Sunday, June 21, 2015

Shooting Hoops & Grilling Steak

Dear dad,

     Today is fathers day. I'm sure you know this, and I'm sure today you are surrounded by family and friends who are offering you their condolences, and support. I'm sure Other child has called you or sent you a card, maybe both. It's up to them to be the good child now, to be that image of the ever loving little kid. I'm sure today will be another marker of your victimization because of the "horrendous" accusations I have made against you. The family will no doubt be rallying around, closing ranks, and trying to self protect from these perceived "attacks". It's as if I have become alien, a foreign invader and any sense of my being related to them vanishes. Any thought or sense of connection and love disappears. The thing that would weigh against the programming that tells them to shut me out and disbelieve what I say disappears. You've shut me out too. When I came to you wanting to discuss hurtful and harmful behaviors you shut me out and dismissed me. And when worse things came to light there was no response then either. I imagine you decided to not dignify such "horrendous" accusations with a response.

    I watched Father of the Bride today, and the scene where George and Annie shoot hoops makes me cry. I used to shoot hoops with you, I was totally a daddies little girl. I used to have a special bond with you, and things that we would do that were just our things. I think I had more of a bond with you than my sibling did (other child) and certainly more than I did with my Mother. While you might be wallowing in self pity today- and shutting out the versions of yourself that are unsavory- I'm grieving  the loss of love, of being daddies little girl. I'm grieving that I didn't get to shoot hoops the night before my wedding with you. I'm grieving because you don't love me in the way I thought you did, or the ways I hoped you would. I'm grieving because instead of anyone else we know seeing me as the bubbling, laughing daddies girl, I'm seen as not having any joy, not having any sense of soul or heart. Instead of being seen as what I am- a woman with a little girl inside of her that is grieving the loss of her dad shooting hoops with her, being a friend- I am vilified.

     Our family would like to disenfranchise me from being a victim in any way, but not you. I'm not seen as deserving to be grieved or angry, but you are. I know why they do it, but it doesn't make it any less wrong. I am not undeserving of being seen as I really am, of being given the benefit of the doubt. Of the two of us my quote crime is superfluous- I am guilty of telling the truth and bringing forth choices you made during my childhood.  I'm guilty of accusing you of things- things that are actually true. How does being the accuser stack up against being the person who actually committed the crimes?  And in a situation were I to accuse you of something that was not true- what would you have you lost? What could the family really say in that regards- that would ever make accusation worse than the crime? But yet I know they think that the possibility (in their minds) of my bringing forth false accusations  is worse than the the possibility that they are true. Isn't that strange, why would they think that way? Perhaps it's because they know, or are afraid that what I am accusing you of is actually true.

     I wouldn't expect anything less from our family. If they couldn't handle my saying you could be controlling and have other issues that were hurtful, then how could they possibly handle me saying truths that are even harder to swallow? They know your controlling and can be hurtful, you frequently direct that behavior at them. But that truth hurts, because there are other truths connected to it that have to do with their relationships with each other and the nature of the family structure, and its dirty laundry. They don't want to face any of those things, they want things to be okay, to pretend everything will work out, that at the core you are a good person. The only way to keep whatever fairy tale dream they want to keep living is to keep out anything that says it might not be true- me. Yet it doesn't have to do with me as a person, it has to do with I became a mirror that they saw themselves reflected in and that was terrifying. Because if I am right and telling the truth and they accept your actions as abusive and that your should be responsible for your choices, then they have to accept that my Grandparents made choices that were hurtful. They have to face their own upbringing and for some how they have raised their own children. They have to admit to any hurt and pain they have stuffed. Perhaps the would face the dissolution of our family as they have known it if they speak out and confront each other about the hurt in their relationships. I've heard the story from one of your siblings that they observed you getting beat with a broom when you were younger- I imagine that is just the tip of the iceberg. It's so scary that the family would rather just fold in on itself and shut me out- even if they know I'm right. I think that even on a subconscious level they do think or know I'm right.

