A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

Image: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

Bad dreams

Image: vicart26, Pixabay

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain
(Revelation 21:4; NLT).

1. May bad dreams fade, Lord,
Leaving only night,
And darkness lessen,
Giving way to light.

2. May anger wane, Lord,
Leaving only grace,
And doubts diminish,
Giving way to faith.

3. May sorrow end, Lord,
Leaving only calm,
And worries scatter,
Giving way to balm.

4. May evil cease, Lord,
Leaving only good,
And hatred vanish,
Giving way to love.

With love

Do everything with love
(1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

1. Face all you feel with love:
Grief, anger, shame, pain, fear.
Share everything with God,
For he is always near.

2. Observe your thoughts with love:
Hate, envy, judgement, pride.
Confess them all to God,
Who will not blame, or chide.

3. Speak every word with love:
Don’t mock, abuse, or lie.
Admit your sins to God,
Who hears our victims cry.

4. Do everything with love:
This principle is clear;
Just ask the Father’s help,
For he is always here.


References

1. You are near (Psalm 75:1; NLT).

2. I confess my sins (Psalm 38:18; NLT).

He will not always chide (Psalm 103:9; RSV).

3. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

The Lord hears the cries of the needy (Psalm 69:33; NLT).

4. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Help me, Lord (Psalm 30:10; NLT).

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever (John 14:16; NASB).

Shadow

Hello everyone. I’ve been thinking a lot about our shadow side recently – all the parts of ourselves we prefer to hide, ignore and forget. If we are to become whole, we need to face and accept them all, sharing them with God, who already knows everything about us. I find it fascinating that even Jesus had a shadow side, which he had to face and accept during his time on earth – hence today’s prayer.

1. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Anger, tears, temptation.

2. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Fears you couldn’t share.

3. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Sorrow, grief, impatience.

4. Even you, Lord,
Had a shadow:
Anguish, dread, despair.

References

1. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples (Mark 10:14; NLT).

Jesus wept (John 11:35; NLT).

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil (Matthew 4:1; NLT).

2. He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44; NLT).

3. Then he [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38; NIV).

Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? (Matthew 17:17; NLT).

4. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Mark 15:34; NLT).