Father’s Day for me is always bittersweet. I loved my Daddy, but my Daddy hurt me in so many ways. And today, I still live with the scars. I think the hardest part is knowing I love someone who hurt me so much. But that’s the way it is with abuse. You love the abuser. And hate the abuser. And love the abuser.
My Dad, as with many other fathers, was an alcoholic. According to Wikipedia “Alcoholism is one of the leading causes of a dysfunctional family. As of 2001, there were an estimated 26.8 million children of alcoholics (COAs) in the United States, with as many as 11 million of them under than age of 18.Children of addicts have an increased suicide rate and on average have total health care costs 32 percent greater than children of nonalcoholic families.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholism_in_family_systems)”Over one million children yearly are confirmed as victims of child abuse and neglect by state child protective service agencies. Substance abuse is one of the two largest problems affecting families in the United States, being a factor in nearly four-fifths of reported cases. Alcoholism is more prevalent among child abusing parents. Alcoholism is more strongly correlated to child abuse than depression and other disorders.”
Wow! And Wikipedia has more to say on dysfunctional families. “A common misperception of dysfunctional families is the mistaken belief that the parents are on the verge of separation and divorce. While this is true in a few cases, often the marriage bond is very strong as the parents’ faults actually complement each other. In short, they have nowhere else to go. However, this does not necessarily mean the family’s situation is stable. Any major stressor, such as relocation, unemployment/underemployment, illness, natural disaster, etc. can cause existing conflicts affecting the children to become much worse. Dysfunctional families have no social, financial or intellectual bounds. Nevertheless, until recent decades, the concept of a dysfunctional family was not taken seriously by professionals (therapists, social workers, teachers, counselors, clergy, etc.), especially among the middle and upper classes. Any intervention would have been seen as violating the sanctity of marriage and increasing the probability of divorce (which was socially unacceptable at the time). Children were expected to obey their parents (ultimately the father), and cope with the situation alone.” That was my family in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember being about 15-years-old and I was a voracious reader. Every night I read “Helen Help Us” which was the small-town-paper-cheaper version of Ann Landers. Somehow she helped me stay sane. She let me have a glimpse there were others in this destructive cycle.
Anyway, I had been running away for over a year. I’d voluntarily come home because I loved and missed my family. But then it’d start all over again and the tension would build up inside of me and I’d run. So one night my mother informed me that my Daddy’s drinking was because of my running away. I was incredulous. And I told her that I was fifteen and at best I was responsible for either my running away OR Daddy’s drinking but not both. But since I was still a child, maybe, just maybe, he was responsible for both. She got so upset. She didn’t want him to be responsible for anything. Or herself. It had to be someone else’s fault – even the victim who was just acting out of her pain.
Wikipedia says the following are symptoms of dysfunctional families:
- Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy towards one or more members (or even pets) who have real or perceived “special needs.” In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than he or she deserves, while another is marginalized.
- Denial (a refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior; also known as the “elephant in the room”)
- Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g., tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse)
- Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed)
- Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient arguing between family members)
- Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their gender, age, birth order, family role (mother, etc), abilities, race. etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven enforcement of rules).
Though not universal among dysfunctional families, and by no means exclusive to them, the following features are typical of dysfunctional families:
- Abnormally high levels of jealousy or other controlling behaviors
- Conflict influenced by marital status:
- between divorced or separated parents, usually related to, or arising from their breakup
- conflict between parents who remain married, often for the “perceived” sake of the children, but whose separation or divorce would, in fact, remove a detrimental influence on those children (must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as breakup often harms children)
- parents who wish to divorce, but cannot due to financial, societal (including religious), or legal reasons
- Children afraid to talk (within or outside the family) about what is happening at home, or are otherwise fearful of their parents
- Abnormal sexual behavior such as adultery, promiscuity or incest.
- Lack of time spent together, especially in recreational activities and social events (“We never do anything as a family”)
- Family members (including children) who disown each other, and/or refuse to be seen together in public (either unilaterally or bilaterally)
The first thing any of us have to is choose to forgive. Wait a minute. I’m going to forgive the man who called me a pig? I’m going to forgive the man who sexually abused me? I’m going to forgive the man who beat me? Yes. I’m going to forgive. Matthew 6:12 says “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” See this wasn’t user-optional, we are to forgive.
Jesus forgave. From the cross. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34).
But that was Jesus. I mean He was a lot better than me. What does the Bible say? Mark 11:26 says “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Whoops! I want to be forgiven. I know me, I really NEED it. But ultimately, besides it being a commandment (and that should be enough) forgiveness helps the forgiver.
WikiHow says “One of the thorniest and most difficult things we humans are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness, and to forgive the unforgivable. We love to read stories about people who have responded to hatred with love, but when that very thing is demanded of us personally, our default seems to be anger, angst (dread or anguish), depression, righteousness, hatred, etc. Yet study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts. Want to live a long, happy life? Forgive the unforgivable. It really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering purposefully inflicted on your life, but you deserve to be free of this evil. As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored.” (http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive)
I was taught that obedience is a choice and not a emotion. So I can choose to forgive even if I don’t feel it yet.