     Today is such a mix of emotions. It's too bad that you couldn't be the parent to stand up and care for me in my life.  It's sad that you would partake in just as many betrayals of parent child bond, as my Mother. I am sadly pretty sure your my only parent  who could muster up any feelings of caring for me at all. I'm sad because I was daddies little girl, and probably the only one you'll ever have. I was also probably the only kid you will have. I think it's sad that while my mother may have not liked me because I was your kid- I think you cared for me more during the times you did because I was your kid. I think you've always probably known that I was your only kid- I think that's why you tried to make things better for me when my Mother made them difficult. I think that's why you never wanted to do the same things you did for me for my sibling (Other Child). The fact that those things which were important, including being daddies little girl came at the cost of your violating and betraying our relationship and myself is heartbreaking. It's really hard to sift out the good things in the torrential damage you have done. And trying to hold on to them is even harder because it feels like excusing or dismissing your actions. It feels like saying you ever did anything good makes anything bad disappear. I know I feel that way because of how often that is used to justify parents who abuse their children, and how often it is used by our family in a similar fashion.

      I want to hang onto that image of you and I shooting hoops, and feel warm and fuzzy when I see that scene in Father of the Bride. But it's really painful. Your actions feel like they cancel out any truths; my being daddies little girl, of being loved, of doing things that we could bond over- especially shooting hoops.  I feel nostalgia and grief over something that seemed to exist, but might not have and now never will. In all your wallowing and self pity today  I doubt you will get that deep into your feelings, it's not your style. And I doubt the family will think about me in such a thoughtful way, or be grieved for me that things are the way they are. They can't spare room to open themselves up in that way.  But how much do you all really care for each other that you would keep up a facade, that you would rather be so insular and deep in your own shit than tell the truth? How is their protecting you or each other in this way loving? I don't think its love- I think it's survival mode and even narcissistic.
     So you might think you are getting love today on fathers day, but your not. Real love is more like kings daughter that told him meat needs salt, that in life if you love someone you need the truth. He rejected her in favor of her sisters over the top flattery, but eventually realized that she was the only one that actually cared. And in a really sad ironic way; my calling you on your actions and telling the truth will always be a far more loving action than all of our family gathering around you and spinning false narratives. Even if I am not sure if I could ever have you in my life again, or if I could ever sort out all my feelings- telling the truth, confronting you, and applying boundaries is still more loving an action than protecting or coddling you. Even if part of my motivation comes from the fact that you have caused devastating hurt in my life. That's still better than the motivation of self involved narcissists. Even my mother seemed to want to protect you from consequences, perhaps to save her own self in some way. But meat needs salt; Happy Fathers day I suggest you try grilling a steak without it. It's about as limp and rubbery as trying to shoot hoops with a deflated basketball.                                      

Father of the Bride

It's June, Wedding season, and today is Fathers day. The hallmark channel is marking the occasion with a couple classics, father of the bride 1-2 with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. I love both of these movies by the way- despite all the reasons I could pick them apart- they are in their own way charming and classic.
  I remember watching these as a kid and teen- because they made me laugh and because I figured it was a formative education and preparation for dealing with my own father who was unabashedly the pitchfork, shotgun, that will always be my baby girl type. I also watched all the endearing moments between father daughter and hoping that despite the craziness I could have that love and a meaningful wedding with that bond. I also hoped for the supportive normal environment from my family, that they would be excited and happy for me.

     I know it's difficult to talk about. I think that it makes people uncomfortable when I am so open about my experiences with childhood abuse issues. I think it also makes them uncomfortable with how adamant I am about my feelings regarding these experiences.  Saying that my father is an asshole and abusive brings about this deer in the headlight look that seems to read "oh my, how shocking, how horrible that she could say such things". They look at me as if my rant couldn't possibly be warranted- they fall back on our cultural ideals about parenthood and that supposedly unbreakable bond between parent and child. They fall back on the things they were told, that there was no way a mother couldn't lover her baby, that a father even if absent must have a space in his heart for his child. The fairy tale goes that no matter how far, or how long, or how many mistakes have been made, that there is love to be found in a parents heart. There is always hope for reconciliation, no wrong is ever to great for true love to conqueror.

     I used to be my Daddy's little girl. Like Annie Banks in Father of the Bride we would shoot hoops, he would take me in my radio flyer wagon to the doughnut shop every Wednesday when I was very small. He refused to see me growing up, often referring to how he could hold me in one hand when I was a baby. And yet like Annie Banks I  too grew up, but unlike me she got to keep her special father daughter bond. Mine was broken by all the behaviors that were not loving, even though they seemed to coincide with a few that were. Increasingly it seemed like I was peeling back layers of issues. I'd find one only to peel off another. Sometimes the good moments mask the horrible ones. And when you are raised with thinking your experience is normal, the horrible is dismissed. But when you wake up and realize that the balance is off, and the good moments don't in anyway justify the experience of the bad, it's like waking to a strange world, a bizarre nightmare.  You begin to horrifyingly peel back the layers as you start to ask the really difficult questions.

