A Note From Jackie…
I received the following story from a man struggling with his self-worth. I have never met him nor have we had the opportunity to talk. If we had, I would have told him…
I am so sorry for the loss of your childhood and youth. I am sorry you had to experience the hurt from those very people God gifted you to for love and nurturing.
You are so incredibly correct in how much children long for their parents’ love and approval. We are wired for unconditional love – love that embraces who we are and how God created us to be. Unfortunately, parents are human and guilty of all sorts of human conditions – selfishness, self-centeredness, narcissism, abuse, neglect, emotional blackmail, inability to love…and the list goes on and on. As children living with these human conditions we can be hurt and feel as if our parents’ behavior serve as our definition. This is the emotional blackmail at its worst.
Now, as adults we must seek the truth of whom we are and who we can become. We must let go of the lies that we were told by broken people not capable of dealing with their own struggles. We must move toward what is true…
God created you in his perfect image (Genesis 1:27). You are special to him (Deuteronomy 26:18). You are so special to him that he knows the number of hairs on your head.( Matthew 30) He suffered and died so that you may be brought safely home to God (1 Peter 3:18).
These are the truths that we must focus on when we are struggling daily with the lies we have heard from the broken people in our lives. God does love you – unconditionally!
I would gently challenge you today to view your guilt with a renewed light. Take back your power and soul. Let go of the false guilt when you believed the lies at a time when you were young. Instead only hold on to the responsibility that you are currently allowing the lies to define you today. Seek the truth about who God created you to be. He doesn’t make mistakes – people do!
Maya Angelou said, “Things that happen to me will change me. But I refuse to let them defeat me.” I’ve changed that a bit…”Things that happen to me will change me. But only God defines me!”
Prayers for you as you seek the truth about the person God created you to be!
Pent Up Anger
Many times I have laid awake at night thinking about the past wrongs in my life where my father and I are concerned. Yet I have not actually taken a step back and seen things from his stand point. I of course have thought of myself as the victim. Yet I have not given him the common courtesy of seeing things from his standpoint. The irony of the matter is I have always considered myself one of the most level-keeled, even-tempered, and least judgmental of all people I have ever come into contact with. Yet I have so much pent up anger, resentment, and judgment towards my father that I can no longer hide from or sweep under the rug. I am by no means dismissing my feelings. Quite the opposite, I have come to a better understanding of them. I just can no longer hide behind the mere facade of a victim when I have many wrongs to account for as well.
As far back as I can remember I have felt like I could never live up to my father’s expectations. I have been quite vocal about this point to many people; friends, family, co-workers, therapists, acquaintances. Yet I have never brought it up to the one person that I have felt like I have never lived up to. At this point, I can’t tell you if I have hidden my feelings behind all of the hurt: considering I know my feelings and have vocalized them. I just have vocalized them to all of the wrong people. When you are a child, your parents are your whole world. They are the ones you learn from and talk to. As you grow older, you not only have to listen to them, but then you have the added pressure of listening to baby-sitters, older siblings (if you are so lucky), grandparents, aunts, uncles. Then you grow even older and you have to listen to teachers, principals, and counselors; as well as the previous list. Finally, you have to listen to co-workers and bosses. By this point, you are no longer listening to your parents. Yet they are the foundation. They are the ones you should go to when you have problems. But you have added people to please, added responsibilities, added pressures. All the while, your parents’ voice is getting softer and softer to the point that you don’t even hear a mumble from them because of all of the pressures and people. Is it any wonder that as we age, our voice gets softer and softer?
I wish I could claim that I was a wonderful child. On the surface I resembled a good kid. But underneath there was a boiling turmoil – a festering sore, a deep-hidden secret. Yes, I acted the part; but that’s precisely the point. I merely acted the part. Beneath the candy-coating was a pent up tiger waiting to break through. Waiting to pounce and kill at any moment. I was an emotional basket case that could fly off the handle at the drop of one word, one look, or one sigh from him – my father. We added fuel to each other’s fire. My father always claimed that I was my mother’s child. His evidence was that we both spoke first (reacted) and either thought about it and/or apologized later after many regrets. My mother always claimed that I was my father’s child. Her evidence was that we both had an idealistic view of the world that was not attainable. When we both found out that no one lived up to that view, we held grudges and would never forget. We both would remember all past wrongs inflicted upon us to the point of throwing it back in the enemy’s face at the perfect opportunity. Neither parent was right while neither was wrong.
