I grew up in a home where, from the very beginning, I was made to feel awful about who I am. Both my parents would say curses out of their mouth concerning my future. A little toddler where a very large life was before me had already been cursed. The words they would say would speak the same message. “You aren't good enough.” I was born a certain way with certain likes and dislikes and gifts and I have now spent half a century hating that person because I was told I needed to be someone else to be liked and loved. How can you move forward in life when you hate yourself and are told to not love yourself as God created you?
My parents had their ideas of what I should be but I don't know what those were. They never told me. They only told me what I wasn't and that I was missing the mark. They repeated often that they were failures as parents because we we had become such losers. I believed my parents but when I look back now I think about the amazing achievements my brothers and I worked so hard for despite being called failures. According to my parents though, I amounted to nothing.
I would work myself to exhaustion trying to earn their love. They would dangle the carrots and manipulate me by “saying if you will do this and that then we will accept you and give you love”. I was working 14 hours a day at the office, making meals for my family, putting them in containers in the freezer, driving down every weekend and making sure they had nice meals. I spent my spare time, the little I had, taking care of my family. No complements, no thank you’s. Only criticisms. Only pointing out what they didn't like about the meal. Sheer ingratitude. Nothing I did was ever enough or even appreciated.
Some people who are raised with this kind of parenting either become overly ambitious exhausting themselves for approval or they just are immobilized by fear never achieving anything. They realize that no matter what they do, they're going to be a failure so why even try? Both are destructive behaviors. So many of us seem to just react to our childhood never realizing the source of our motivations.
When I look back at my life, I have accomplished a lot through hard work and God’s help. From winning State body building championships to building a business to becoming an artist at a famous studio, I have tried it all. Nothing would capture the attention of my parents. Their focus was just on themselves. I was invisible no matter what I did. They were unable to see things outside of themselves. They were unable to see how they're broken lives destroyed their children's perspective on who they really are.
I remember I was going through a difficult time and needed to make a positive goal to focus on. I decided to compete in bodybuilding since I had already been spending a lot of time at the gym. A trainer came up to me and asked me to compete. I thought this would be a healthy goal. I worked really hard, did everything right and even though I had never done it before, I won second place in state for the natural bodybuilding competition. I didn't tell my parents I was doing any of this. I was living out-of-state at the time. When I got the trophy I went home and called my parents. My mother answered. I told her that I got a trophy and won second place. All she did was criticize. She sat there on the phone crying that she was a failure as a parent. I remember wanting so badly for the approval of my parents. But every time I reached out to get it their rejection just slammed me to the ground making me feel so small. That morning at 4 AM my mother calls me again crying. I'm thinking she wants to apologize to me and congratulate me. No. She asked through her sobs, "Are you a lesbian? Are you on steroids" she continued to keep repeating that she was a failure is a parent.
I went on to a great career in the movie industry working on box office films at a world-famous studio… and still my parents didn't care at all about me. I would get the Christmas letter that my mother wrote talking about the family. She would write something about me that wasn't even true. "I believe she is some graphic designer somewhere". She's sending a Christmas letter to people and she doesn't even know her own daughter and where she works or hasn't even taken the time to ask me.
Still, we must not resent them or be angry at them for something that they just couldn't do. But they just couldn't see. They were so broken that they couldn't see beyond themselves. They didn't feel good enough so nothing that I could do was good enough either. And if I accomplish more than they did, a complement was not what they gave. They only could criticize because now they were jealous. You must feel sorry for those who hate themselves because they can't allow people to love them and they certainly can't love other people.
“Father forgive them they know not what they do.” They're just reacting to their own brokenness. The children become subject to the very abuse their parents experienced to the third and fourth generation.
I had gotten to the point where my dad’s chaotic behavior and abusive language towards me rolled off my back. I had enough therapy to where I just wouldn't react anymore. Some of it was so ridiculous that I would laugh and make a joke about it. I suppose, though, you don’t ever forget the rejection that you get from your own father devaluing you so badly. I thought I had a handle on it then when my husband was able to bring up all of that stuff and torture me with it again, it opened up the wounds that were healed and they started bleeding again. He was now abusing me with the same methods my father did. This is what psychological warfare is. This is truly demonic. It now started being too much. I couldn't handle the abuse of my father and my husband at the same time. I cracked.
I married someone who listened and observed. I misinterpreted this as him caring but he was just gathering information to use against me to try to destroy me. He used my very words as weapons against me. And everything that would make me happy, he would eliminate from my life.