    True parent love didn't come through, it didn't save the day and rescue our father daughter bond. My dad didn't get to be Father of the Bride. I did try. We hadn't been speaking at the time since I had sent him a letter requesting discussion of his abusive and controlling behaviors. I didn't know that some of those were sexually abusive experiences. My memories had already been dismissed and shoved under the rug, and everything normalized. I tried to call him but only got voicemail when I got engaged. I knew he would probably be additionally upset with me because I broke tradition and my husband did not ask his permission for my hand. In his world ruled by patriarchal, male, christian tradition that was disrespectful and thwarting his authority. In my fathers world the ways things worked is daughters are under a fathers rule until they get married, and they decide if and when they can get married and sometimes to whom. It sounds really bad when you say it out loud, but the way it works it is much quieter in it's application. It's very normalized and sometime's even subtle. But it's there, that's the way things are in such families and subcultures like mine. I didn't get a call back, that would have been acknowledging me in some way. Instead I got an e-mail saying congratulations and sounds like you have found a nice young man. It was punishment for calling him out on his behaviors and not following tradition. When I finally spoke to him we discussed my letter. He said he did not respond because he did not feel that it needed responding too. That and other things is how my father got himself uninvited to my wedding.    

    The lack of understanding and the desperate need to believe in the parent child bond came from relatives who were of course horrified that my dad wouldn't be Father of the Bride. Though as with the type of responses I still receive, people aren't horrified because of the things my father has done, and how much he has damaged the father daughter bond. They are horrified because of how I am saying those things out loud, they are horrified that a child would ever say such things about their parent- because they are parents. One relative took it upon themselves to cite scripture based "truths to me" about my situation. They said that I was to honor and respect my father. Again everything was about how I was reacting, how I was drawing boundaries, and how my father and the family felt. It was never about what he had done, that didn't make them uncomfortable or upset them- my talking about it did. They didn't cite any scripture about how parents should treat their children, or acknowledge that there was even an ounce of reasonableness to what I was saying and the boundaries I was drawing. At best this particular well meaning relative noted that they knew my father "could be difficult" but he was my father and he loved me. Maybe. Maybe once upon a time he loved me, but apparently not enough. His own personal issues consumed him and that is not some fairy tale curse, that is reality.

    The Duggar family are not alone or isolated in how they see such behavior. My supposedly modern evangelical christian family saw my fathers issues as behavior issues, heart issues, spiritual issues. Not only would they similarly believe in handling such things in family or in church- they would also believe in victim immediately forgiving the behavior.  I think they would say that they are not excusing it- that they are saying that he has issues. But the manner in which they talked about these issues was in the same way you would talk about a dog having behavioral issues. It's like saying yes he peed on the rug, but he's a dog, and he still loves you. But we aren't talking about an accident, or a mistake that is at the level of peeing on a rug. In fact it's not on the level of many other behavior issues. And similar to the Duggar's family and spiritual communities beliefs about the victims needing for forgive- well meaning members of my community have horrified me with how they believe what happened is partially my responsibility. It's not as blatant as the literature from Gothard etc. that the Duggar's ascribe to- but it's still there. I was told that I had always been a sensuous child. I hope you find that statement as appalling and horrifying as I did. But there it is, the idea that the victim- even a child is partially responsible for someones decision to abuse.

     I don't know how to change the perspective that children who criticize their parents aren't just ungrateful or hateful. I don't know how to change how uncomfortable it is to hear survivors talk about abuse. I don't think that people need to hear every horrible detail, but simply saying that my father is abusive doesn't deserve the immediate assumption that I am ungrateful or hateful. Just because you might be a parent, and are horrified to think your child would ever say something like that about you, does not mean that the mistakes you are scared you have made are on the same level as the mistakes both my parents made. Those who are parents sometimes seem to look as if they feel weak in the knees when I discuss my parents in such terms. I can almost see them processing as I speak; they think about all the mistakes they have made and that they are afraid that there one beloved child could accuse them of being abusive. Most all parents, even abusive one's do not want to think of themselves as a bad parent. So when I say mine are it's almost as if they suddenly feel pity for them. They put themselves in my parents shoes because they know that they wouldn't want to be seen as a bad parent.

