I know I’ve explained and vented a bit about my childhood in the past but the topic has come up in my personal life. So I may write a bit further in that vein.
All scripture I use in this post is used in the same way that was told to me as a child. Directly following a rule or expectation to make or emphasize a point.
I think a lot this conversation and focus comes from the realization that a lot of what I thought was “normal” in my life was actually harmful. Even writing something like that out is a bit painful. I think many people are conditioned to only look at the positive aspects of their childhood. Whether this be from religion, family, or culture the result is often the same. Generally this is full avoidance of anything negative in regards to childhood or family.
Looking back to process the pain caused by family member during your upbringing can be a agonizing experience.
I’ve found that I’m unable to avoid looking back into my own personal history before moving forward in my life. If I want to grow as a person I need to acknowledge the negative memories and experiences alongside the good. Opening myself up to those experiences has been a painful thing.
For many years I’ve lived my life believing my experiences were completely normal. Part of this is that within a lot of conservative circles negative emotions and experiences are normally not discussed. The positive is the main focus especially in regards to the family.
Within many evangelical homes the mother and father are often revered and hold positions of ultimate authority within the family. The church often helps to reinforce this idea with many sermons and lectures regarding “Honoring your mother and father” aimed at children and families. Children are to obey and honor their parents there is no room for compromise.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.Ephesians 6:1-3
This type of mentality often lead to fairly authoritarian homes. The child shows “love” by obedience to their mother or father’s authority and direction. And while this may have not been true for every evangelical home, it was certainly true within my childhood home.
He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.1 Timothy 3:4
Another belief that comes to mind is that the parent is not to be a friend to the child. The child is suppose to be able to trust, listen to, and respect their parent. A parent can try to be a friend, but all these other aspects will be placed above that relationship.
Both of my parents grew up in homes that were at the very least emotionally neglectful, and possibly even verbally abusive at times. Neither one of my parents really discuss this, but I’ve been able to glean this over time. So I do understand that a lot of their actions were fueled by their own childhood experiences. I’m having to come to terms with the fact that my own childhood was in fact very reflective of their own.
Saying that I was abused and neglected as a child is extremely hard for me to write out. I know many people associate abuse with only sexual and physical abuse, and while I would never try to claim I was sexually abused. I would certainly state that I suffered verbal, emotional abuse and emotional neglect.
Everything inside of me wants to deny these statements. My internal arguments come boiling out. “It wasn’t that bad.” “Was it really abuse?” “You didn’t have it that bad.” “You need to shut up and respect your parents.” My brain tells me that I’m undermining others experiences by bringing my own experiences to to forefront. I know this not to be true, but my brain still forces it forward.
“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.”Exodus 21:17 – A verse often used to show the severity of disrespecting your parents.
Emotions and feelings were something that were not at all discussed. I can remember my mom yelling about her own emotions and how we as children made her feel or how dad made her feel, but non “negative” emotions were rarely mentioned. I use quotes because I’ve come to realize that all emotions are merely that – just emotions. There is no need to add a modifier to if they are positive or negative. And my father completely avoided any discussion about any emotions.
My mother would try to contain her emotions until she was completely unable to. I honestly don’t think she had a healthy way to express or sit with her feelings. Sometimes this would result in her yelling / screaming at us or dad.
However, as children we were not allowed the same types of ways to express ourselves. Only the “positive” emotions were allowed: joy, happiness, etc. A child’s outburst was always a negative thing, and would generally be punished. No complaints or arguments were tolerated.
Do everything without complaining and arguing,Philippians 2:14
There was a lot more than this. For now I just write some of the smaller things out to give examples. These were all things I considered normal, and just a part of my childhood. But as I’ve looked back I can see the harm that was done.
I will add that not every experience was negative. I have a lot of good memories with my parents and family. However, as I said before, I have to also embrace the negative alongside the good.
I would encourage others to look into types of abuse within the home. This particular article focuses on childhood abuse. I’m not trying to cause others to second guess their own upbringing. But I do wish to try to encourage others to think though their own experiences.