How much is too much? How many times do I go back and try to show these people love when they just have hate in their heart in return? I have misinterpreted the Scriptures so badly in my life. Forgive 70×7. Yes we need to forgive but we don't have to trust those people again. We don't have to trust that same person who keeps hurting us intentionally. We must love ourselves. Ask yourself if you would allow someone to treat someone else like this? If the answer is no, then you don’t have to put up with it either!! I put up with things I would never allow my friends to endure. That's a big red flag.
So I got to the point of physical and mental exhaustion literally of wanting to die .. trying to please the un-pleasable. I could no longer take the pressure anymore. With insomnia so bad that I wasn't even sleeping one hour a night, I had turned into a slave and the prisoner to where I could not escape.
What is this thing in the church where women are taught that they have to earn the love of their husband? That they have to work really really hard and become a Proverbs 31 woman and then maybe their husband will take notice of them. Even Proverbs was written by someone who had hundreds of wives. This is not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that God’s love is free.
I had to get to a place where if I stayed one more day in this relationship I would literally physically die. I can no longer take responsibility for the happiness of someone who will never be happy no matter what I do. At what place in life do you say enough? I've done enough! This is so difficult because when you finally stop, all the guilt comes rushing in! All the things that you should've done, would've done, could have done. All the things that might have changed the situation. And even though you've tried thousands of things..maybe just maybe, ONE MORE THING would have made the difference. You thought that even if you sacrificed your life on the cross like Jesus did, it still wouldn’t have been enough. This is still the same message that was given to us as children. This is still the same message that was given to Adam and Eve in the garden. You just aren't enough!! This lie that just keeps repeating over and over and over again to try to destroy us and God's purpose for us.
So I finally got the courage to shut the door on my father and I finally got the courage to shut the door on my abusive husband. Too many chances only to end up bruised and battered emotionally from their abuse. So I took what little energy I had left that God gave me and I ran!! I closed the door and I ran.
So many thousands of times I fell for their apology only to be sucked in again to have them abuse me more. They weren't sorry because if they were, they would change their behavior. There was no change in their behavior for the positive. So after I closed the door, any attempts I made to reconnect to them, showed they didn't care about me. The only thing they cared about was the fact that I was no longer meeting their needs and they hated me for it.
Here I was homeless and penniless getting text messages from my father that I would burn in hell and the lake of fire for not forgiving him. For telling me that I was going to be punished for not giving him a good Christmas like I had given him for years. This wasn't about forgiveness. I'm a forgiving person. it's about stopping someone from continually treating me like garbage. When someone is continuing to hurt you repeatedly, you can't keep up with the forgiveness in your heart. It's just too much. It only gives them license to abuse you more. If they truly aren't repentant, there is no respect there. I didn't have boundaries so they felt like they could walk all over me. I thought if I showed the kindness of Jesus that they would be kind back but that's not true.
Some people are not even capable of knowing what love is. They turn it away wherever they go and they're not able to give it out at all. By confronting them that they are hurting other people doesn't make any difference. They're only thinking of themselves. Any kind of reasonable and rational trying to get them to see things from your point of view, from a normal person’s point of view, concerning having mutual respect for other people, falls on deaf ears. When their world is only about them, it doesn't matter if other people are destroyed during the process. As long as they get their way the means justifies the end.
I was made to feel guilty and in shame for the sins of my father. I walked around feeling like I was the biggest criminal of all without committing any crime except crimes against myself. Then I married someone who was constantly accusing me of having ulterior motives for everything. I had no ulterior motives. I just wanted to have a relationship with my husband but he was stealing, lying and cheating on me and he projected who he was onto me. How can he accept someone's pure love when he was living a double life?
So even after I left, the lies kept coming back in my mind concerning my father and my ex. “I didn't do enough”, I should've done more.” “Maybe if I did this one more thing they would have changed” and the relationship would be restored.” I had to get to a place where I could not fill this empty cup. This cup had a break in it and whatever I put in it just kept leaking out. It had nothing to do with me so why did I sit there blaming myself when I did everything I could? It was obvious they did not do everything they could or even a portion of anything because they were incapable of caring about anyone but themselves.
