a baby girl named after his wife, but he never spoke of the loss of his wife again it was such a tragic event for him.

Despite his personal pain, Teddy Roosevelt worked hard against unfair working conditions among the factories and mines to limit the power of big industry over the average worker and in American politics. He was well loved and very popular and did much good for our country. His famous speech “The Man in the Arena,” aptly describes his own journey and has inspired millions to get up and try again.

Teddy’s brother, who had been so physically strong, was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt. He became an alcoholic and ended up in an asylum before he died. After his death, Teddy took Eleanor under his wing as his favorite niece.

Eleanor, who never quite got over losing her father, did not find love in her mother who hated her overbite and called her “granny” because she was so ugly. Eleanor never felt loved by anyone until she met her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but even before he married her, his mother was over-protective of her son and tried to dissuade him from marrying her. She was never a friend to Eleanor. She considered her grandchildren as if she were the mother and Eleanor was a house-guest. In every pursuit, she seemed to work against Eleanor. After Eleanor bore him five children, she discovered her husband had been cheating on her for years with his secretary. She was devastated, but he agreed to never see her again and they moved on.

Without any power in her family and feeling powerless since her mother in law seemed to be raising her children, Eleanor began to help with those who were struggling during the depression and found her own life work in public service. Later, when her husband contracted polio, she and FDR must have struggled with depression, but they both tried to be positive for the sake of their children.

For two years FDR worked on walking, but he never really walked again. He moved his legs in a very painful manner with braces on his legs to hold him up. In all of his speeches where he looked like he was standing, he was more like propped up and leaning on something. This all happened before he even ran for president. Most people would have given up, but Roosevelt did all he could to be as strong as possible by swimming and strengthening his upper body.

He must’ve done something right because he was our longest serving president and was elected four times, bringing our country through the great depression and WWII. Some criticized his New Deal and later others would criticize the Manhattan Project which was started under his watch, but helped end the war with Japan. Whether we agree with his politics or not, FDR was trying to serve the people in the best way he knew how. He believed Hitler was evil long before he could get us into the war and he did his best to end Hitler’s reign.

Despite all the good Roosevelt did, he was scandalized by relatives and Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest daughter Alice, publicly said she would vote for Hitler over her cousin FDR. FDR said he didn’t care if he ever heard from that evil woman again. This documentary could well be titled, “Roosevelts, a Triumph Over Narcissistic Relatives.”

While FDR worked on his New Deal policies, Eleanor became more and more popular by writing a column every week. The nation respected her opinion and when her husband was criticized, she spoke out to support him. This couple could very easily have given up. FDR had a lifetime struggle with his illness and Eleanor was often dealt blows about her own self-worth, but they were united in service for a love of the American people.

On the day FDR died, he was working on a speech to encourage our country’s involvement in the formation of the United Nations. His last words, written in his own handwriting read:

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow
will be our doubts of today.
Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

When Eleanor went to bring FDR’s body home after he died, she was devastated to be told he was still entertaining his old flame and one time secretary. She could have given up after he died. She could have floated on a river of tears for her losses of not having a loving and supportive family from her mother and father to her husband and mother in law, it seemed most people betrayed her. The one exception was her uncle Teddy Roosevelt. He was one person who had a great influence on her character and life because of the love he instilled in her for the common person.

After FDR’s death, a reporter approached Eleanor but she told him to go away because it was over. She spoke too soon. She continued to serve people of all backgrounds and nations–even winning over her critics by helping to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations.

Despite all the narcissistic people who let her down, despite her own fears and doubts about her worth, Eleanor declared she found a way to love by loving other people. Her advice is helpful for those of us who have judgmental and unloving parents and who wonder if we will ever be able to do something of value to contribute in this world. If you are afraid, take hope in her words:

Courage is more exhilarating than fear,
and in the long run, it is easier.
We do not have to become heroes overnight–
just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes,
seeing it’s not as dreadful as it seems.
Discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Watching this documentary has greatly encouraged me to try harder to bless others despite my own struggles. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with narcissistic relatives, self-doubts and fear of failure. The truth is each of these courageous people either dealt with narc parents or some sort of health issues and adversity, they also made many mistakes themselves, but they never gave up. As a matter of fact, it seems their trials only made them stronger.

The world breaks everyone
and afterward
many are strong in the broken places.
-Ernest Hemingway