I honestly never even thought about how my father’s absence from anything remotely resembling a household or family (whether by his choice or his employer’s …) affected him. I of course know how it affected me. But I never once considered his stance in the matter. Yet he is the one it should have affected the most. I was a mere observer. To this day, I do not know whether all of the business trips he took for months on end affected him negatively. The more quizzing fact of the matter is I have never discussed this with him. I have never asked him how it hurt (or benefited?) him in any way. I just always assumed that he really didn’t want to be a part of my life. Otherwise he would have found a way to be around more.
Even when he was physically around, he always seemed to be in a far away land; a mere vessel of a person that was there in front of me physically but not emotionally or mentally. He was always busying himself with his work to the point that when I would ask for help with my nemesis school subject – Algebra – he would always be interrupted and too busy to help me. That was when I learned to lower my goals to meet someone else’s goals. That was when I learned to swallow my own bitterness to soothe the needs of others. That was when I decided that I was too stupid to go the full Accelerated program my high school offered – International Baccalaureate (IB).
My High School Years
Let me take you back a few years. When I was invitedto attend my high school – Sumner Academy – it was expected of me that I would excel and succeed to the satisfaction of my parents and grandparents. On my paternal side, two older cousins of mine went there originally, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, they got kicked out. Sumner was a public magnet high school. You had to keep at least a 2.75 GPA to stay a student there not on probation; no lower than a 2.5 GPA to stay a student there period. So my two older cousins took the entrance exam on a Saturday during their 7th grade years and they both passed it enough to be able to be asked to attend the school starting their 8th grade years. Each of them (brothers 2 years apart) by their sophomore years were kicked out for attendance, behavior, and/or grades. So when I was invited to attend Sumner starting my 8th grade year (without an exam due to my unusually high standardized test scores) it was an EXTREME honor and privilege for my parents and grandparents to be able to tout that their son/grandson did not have to take the entrance exam – he was INVITED!
Unfortunately I had already lowered my goals and was not thrilled about leaving my middle school friends. No one that I was friends with was invited. Coincidentally, all of my friends took the entrance exam and not a one of them passed it either. I wanted to stick back and go to another high school. This, of course, was out of the question. Even more, I never once asked MYSELF the question! I did not believe in myself that I could achieve anything there. I believed I would fail; and fail miserably. It was decided by my family (him) that I would go to school there and I would take the full IB course load when it was available to me my junior year. By default, you had to pass the “Pre-IB Algebra” class your sophomore year in order to even take the Full IB course load. So naturally I took Pre-IB Algebra my sophomore year and by the end of the middle of the first quarter, I had earned a 49% in the class: an “F”! I had NEVER received a grade mark that low! The teacher tutored me after school and I just could not understand the mathat the speed we were needed to understand it. I went so far as to ask my father for help. I assumed this would be the natural way to understand it – my father being a mathand physics expert. He was able to do mathematicalequations without a calculator. When I say mathematical equations, he could even do square roots with just a simple pad of paper and a slide rule!
I was shocked, as well as let-down by the sub-par help that I received from my father. I got reprimanded for not understanding how to do a simple Algebraic equation. “What the hell have those teachers been teaching you?! Haven’t you been paying any attention to them?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
That was the help I received from him. So after discussing it with my teacher and guidance counselor; it was decided that I would transfer into the “regular” Algebra 2 class. This came with bitter resentment from my father. I had let the family (him) down once again. I ended up passing Algebra 2; although I have to admit that I do not know how! I did not fully understand Algebra until I had the best Algebra teacher in the world during college. I guess perfect attendance and acting as if you are grasping everything from a remedial class teacher gets you passing grades!