    You know what? I don't want to be seen as a bad child. The truth is no child wants to be accused of being bad either. But I would not be as likely to get the same pity or empathy. But I didn't grow up being dedicated to hating on my parents. I grew up wanting to be Annie Banks, I grew up wanting to believe that my fathers bad behaviors were irrational and bad in the same ways as the lovable George Banks. But I wasn't the one who robbed myself of shooting hoops the night before my wedding, and being my daddy's little girl.

    So today as you watch the hallmark specials and laugh, or if you are celebrating fathers day; and you run across a woman or a girl who shakes her head and says her father is an asshole- please try to understand. Try looking at her as George Banks would look at Annie, see the little girl, the young lady, and then the woman she is- or will be.

 Look at her realize that she grew up wanting to see her father as her hero, that she grew up with hopes and dreams even amidst abuse. She didn't grow up ungrateful or thinking her father was an asshole. It's far more likely that this is a really sad realization that she- like me slowly came to. A sad realization and understanding that she didn't break the father daughter bond- that would be easy- if its your fault you can fix it. But she didn't break the bond, and I didn't either. She like me might have had to come to the sad and heart breaking realization that our fathers are not a bumbling, yet loving George Banks.

 Try to consider that we are telling the truth, and that it would take more than a Nina Banks moment to make our fathers solemnly promise anything; including changing their behaviors or owning up to abuse.

Try to understand, because behind our words, calling our fathers an asshole- a woman or girl like me have had to realize that we won't have those special Father of the Bride moments, or any other such father daughter moments. And on top of that we are working through even more serious hurts, and trying to heal.

      It's June, Wedding Season, Fathers day, and also today is Lithia-  the Summer solstice. While Father of the Bride made me a little sad in-between all its humor, and I feel sad about fathers day- I will try to focus on the fact that Lithia is all about sunshine and things blooming. And while women and girls like me are resilient, bloom and grow, we always appreciate a little extra sunshine in the form of kindness and understanding. We don't really stop being Annie Banks, we just have had to take a different route to create the supportive family and friend structure we need.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Erin Merryn discusses the Duggar's

       Erin Merryn is a childhood sexual abuse advocate. She works with educators and politicians to pass legislation called Erin's law. The law would make sexual abuse and safety programs in schools a requirement. I am very supportive of her work in this area and hope to see more states pass her law.

"Erin Merryn is a mother and an advocate for sexual abuse prevention. At age 6, she was molested and later raped by a friend’s uncle. At 11, her teenage cousin began abusing her. The author of three books about abuse, she is the creator of Erin’s Law, which requires public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention." Rachel Bertsche 

        I appreciate how Merryn has chosen to speak out about her own painful experiences and be a powerful voice for not only herself but other victims. Discussing childhood sexual abuse is still a difficult subject in our society. So many people shut out discussion or thought about it because they find it astonishing, brutal, and difficult to process. I think as survivors we find it to be similarly difficult, but worse so when our silence is the preferred treatment of it. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Merryn's work and her role in public education.  She is someone who is easy to relate to and easy to accept as a public figure despite the difficulty of the subject matter.  

     I was therefore disappointed when I read an article on in which she defended the Duggar family and their current situation. She did state that she informed Michelle Duggar that she did not support how they handled things. However in an effort to be compassionate or take a neutral tone she left out some critical things and even created some others that were concerning.   

The Yahoo Article
Abuse Survivor Reveals Duggar Text Messages

 "The one thing I have to give the Duggar's credit for – they are not in denial. They may be protecting their son, but at least they aren’t in denial."  Erin Merryn

      The evidence she is pointing to in support of this; the fact that the Duggar's have been currently discussing what happened and their attesting that they did seek help when Josh came to them. But there has been a lot of denial. From aspects of telling the Josh story and steering away from the truth at times, to how they define what he did. The Duggar's may support education on what is not appropriate touch, but they do not show that they believe such incidents are sexual assault. Listening to their interview it seemed as if they really do not understand what bad touch, sexual assault, and rape really mean. And according to Merryn they invited her into their home to educate both them and their children many years ago on boundaries, bad touch etc.
Not only that but isn't there some level of denial when you do not seek the proper treatment for any of the family members involved?  She says in the interview that yes the Duggar's made mistakes and that she told them she hoped their daughters would not be re-victimized- but where is the criticism from someone who has had to deal with a painful experience and heal- about how the family treated the healing of everyone involved?  

