Punitive Damages of Denying My Mother Wounds

Denial is a river that ravaged my soul.  Denial punished me by keeping me from owning the truth and experiencing the freedom that truth brings.  The truth I needed to own was that I needed my mother, but she chose to abandon and abuse me instead of loving me.

For a long time, I drank deeply from those waters of denial in an attempt to numb the pain and to avoid the consequences of what others had done to me.  But that river turned increasingly bitterer the longer I lingered in it.  Denial only served me for a season, then the reason for staying dissipated.  Yet I remained in that bitter place.  Until one day, I had an epiphany of how this denial was keeping me from the very freedom that I craved and ached for.  Denial was a brutally punishing taskmaster. 

The root of the word punitive is found in the word punish.  Thus, punitive damages are damages awarded by a court to punish the defendant.  Denial carries with it damages that are punishing because anyone in denial is punishing themselves by not acknowledging the truth and not allowing themselves to receive the freedom that truth brings with it.

In my defense, I had no idea that my denial was punishing me.  Initially, denial was a coping skill that protected me from greater harm while my mother was abusing me.  But once I got free from her, I needed to let go of denial so I could heal.  I didn’t realize that until recently.  So, I kept denying the truth because I thought my denial was punishing her, not me.  Before I left her, she told me that she could care less and was unaffected by anything I did or said.  For many years, I didn’t want to accept what she said, so I continued to deny the truth that she hurt me, that I needed her and that I love her because she’s my mother even though she hurt me.

But a recent attack on my dignity brought to light the punitive damages of my denial.  I painfully began to let go of the choke-hold I had on denial.  I let myself experience the pain and grief of having a mother who is abusive.  That was no easy or simple thing to do.  Partly because early in my life, she reversed our roles so that I was her mother and she was my daughter.  My earliest memories are of her using me as her therapist by pouring out her emotional pain and devastation on me.  The belief that I am the mother and she is the daughter is deeply rooted in my psyche.  That wrong thinking needed to be removed, but it needed to be done gently so as not to cause more devastation.

The truth is that I needed my mother, that I am the daughter and that she is the mother.  Denying these truths kept me in a prison that I had no business being in.  It suffocated my need for attention and affection which prevented me from receiving the very things my soul so desperately needed.  It deceived me into believing that I was responsible for her abusive conduct and for not knowing how to protect myself from her.  My denial protected her from being held accountable for what she did.  It kept me from acknowledging the harm that she did to me which in turn kept me from being able to fully forgive her. 

If I couldn’t admit that she had harmed me, then what was there to forgive?

But she did harm me.  The effects of her abuse devastated my soul and fractured my mind.  I’m going through the process of acknowledging the specific effects of her harm because it helps me to process, release and forgive.  It’s time consuming, painful and wrecking me with grief.  But it’s necessary for me to get free and find peace.

Now that I’m getting free from denial and its punitive damages, I’m able to own some stronghold-shattering truths such as:

  • It’s not bad for me to need my mother.  This is a God-given need that is intended to bless us both and meet each of our needs for strong bonded relationship.

  • It’s not bad for me to be her daughter.  What my mother does and who she is does not define me.  My identity is in Christ, not in my mother.

  • It’s not bad for her to be my mother.  (Same truth as above.)

  • It’s not bad for me to have learned from my mother, even though what she chose to teach me is bad.  Daughters are wired to learn from their mothers.  That design is good even when mothers misuse that design to harm their children.

Here’s what I’ve been able to assimilate thus far:  I didn’t do anything bad simply by being her daughter.  I’m not bad because she’s my mother.  I am a daughter whose mother chose to abuse, neglect and reject her.  What my mother did to me doesn’t make me bad.  Her bad choices don’t stain me, limit me or define me.  I am who I am – separate and set apart from her.  I am a fully unique human being, valuable as a daughter and treasured by the Lord.

I am a daughter of the King of Heaven.  I am wholly and fully loved and accepted by God just as I am today.  I am delighted in and rejoiced over by my Father in Heaven every second of every day of my life.  He longs to hear my voice and see my face gazing up at Him.  He is ever-present in my life, deeply interested in everything I do and everything that happens to me, fully focused on my every word, fascinated by my heart and eternally in love with me.  That is who I am and Whose daughter I am.

Mother's Day 2019

To Mom on Mother’s Day 2019:

I needed you.  I needed your love.  I needed a mother who loved me.  I needed that. 