I have not seen my father in two years. The last time I saw him I had shown up at his house homeless with a garbage bag of clothes. I just wanted to sleep in a bed and to have my father love me and act like he cared and feed me a meal. Instead, he cursed me and accused me of things that weren't my fault or I wasn't even capable of. His girlfriend said “well at least loan her a suitcase” and he said “I’m not going to loan her a suitcase she doesn't deserve anything”. This is a father where I've never asked for anything from him before and I've continually given and given and cared for him all my life. He said I didn't deserve anything which means no amount of love I tried to give him couldn't earn anything back. He told me to get out and never come back. And that is what I have done.
So today's a Monday I decided to go to the church I grew up in. A friend of mine was making homemade ice cream in the kitchen and I wanted to see how he did it. He had been pining for a woman for four years. A woman that wasn't interested at all in what he wanted. He would get bouts of depression every time he would have contact with her because in his mind she rejected him. She just isn't capable of giving him what he wants because she's not at that place. It's not something that he should take personally.
I told him about the quote by Helen Keller. A blind, deaf and mute woman could tell such truth, “sometimes we stare so long at the closed-door that we fail to see the open doors around us.” I was trying to tell him that until he closed that closed-door he is not going to see the love that is available around him that he can have.
It was at this moment that my father walked into the church building. The chances of this happening are impossible. He did not stop. He asked what I was doing there but kept walking. My friend looked at me shocked and said that he was so sorry and that if he knew he was going to show up, that he would protect me from it. I told him that I don't look at situations like that. I look at all situations as learning experiences. The fact that this could not be an accident was obviously a sign that God was trying to tell me something. I had been feeling guilty that I was at fault for not reconciling with my father. I had been listening to the lies that maybe I didn't do enough. And then my father walks in and doesn’t act like he cares at all. I said “hi dad you look good how are you doing?” He responded with "my hips hurt" but never stopped to talk to me or even look at me. I am his only daughter. A loving father would welcome their daughter with open arms. He never has done that. I am not someone who squandered all of my father’s money and then came back to beg to be his servant. I didn't squander any of his money. I have been his unpaid servant all of my life. I just took care of him. Yet, he put no coat on me. He did not love me and treat me like he was accepting of me and cared. He kicked me out of this house instead. This moment in the church building was God reminding me that my dad hasn't changed at all. He thinks about himself only. He Is unable to see me and unable to care or love me because he doesn't even know what that is. So the lesson here was to stop staring at the closed door. Stop thinking that that door will finally open to give you what you want. The door is closed for reason.
Close the closed door and go into the open ones. Go into the doors that are already open around you. The ones where people love you accept you and value you and you don't have to try to earn it by getting abused in the meantime. It's only when we finally bolt up the closed doors, are we able to see all the opportunities for love all around us that we didn’t see before. Love is free. God's love is free. I must stop being in relationships with people who insist on me climbing up the greased pole to receive love. I will never get there and I will end up exhausted and empty in the process. Love is everywhere if we just leave the closed doors behind.
Copyright 2019 Morgan Stern
What would you do if Jesus, the King, knocked on your door and took off his cloak, wrapped a towel around his waste and said he was going to wash your feet? I imagine it and it makes me cringe. We all want to portray ourselves so perfectly. We tidy up our house before guests arrive…sometimes even before the cleaning lady comes over. We present our best selves. We don’t want people to see our flaws and so many times we pretend we don’t have them.
“When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “You will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” John 13:6-9
So here Jesus is…the Son of God, the Almighty King, humbling himself and saying “let me know your vulnerable places. Those places you hide that you don’t want anyone to see.” We forget that He already sees them. He wants us to confess those things so we confess them to ourselves! We can be in such denial.
Unless we learn how to receive blessing from a very vulnerable place…exposing our ugliness and dirtiness to the Lord, we don’t belong to Him. It is only when we are able to confess…”I can’t be perfect. I have tried! Life is too hard. I can’t keep this facade up any longer! I’m tired and broken, here I am Lord! All of me!”
When we confess who we really are to the Lord, we confess who we really are to ourselves as well. We get to know that true love God has for us by seeing and loving ourselves as He sees us. Unconditionally.
Yesterday I worked at the rehab center. One of the residents said, “I never allow myself to make mistakes”. I then told him that we are all flawed. If we don’t allow ourselves to have flaws, we won’t allow others to have flaws either. However we feel about ourselves, we end up projecting onto someone else. The very thing we hate about ourselves is the very thing we hate about someone else. When we can give ourselves grace, we can give others grace as well. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a statement of fact. We love our neighbor in accordance with how we love ourselves.