"The very first page of my book, An Unimaginable Act, even has a quote from Michelle and Jim Bob. They wrote, ‘Erin Merryn is a dynamic Christian young lady who shares her tragic testimony of how she was abused growing up, but once she was able to open up, God set her free."  Erin Merryn
      I was really troubled by the fact that Merryn is an advocate for protecting children. She purports the belief that what happened to her was wrong; yet she seemed supportive of the Duggar's perception of her work and personal healing. The Duggar's perception and response to Merryn comes across as if her being a sexual abuse victim was before she found Christ- as if it was her own sin that caused her to be abused. It might seem like I am reading to much into their statement but I believe that the phrasing comes across in that manner. Also this would not be out of line with the Duggar's belief system. It would be acceptable to say the victims had sinned and the abuse is partly their fault. I couldn't stomach reading all the way through the Gothard literature on that particular belief but there are links if you wish to google it. 

    I want to praise Merryn for stating that she believed the Duggar's did not handle the situation  as they should have, but so many other things undermine this for me. Her statements about the Duggar girls wanting to protect their parents are accurate. However when she shares her own story of pasting on a smile so her Mom wouldn't be  grieved about the abuse she (Merryn) suffered- I shudder a little. It might be a natural instinct as she put it, but Merryn perhaps unintentionally normalizes this idea that her mothers feelings were her responsibility. In that situation neither her or the Duggar girls feelings are acknowledged and the parents take on the victim role- even though they were not the ones victimized. Merryn also does not acknowledge that the Duggar girls are protecting their parents and pasting on smiles because that is a core part of their beliefs. They are not just trying to put on a good show, and keep a stiff upper lip to be supportive- they believe not doing so is a bad attitude and grieves God.  

"Parents are supposed to protect their kids, but kids want to protect us, too. So I’m not surprised at all – I figured they would take this position. If they had a problem with their parents, or how they handled it, this would have come out long ago." Erin Merryn

     This statement is just galling. Merryn again seems to be completely unaware of the belief structure the Duggar's adhere to. In what world would the Duggar girls ever come out and say they have a problem with their parents?!  Even with being independent it would take a while to be able to break free from such an authoritative parenting style as well as the type of family structure. Not only that if they were to speak out against their parents the consequences could be estrangement. They could be cut off by their parents and might not be allowed to see their siblings.  Also to consider is that there is a lot of pressure for the Duggar girls to respond in a way that does not damage their parent's and families public image. It's more than just being naturally protective when you could get blamed for the entire dissolution of the families image and income. Merryn's lack of awareness also shows in her statement that the Duggar children were some of the most well behaved children she'd seen. Yes I bet they were! You would be well behaved to if you were afraid of the consequences for being seen as behaving badly.

    I appreciate how she tries to make the situation an educational moment, and asks parents to consider putting themselves in the Duggar's shoes- and how would they handle it. She said she hopes parents would follow the proper protocol and authority channels. That's all really lovely, but I am concerned  by some of the elements to her message- those which seem contrary.  She says it is not her job to judge- in her message to Michelle Duggar. I believe that it may not be our job to judge the Duggar's but it is our job to discuss and critique. It is not a judgement to look at their actions, evaluate, and to ask the tough questions. As a survivor what does "not judging" say about our right to call out dysfunctional families and systems that didn't protect us from abuse or even worse helped foster it? I'm frustrated and saddened by some of what she says, but also believe that Merryn likely has a ways to go in her own healing and evaluations of the messages and beliefs she holds onto. I just wish she would evaluate a little more quickly before creating any potential harm and confusion for survivors and others who look to her as a role model.   

Friday, June 5, 2015


     I think I can honestly say- especially since I was raised Evangelical Christian, my anger, maybe even seething rage at the current and past behavior of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar does not have to do with the fact that they are Christian. I can respect that they have and value a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What I cannot respect is that they are not behaving in a truly Christ like manner. And I want to specify behavior because this isn't just parenting mistakes or something that can be blamed on not being perfect- but by the grace of God go they. It's a behavior and not a mistake when it is a constant or recurring pattern. Though watching them speak in the few clips of their interview with Megyn Kelly; I recognize that this behavior is so tied up in the lens view they have chosen to see the world through. They remind me of Raina in the series Agents of Shield, as both being those who are "true believers". True believers can be idealistic; they cling to whatever belief they have as being not only part of their ultimate purpose but the belief that it is the ultimate purpose.

