(As I finish this post, The Kelly File featuring the first interview with the Duggars following the tragic news of sexual abuse in their family just beings to air.
Read my general thoughts here and listen to the Patriarchy Workshop if you're interested in what I think about the top layer of their theology. And a blog series I did on repentance and forgiveness....)
Congratulations to Micah on his premiere article in Bedlam Magazine. (I'm probably his mother's age, so I see him as young and nearer than I am to the beginning of his own, hard work of healing.)
My! Did the article set me thinking -- about things other than the he offers which don't begin to reflect the trenchant and thoughtful posts that he pours out on his blog, Redemption Pictures.
I sat back after reading it and thought this:
Only guided imagery tape (about sitting with Jesus) from an excellent therapist in my early recovery, an enduringly kind (very patient) husband who thought I ignored his honest encouragement, and EMDR did it for me. And I suspect for Micah, the author of the article, that work is not done (and I don't expect mine to ever end). His ideas about lacking the first clue about how to love and care for oneself set me thinking about my own childhood.
When JOY Doesn't Spell LOVE
We sang a song in Sunday School that said that "JOY" means "Jesus, then Others, then You." (I can remember a million songs, but I've blocked that one out completely. My stomach cringed as I looked up this link on YouTube which I turned off immediately.) I brought it up with my Christian EMDR counselor at one point -- who was familiar with the song. It was after I'd worked with her doing extended sessions at least weekly for more than two years at that point that I learned her well-contained look that I eventually recognized as an expression of, "No, that's wrong!" I was attentive to her and trusted her, and having been to other counselors who would react with horrible expressions at my accounts of my "normal," I watched for those expressions in her. She didn't have them, but she did have something of a "client advocate" look that reminded me of how I felt when contending for the needs of my nursing patients. I began smiling when I'd learned to spot this nearly indiscernible expression of hers. And she figured out that I could see it in her because she was amazingly attentive to me. She grew to learn my expressions, too.
With trust in the relationship that we'd built together, after wading through so many of the horrors and traumas I'd talked about with her as she walked through them with me, I told her how "nice" it was to see what felt to me like the equivalent of "sticking up for me." It was a rare thing for me at the time, save for my husband who now shows it to me far more often. He may have done so more often before I started to really heal those deep wounds, but I may have felt too "broken" from PTSD to notice. (We're all a little bit broken, and we can be more broken at some times more than others.)
By the time the "JOY" song came up in therapy, she outright shook her head with liberty in our trust, protesting when I talked about the song. She said it was one of the most damaging things that Christians had taught to children. She challenged me to defend the song using Scripture. I could only do the opposite. :) "Love your neighbor as yourself."
What Many Don't Understand about the SGA (Especially our Parents)
We who grow up with disapproving parents who lean on distorted religious ideas as an aid to help them get through their own challenges in life often don't understand the first thing about self love. We're taught that Jesus, then others, come first. We learn to be ashamed of our needs. We're ashamed of our imperfection. We're punished because our good is not good enough. We don't know how we fit in with others and how to relate to them in healthy ways. We know shame much better than anything. We only know how to base our worth on what we can do "right," but that all falls apart on a bad day. Some of us even learned that the self-satisfaction we gained on a good day really belonged to our family and our parents -- not to us. When we walk away from these distortions, we often don't know where to begin when faced with picking up the pieces to build a new life.
Please understand, if you don't share this experience with us, that we don't know how to love ourselves very well. Some of us have NO CLUE how or where to start. Know that we did learn well how to shame ourselves for failing to measure up to the most unreasonable of standards. Please be patient and compassionate with us. Some of us need the rest of our lifetimes to catch up to where others believe we should be.
...even if we look like capable, well-adjusted adults.
(Some of us even have grey hair.)
For all those who do show us kindness, we are grateful beyond words.
You give us permission to learn
create a place for us to heal.
You modeled for us what we could offer to ourselves.