This was also the same year I had received the best grade report for a quarter. My 3rd quarter (first of the New Year) I received 6 A’s and 1 B. The B was in Communications Media (Journalism pre-requisite; the percentage was 89.95 and the teacher refused to round-up grades due to her “curve” grading). I remember bringing the report card home and I was on cloud-9! I was dancing and bounding in the street all the way from the bus stop to home! My mother was so proud of me she ended up cooking all of my favorite dishes as a reward for my marked improvement from the previous quarter’s grades of 3 A’s and 4 B’s.
When my father came home from work and saw my report card I could barely contain the excitement in my voice! I thought I had finally won him over and made him proud of me. Then I saw “the look” come across his face. “The look” as I called it was the smile slowly draining out while being replaced with a frown. This ALWAYS precluded me getting into serious trouble. Then he opened his mouth to speak and I could hardly believe my ears . . . “What the hell is wrong with you? Why the hell isn’t that B an A? Are you some sort of IDIOT?” I went on to explain about the curve grading and the percentage and he just looked at me with bitter scorn and said “YOU have disappointed me. YOU, need to be a better student. YOU have brought disappointment on the family.”
I was not allowed to eat at the dinner table that night because I had brought a huge disappointment to my family (him). Any time I brought disappointment to the family (him); I had to eat in my room and was not allowed to be seen by the family (him) until they (he) came to see me. I was not allowed to leave my room except to go to the bathroom and go to school. All extra- curricular activities (work, friends, school clubs, church, et al) were off limits. I was to wake up, get dressed (not allowed to turn the lights on mind you), go directly to the bus stop, go to school, come directly home, go straight to my room, close the door, do homework/study, eat in the room when my meal was brought to me(after parents had already ate and plated my dish so it was cold when it was laid on the floor outside my room), open door to leave my plate on the floor, close it immediately, change, and go to bed. All the while I was in my room; I was NOT allowed to turn my light on.
I was on this punishment throughout my growing up since 3rd grade when I was a bad child and brought disappointment on the family (him). This was off-and-on until this last time my sophomore year. This certain go-round lasted 2 weeks. To this day, I can still get ready in the dark, including finding the right clothes I want to wear! This comes from organizing your drawers and closets in a certain way that everything is in a certain place so you can reach for it in the dark and know which one it is. See what I mean? On the shell, I look like an organized child. But if you dig deep enough, it is not because I have to have everything in its place. It is actually quite the opposite. I am not a very neat housekeeper and can be disorganized. But if I have to be organized, I can be; there has to be a reason for me to be organized!
To this very day, every time I was “grounded” as he called it, I do not know what was going on inside of that head of his. I always seemed to be one millimeter off. It always seemed odd to me (considering I am an only child) that I was inflicted withthis prison-like situation. Only children are always characterized as spoiled brats that have life and everything about it handed to them on a golden platter. As you can see from this memoir, it is quite the opposite. I have always wondered what I had truly done to deserve such punishment from my father. But I think the more quizzing fact is that I bought into it. I lowered my standards to try to please someone else. I never once thought of myself as intelligent, gifted, special, or even deserving of anything. I thought of myself as an idiot that didn’t even deserve pocketlint. With this example of rearing, it is even further amazing that to this day I am still a people-pleaser. You would think that at some point in my life a light bulb would turn on and I would magically realize that I need to please myself because no one else will be able to. This is not the case. I do not please myself and I still believe I am undeserving of any affection, emotion, or any healthy relationship.
That man took away my self-worth. That man took away my self-esteem. That man took away my whole spirit. The uncanny part is that you have to willingly give these away. Someone cannot steal these from you. You give them up; and I did. I have never once asked, or better yet, demanded for them to be returned. He still holds them. I do not know if they have been kept safe and well-preserved. Somehow I doubt it. Anything that was mine wasn’t worth holding onto. Why would I think these are any different?
My Guilt or My Hope
So you see I am guilty of many things myself. I am guilty of lowering my expectations to appease someone else. I am guilty of stuffing my own hopes, dreams, and ambitions down the toilet drain so that someone else would hopefully be happy (for once). I am guilty of holding onto grudges of past wrongs from more than 20 years ago. I am guilty of wanting to please the one man that has inflicted so much damage on me. I am guilty of never once pleasing him. I am guilty of never expecting to…only hope. That is what I am left with: hope. Nothing more, nothing less.