     So it's not that I have an issue with those who are Christian. I believe there are those who have found God and created a life that draws strength from that spiritual relationship. That strength of spirit can make them someone of compassion. It can make them spiritual in a way that is grounded and where they are whole in themselves and therefore can engage compassionately with others and they cultivate a spiritual presence that blesses others but has no agenda.They are the ones that laugh at themselves and hold no judgement for themselves or others.  I think such individuals are beautiful and all too rare.  I have sadly only known a few in my life of the Christian faith that encompass such life and light. I wish that was the standard for what it meant to be a light in the world.

     With true believers something else seems to take shape in their faith and belief. We've all experienced the feeling of watching a true believers faith coming to fruition. We have seen it played out in the world many times. It's hard for me to pin point an exact description of what occurs when true belief blooms in their mind because it depends on the individual and their way of thinking. It seems though that all other thought gets shut out or shut down, the true believer is dedicated to a singular truth and anything that falls outside of that is blocked out. Perhaps the most defining element of a true believer archetype is that they don't ask questions.

     I can respect someone who is Christian, but not someone who no longer questions things when it is to their detriment and that of others.  When someone adheres to dogmatic religious principles it is not  really something that is truly reflective of Jesus. If anything Jesus was the opposite of that; he seemed to believe in teaching spiritual matters in a simple and connective way. For example when the people with more rigid beliefs tried to tell children they were to be seen and not heard -Jesus told them to let the children come to him. He was a grounded compassionate individual willing to connect with those who were seen as lesser- women and children. It's not Christian or even spiritual anymore when your beliefs harm others. And despite the determined idealism- it cannot be true faith if you are not willing to question it. I  remember listening to a radio broadcast of Pastor Greg Lorre; he talked about faith and that it was okay to question and push back against God because God would push back and show you were the boundaries were. And while I don't like thinking or believing in a God that has just put you in some invisible box and is saying "go ahead test the boundary";  I have taken away something good from what Pastor Lorre said. I feel that at the core of what he said is that if you really believe in God,  then you have faith and trust that God knows you well enough to know you have to ask questions. You trust that he knows that you as an individual need to take your own path in finding your faith.  The Duggar's beliefs do not appear to really be grounded in Christ at all. They truly appear to be opposites of Christ; if anything Jim Bob and Michelle are more representative of the Pharisees who practiced faith in a more dogmatic fashion.

     Both Jim Bob and Michelle come across as if victimized, as if they do not understand why bad things are happening to them and their beliefs are being attacked. I am beginning to think that it this is not solely for PR purposes but that they might actually believe or feel victimized. They likely believe that they did the best they could. I have seen this with my parents in their own narcissism. They separate themselves from whatever things they have done in the past, as if it were an entirely different persons actions. Therefore they really believe they haven't done anything wrong, and they disassociate mentally. And with their spiritual beliefs they seem to use that to rationalize and disassociate as well. I've heard Vaarsuvius say many times as Jim Bob and Michelle have done "I did the best I could as a parent". Perhaps like V- they cannot handle seeing themselves as bad, or they both believe from their spiritual perspective that they aren't and that its the truth.

       It's fine that the Duggar's are Christians, but I believe they should still act with responsibility- especially because they are Christian. They need to own their behavior and not what they say are quote "mistakes". I lose all respect for this kind of adherence to beliefs. It can cause me to feel angry and frustrated because I have had it practiced on me, I know the hurt and damage it can cause. This type of adherence means they do not ask questions and have such a thick defense wall that you can't tell them anything. You are unable to discuss anything, they stick to a script and seem unable or unwilling to stray from it. This is incredibly problematic when there are important issues that affect others, especially children. This is the kind of thing I find infuriating; where they use belief to allow themselves to operate outside of social, moral, and legal standards. The beliefs stem from their interpretations of Christianity. They believe in the one true God and anything outside of that is false. They believe the Bible is infallible, and they believe that they are right. They operate as their beliefs being the only true and correct ones and therefore they alone are right. This gives them some sense of power to then say what is right and what is not, and that it is based on the Bible. That being the only true word of God and it cannot be refuted.  This unquestionable sense of rightness creates the basis for it being okay to operate outside of other standards. So Jim Bob and Michelle believe they followed a spiritual standard in how they handled Josh, and that they did it correctly. They therefore probably don't believe any other kind of moral or legal application was truly necessary.