I told the grown men a story of Pinnochio. I told them Pinnochio was a fake boy and he tried to be perfect. The more he lied to cover up his true self, the more his nose would grow. It wasn’t until he went through a very rough storm, did he realize he needed help and he had to come to the realization he wasn’t real. It was at this time of admitting who he really is that he became a real boy, an authentic boy. In his vulnerability, he realized his true self and knowing that, he started knowing how to be real.
How many times do we think God doesn’t see our ugly feet? We are so delusional to think that he doesn’t see our dark, imperfect side. That side that is something we don’t want to face ourselves. It’s only when we come to the foot of the cross and die to self that we get baptized in the Holy Spirit. If we are so full of ourselves, God has no room for His power within us. We must admit who we really are. We are all broken before the Lord. We just don’t want to admit it. Facing the truth instead of avoiding it is what makes us authentic and approachable. Sharing our flaws with others who down deep they know they are flawed too. People don’t want perfect. They want real…and real isn’t perfect.
The broken can be beautiful. A mosaic or a stained-glass window is so much more beautiful than the original plain pane of glass. Looking through the different shaped and colored pieces, it represents all the events, moods and feelings we have experienced in our lives. All the stories we can tell others. Stories of falling down and not feeling like you can get up. Stories of being so sad, you just curl up in a ball and cry for hours. These fragmented pieces of colored glass put together with precious times of joy with friends and family, make for a beautiful window into the soul. The pieces held together by the solder of relationships, faith, God, and hope.
If the broken glass pieces represent all the times we are broken, we must not choose to go through them alone. Going through the not-so-perfect times alone, we are just a broken piece of glass perceived as garbage to throw away or hide. If we seek out friendships and fellowship and support, they can share their stories of tragedy and triumph with us and together we put all those broken pieces together to make a beautiful mosaic. The cement being the tears we have shed together.
We all know down deep we aren’t perfect so it is refreshing when someone is strong enough to admit it. We are drawn to them. The world wants you to think that everyone wants perfect and flawless. So, everyone gets caught on this wrong road of trying to achieve the impossible. The more we realize we aren’t perfect, the more layers of make-up we try to cake on to hide the deep flaws we know we have. We know we are an imposter. We think that people won’t love us if they know the truth. We don’t realize that people long for the real truth anyway…even if it’s ugly.
I think about how my ex husband had such a facade. I wanted so much for him to just come clean. I put up with his constant lying and abuse for 12 years. I forgave and hoped and prayed and fasted hoping that if he just humbled himself and told me the truth, the ugly truth, we would have somewhere to go from there. It never happened that way. I found out the ugly truth about him from everyone except him.
At the time, I couldn’t understand why someone would repay good for evil. Why is it no amount of kindness, generosity or forgiveness was helping? It was actually causing him to treat me worse. It wasn’t until years after I escaped the insanity did I finally understand. He hates himself for being such a phony. He lied to me from the very beginning to get me to marry him. He never was who he said he was. Keeping up the facade was killing him. He knew, he received a good wife by deceiving her. He knew he didn’t deserve the gift. He got it by dishonest means.
Therefore, every time I was showing my authentic love and care as a wife, it reminded him of his own double-life and unworthiness. He dealt with it by making me the scapegoat. If he could put all the blame on me, make me out to be the crazy one, then he wouldn’t have to face the ugly truth of his deceptive lies. His conscience is seared. He feels nothing because if he actually faced the truth about what he has done, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.
The result being a boy made out of wood. He chooses to believe a lie instead. That it must be all his wife’s fault. He doesn’t feel anything but rage. Rage he puts on his wife but the rage he feels is rage against himself for digging himself in such a deceptive hole where there is no way out. He would rather sacrifice the only one that really loves him to make himself look like the innocent one. That’s his punishment to himself. Self-sabotage.
So, he ends up losing everything that was really important. He might have walked away with money….but he sacrificed true love for it. He knew I was a forgiving person as he had seen me forgive my father for constant abuse all of my life and give him chance after chance and wipe the slate clean every time. He saw how I became the sacrifice for my father’s constant sinning. He saw how I was willing to do that for love. He knew I would do that for him as well. He took advantage of me.
I almost sacrificed my life for them. Their conscience seared, they walk away without guilt or remorse whether I end up dead or alive. Dead to them is better because dead men and dead women tell no tales. If I’m dead, his secrets could stay in the dark. If the only person who knows the real truth besides him has been silenced, he can go on living his life as Pinnochio to those who don’t know who he really is. The only problem is, he knows. He just doesn’t want to face himself.
