We have all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” That statement is so not true! Broken bones and bruises will heal, but the wounds of the heart can affect you all the days of your life.
Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when I was growing up, you didn’t hear about domestic violence, unless it was serious enough to make the news. Parents could treat their children any way they wanted to – short of killing them. Even now, there is much more attention given to wounds of the body. Emotional and mental wounds are harder to trace and to fix. People just don’t take a child to the hospital and say, “Timmy has a low self image” or “Molly is depressed.”
This is the type of domestic violence I experienced as a child. My parents didn’t beat me or lock me in a closet, they didn’t starve me or torture me. But the wounds of childhood still haunt me today.
When a child is told repeatedly these things by someone they love and respect, to them it becomes the truth. I was continually told I was fat, ugly, stupid, and worthless.
I could do nothing right and was always compared to my sister, who was treated like a queen bee. She was the smartest, the most talented, the most co-operative, and Dad’s favorite. I was expected to bring home all A’s on my report card, because Brenda did. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that smart; sometimes I could only manage a B grade. She got rewarded. I got punished.
I tried everything I could think of to bond with my father. I learned to fish, shoot guns and bows and arrows. But, even when I caught a fish, it was too small; or hit the bull’s eye on a target, it was just stupid luck. As a young adult, I even tried being a beer drinker, because my dad was an alcoholic. Nothing I could say or do could win his love an approval.
When I was 16, a school friend of mine invited me to go to a revival her church was having. I had nothing better to do, so I went. As the evangelist spoke of the great love God had for us, I could hardly believe my ears. Never had I heard such a thing.
I remember that night being held in the arms of the pastor’s wife. I couldn’t stop crying. I simply could not believe that Jesus loved me and wanted me just the way I was. That was 47 years ago and I love Him more with each new day.
When I decided to follow Jesus, it really made my dad really angry. But I had found a place of love and acceptance. I have had many hours of counseling and much prayer. I am much better than I was a few years ago. God has so transformed my life that I hardly believe it.
As I learned to trust in Jesus and began to understand the Bible, I could draw strength from that relationship. Because we are just human, I also still struggled with the low self esteem. There were times when I did stupid things just to get positive attention. There were even times when I contemplated suicide.
Even as an adult, I could not be good enough, although in many ways I surpassed my sister in achievements. It was only when I wrote my first book and had it published that my dad was impressed. He actually was proud of me, even if it was a stupid religious book.
As part of the counseling I received through the church, I was asked to write a letter to my dad, forgiving him for the things he had said and done to me. I did, but he never even mentioned it. Several years later, when he died, we found that letter. He had carried it in his wallet for years. I was told that he would take it out when he was in the bars drinking and show it to all his friends, so it must have meant something to him.
There are still times when I look in the mirror and see that stupid worthless person. I then have to encourage myself by reciting scriptures that tell the truth about who and what I am in God’s eyes.
I am created in God’s image. I am the head and not the tail. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God wants only good things for me. I can do all things through Christ. Today I understand that after all is said and done, Jesus is the only one I must please and impress.
Read more Chrisitan musings from Diane on her Small Town America blog.