    The interview with Megyn Kelly feels as if the Duggar's were not only speaking from a PR script, but that they were speaking from the memorized script of belief that they live and breathe. This makes true discussion moot. I feel I can't respect the dogmatic dedication especially when true moral issues come into play. It's such hypocrisy to believe in a higher moral standard yet not believe in being law abiding citizens. If you look at things from a Jesus perspective; he didn't simply cling to his own spiritual beliefs and place himself above the law. In fact I believe I recall several occasions that he chose to adhere to the laws of the land and encouraged others to as well. But the law aside- isn't the sexual assault of little girls an issue that should set off the Duggar's moral compass as Christians? They attempted to show some element of this in the interview but it does not come off as entirely believable.

     I can respect belief but not as means for excusing bad behavior, especially doing so without question. Didn't God first mandate that we take care of the garden of Eden and our the earth, then that we love one another? We are supposed to engage in ways that help our communities and world thrive, we are supposed to engage with one another- not separate ourselves with dogmatic structures or refuse  responsibility to the others around us. I have said that I have issues with Christianity the religion I grew up with, and that I have issues with its core structure. This is true; there are many aspects (if not most all) to the religion that are very troubling to me. There are core pieces that support women and children being lesser, and I do not believe that is okay. But it is a  human made and interpreted structure. The Bible was written and interpreted by men. However when I filter out everything- all the structure and leave Jesus remaining; I can respect others belief in him as a wonderful spiritual teacher/ Savior.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The messy bits of anger

      I was considering anger the other day, since I have felt such a great deal of it this week. I questioned the best methods to express anger, and the appropriate levels of that expression. I worried over how I sound in my blog posts- whether I sound angry or outright hateful and spewing vitriol. I always strive for balance and making arguments and expression logical and not unfounded assumptions that I have run wild with. I try to not make statements that cannot be proven with fact. I do believe that doing so is important to being able to hold worthwhile discussions. Not only that spewing nonsense and vitriol unchecked means that you either rile up a crowd or no one hears anything you were really trying to say. But do you know what I am also worried about? Pleasing others, and not being seen as hateful or bitter. I am afraid of making critiques that others find offensive and without any base. Finally I'm afraid of critiquing my own religion, even when I often do so publicly. The fear is grounded in an experiences where critiquing or questioning things, including my faiths beliefs; somehow made me bitter and angry. The fear is also compounded by my childhood lessons about emotional expression.

         In my experience quite often the type of response or feeling created by questioning and critiquing was "how can you be questioning God"? If you were questioning God, angry with God or frustrated with Biblical principles; it was heard and interpreted as a stubborn rebellious heart. It was seen as a lack of submission to God, or that an individual had personal problems "heart issues" and were directing that at God. All of this seemed to lead to the belief that you didn't want to believe in God, because if you did you would not be having such an angry reaction. This kind of anger, rebellious disbelief made you a struggling sinner who needed to turn their heart home and be obedient, re-align your will with that of God. There wasn't really a discussion to be had, as God's rules were solid and that's the way it was. When you questioned things because there were issues or problems; It was seen as not questioning the issue itself but the whole of your religions beliefs. Because if their faith and spirituality comes from God, and God is good, saying there are issues is often seen in these black and white terms. Suddenly its as if you are saying there is an issue, therefore God is not perfect, God is not good. But also when you questioned an issue you were implying that their interpretations might be flawed, and this causes upset because they seem to feel that they are interpreting truth from a perfect God. So if you are saying the interpretation might be flawed, then what does that say about God? It brings into question their ability to accurately interpret scripture, and being wrong is very scary when you believe you will go to hell.  Easiest solution to that potential chaos and dissolution of belief? Blame the one asking all the questions. Label them as hateful and bitter!

     It is not only questioning things that brings about that label, it's also your attitude and the beliefs around emotions. Even in Evangelical Christian Churches and homes, and in particular my Church there was the belief about keeping a smile on your face and never having a bad attitude. Expressions of anger or any other emotion a child might go through were considered choices and a choice of sinning. They weren't a normal part of development, their were seen again as rebellious, willful and a child's natural wicked nature that needed to be re-shaped.

