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
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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.