I tried for 12 years to get him to open up to me. To tell me who he really was. I had told him everything. All the ugly stuff about my abuse and the bad choices I made and instead of returning that vulnerability so we could finally have an intimate marriage, he used every painful thing I divulged to him, as a weapon to destroy me and my character and eventually the love I had for him.
Recently, I sat in a Bible study where a woman divulged the painful abuse of her now deceased husband. After over 30 years of him covering up his double-life by abusing those that loved him the most, he came to the end of himself. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The secrets eating him up inside, he confessed to his wife that he had lived a secret gay life their whole marriage. His confession was met with grace and forgiveness and mercy. The family coming around and responding with kindness and taking care of him in his last days. It was because his confession and repentance were true and authentic. He had to finally die to self.
I have a huge capacity for forgiveness. I have had to forgive heinous things and repeatedly given people chances over and over after learning their “sorry” was just a way of manipulating me to do what they wanted again. The repentance was not real because their behavior didn’t change. It actually was worse. My allowing them back into my life so quickly, just caused them to know they could lie and deceive me more. It made them disrespect me. Besides, how can they allow someone to love them when they actually detest themselves?
Therefore, I think things would have been so different if my husband finally came to me and in true repentance admitted what he had done. When someone just gives a “sorry if I hurt you” but they aren’t truly specific about what they did to hurt you, they don’t feel it. They don’t understand and they aren’t really sorry. They are just sorry you aren’t there anymore to meet their needs. The tears are only for them, not for you.
In the past, when someone said they were sorry, I took them at their word despite decades of not realizing I was trusting them repeatedly for them continuing in the same things. If someone was truly sorry, they would stop the behavior. Repentance in Hebrew means to see things from another perspective. If we are truly sorry, we are able to see things from the perspective of the person we hurt..not just our selfish perspective. It would cause us to never want to do that again. I realized I falsely put forgiveness and trust together. I now know that I can forgive someone fully, but I don’t have to trust them ever again. Trust is earned. If someone is truly sorry, they will prove over a long period of time through actions that they are different. Truly repentant people want to make restitution. They will do anything and everything to pay for what they have done through showing through their actions that they have changed and they will wait as long as necessary. Love is patient. If they truly love you, they will be patient and wait without a response while they prove to you they are a different person.
I never waited for them to earn that trust again. Just like I forgave right away, I trusted them right away as well. Big mistake. Forgiveness is for me, not them but I ended up being the one who suffered for continuing to trust an untrustworthy person. They remained unscathed, unfeeling only to continue hurting others for their own self-indulgent means.
A couple of years ago I came up with a quote after I had been horribly hurt and betrayed by someone only for them to act normal and not understand why I didn’t want to trust them anymore. “The lake is glassy for those who refuse to see the wake of destruction they have left behind”. So many people are so stuck on seeing their own perspective, that they don’t see how their selfishness has caused so much hurt for those around them.
The church’s response to woman living with an abusive or selfish husband is to “submit to him and if you keep doing that, he will eventually see Jesus in your eyes and change”. This, I tell you, does not work and it isn’t even Biblical!! This is the sin I was committing! I was submitting to someone who wasn’t worshipping God but worshipping a false God…himself. We must never submit to a husband worshipping a false god because we end up becoming the living sacrifice for their sin. They won’t see Jesus in our eyes. They will see us as coming between them and their false god!!
The Bible says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
We must come to the truth about a lot of things. Facing the truth isn’t pretty! It is painful!! Only by seeking the truth, the UGLY TRUTH will it finally set us free. Only by my husband finally facing the ugly truth of his deception and lies and me finally facing the ugly truth about covering up his lies with false hope and denial will bring true freedom. For it is the chains and slavery of living a lie that keeps us in bondage. Only by us dying to self are we able to come to a place of finding that life that fulfills us from the inside out. Only by humbling ourselves and letting Jesus wash our dirty feet, will we know that true love is unconditional and that is what the Father has for us. That unconditional love that people love us even though we are flawed, will turn the wooden, fake, lying boy into a real one.
Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Thriver and Survivor of domestic violence and abuse who went from an Artist at a top studio in the film industry only to escape danger and experience, trauma, homelessness and penniless. Restored and Healed by Jesus. These are my stories of suffering and triumph.