     I know I say this and in a sometimes heavily dramatized or sarcastic tone, but growing up in an Evangelical Church and faith as a girl then young woman had everything to do with how I was treated. I could have at times an air of independence, be obstinate and had a willingness to question the status qua quite brazenly. I also at times fearlessly aired my families dirty laundry in order to get help and be heard. This last thing I think was the most shocking thing for the Church community. Children who said things like that about their parents were shameful, disrespectful. It wasn't seen as a cry for help, it was seen as this disruptive behavior. You weren't supposed to question parental authority, and whatever was wrong you could work out as a family in your own home. And parents were to be held in respect and esteem no matter what difficulties-which everyone assumed were minor at the most. But being as a girl, then young woman, that really labeled me as over reactive and emotional- and not someone to listen to or believe.
      My lessons about anger and expression were topped off by being in an abusive home, where the already troubling beliefs about children were put into the hands of those who should have never had any. You can blame my parents for their dysfunction and site that a true Christian would never harm their children in such ways. But the problem is the beliefs handed to them were like a recipe book, with all the ingredients to for abuse in it. In fact I know now of stories in which parents who were not for all intensive purposes abusive- this type of parenting recipe book caused an extraordinary amount of damage in their children and even death. Anger was seen as an outright flouting of my parents authority, stubbornness and being rotten. The one that was harped on the most was whatever was seen as a bad attitude, in fact so much so that Other Child and I started using it on each other. The accusing phrase was always "your attitude stinks right now".  A lot of emotional expression, normal childhood meltdowns and temper tantrums was seen as disobedience and our being bad. It was seen overall as inappropriate and their was a mandate to never embarrass our parents with any such thing in front of others/ publicly. Anger and expression could be seen as downright shameful behavior, especially on my part. So imagine that! I still can feel shame or worry that I have been too outspoken and that I am being bad when I express myself.

     My antidote to these feelings is to think through what I know about emotions, expression and how important that is, and how normal to health and well being. I also think about Jesus the day he was in the temple and had this huge temper outburst- he flipped more tables than the Italian New Jersey Real Housewife Teresa Guidice. He wasn't just angry he had a serious temper flair up, and he didn't just say he was angry he ran around showing it in this powerful outburst. If Jesus is allowed to be angry and can flip tables, I can be angry and say so. I was thinking this week about the thing that really caused him to erupt in a blaze of fury was the money lenders in the temple, and the self righteous Pharisees lurking about. I wondered what would he think of Christians and Faith oriented Politicians in a similar setting as that temple- the public arena, legislative buildings and media. What do you think he would say to these "money lenders" and often hypocritical pharisees about their response to the five girls that were molested? If he was upset about the desecration of his Fathers house, how much more upset would he be about the desecration of an even holier temple; that of the 5 young girls bodies?

      The things that happened to me growing up and how my church was not there for me, but instead another source of abuse- those things were hurtful. It was also painful and inflicted a lot of damage. Wanting to be helped but no one being willing to hear you, and then sometimes having them send you right back to your abusers; that was not only rejection but betrayal. It was also negligent. Their not speaking up for me, or helping or deciding  on anything was a choice. This kind of pain would make anyone angry, I am starting to hold onto the belief about the normality of that. I was taught to hide the mess, that anger was messy, inappropriate, not lady like or mature. But that's the truth of things, sometimes they are messy. Healing is messy, imperfect, up and down. I am learning that I can stand in my anger and it be messy for a time. I'm learning that it's okay- it's a moment and it's where I am at in that moment. I think we really often believe that we are never supposed to be angry, never supposed to be messy, that being angry makes us not nice. For women we often have the "Nice Girl Syndrome", and we think we have to be sweet, nice, sugar and spice all the time or we've morphed into a version of ourselves that we are afraid to meet and looks strikingly similar to Joan Rivers.

     The final thing I am realizing is that while I do want to strive to create balance and discussion when I blog, there are others who already do that amazingly well. In my blog I want to create a space for the parts of spiritual abuse and childhood abuse that are emotional, and sometimes have a tone of raw honesty. Often we see abuse survivors in the media being portrayed as saints, that they have healed, blossomed and everything is beautiful. But we don't see the messy and hard parts of their healing or truly talk about them. Anger seems to get shuffled under the rug in our culture at large. It's a problem having survivors reactions, emotions, and experiences sanitized; due of the uncomfortable nature of the subject matter. I know how much I appreciate hearing other survivors express themselves in a way that helps me feel I am not the only one, and in a way that shows realness. That's something I want to hold onto in my blog. Ultimately though the purpose of this blog is creating a therapeutic space for me. I am able to channel emotions, and express myself. This is how I heal; even if I occasionally sound like Joan Rivers unfiltered.