I needed a mother who cared about me, payed attention to me, acknowledged me, took an interest in me, delighted in who I am, enjoyed spending time with me and discovering who I am, taught me wisdom and discernment, infused in me a deep awareness of my intrinsic value, encouraged me to grow and learn and become who God created me to be, protected me and taught me to protect myself, showed me how to interact with others in an honest and loving way without sacrificing my dignity or honor, taught me to value, respect and honor myself, modeled modesty and self-love, and valued who she is.

  • I needed a mother who set boundaries and honored mine.

  • I needed a mother who listened to me and taught me that my voice is valuable, even when no one is honoring my voice.

  • I needed a mother who taught me the difference between good and evil, pure and perverse, dark and light.

  • I needed a mother who loves the Lord and showed me who He is through how she treated me and walked with Him.

  • I needed a mother who has integrity and practices what she demands of me.

  • I needed a mother who was a godly example for me to learn from and follow.

  • I needed a mother I could go to for advice and counsel, for wisdom and understanding.

  • I needed a mother who taught me the importance of getting wisdom and how to lean on the Lord for understanding.

  • I needed a mother who encouraged me to exercise my free will even when I would suffer consequences, who honored my free will and even celebrated it.

  • I needed a mother who gave of herself and did not take everything from me.

  • I needed a mother who knew who she is, her strengths and weaknesses, who accepts herself as she is and knows that she is in a process of becoming all that God created her to be. I needed a mother who likes herself.

  • I needed a mother who rejoiced in her humanity and eschewed perfectionism for the lie that it is.

  • I needed a mother who owned her mistakes and apologized for when she hurt me.

  • I needed a mother who saw me as a treasure, not a threat to her.

  • I needed a mother who bandaged me when I was hurt, even if she hated the sight of blood.

  • I needed a mother who helped me when I asked for help so that I would not become self-reliant, isolated or ashamed of needing help.

I needed so much from you.  But most of all, I needed your love.  I could probably have done without all the other stuff…if only you’d loved me.  Maybe if you’d loved me, then all the other stuff would have come easily and naturally. Then maybe you wouldn’t have seen me as a burden or inconvenience to you.

I’m so deeply hurt that you didn’t love me.  I am heartbroken beyond words.  I am only just now starting to let go of the shame I feel for knowing my mother doesn’t love me and rejects me as her daughter.  I am only now beginning to let go of your blame, that I was the reason why you didn’t love me. 

Once I admitted that I needed a mother and her love, then all the lies you built around me to keep me from coming anywhere near you or asking you for anything – those lies began crumbling down around me.  I began to breathe freely and easily.  The tightness around my chest, pressing in and crushing my lungs and heart, began to ease up.  I gulped in the fresh air that no longer had to be siphoned through a tiny straw.  Anxiety began to break off.  It’s not my fault that you never loved me.  It’s not bad or shameful that I needed your love and that I needed a mother. 

I was a child and I needed a mother.  I needed to be loved by my mother.  I needed that, and that’s OK.  It doesn’t make me weak or pathetic or objectionable or shameful to need my mother, especially as a child.

I needed you.  It hurts my heart so much that you rejected me. 

Today, I accept that I needed you.  I accept that you refused to give me love or be a mother to me.  I accept that your decision is not my fault nor my responsibility.  I accept these things.  I needed to accept these things, so that I could begin to grieve this loss, the loss of a mother’s love and care.

It’s been healing to cry and grieve and sob over my need for a mother’s love.  It’s also been painful beyond what I thought possible, but it’s letting out all the hurt that crusted over and encased my heart for too long.  It’s helping me to see that I am not bad.  I believed my whole life up until now that you didn’t love me because I was bad and didn’t do whatever you needed me to do to make you love me.  I thought if only I’d been smart enough to figure out how to please you, then you would have loved me. 

Now, I realize that love isn’t earned.  Love is a gift.  You alone were responsible for your love, not me.  Only you could decide whether to love me.  I had no power over you to make you love me or to earn your love.  The power to give me love was solely yours.  You withheld your love from me and told me it was my fault.  You blamed me for your decision to reject me.  I, as a child, not knowing any better, believed you and believed that I must be bad if my mother doesn’t love me.  I thought it must be my fault because I believed that adults and parents didn’t make mistakes.

I needed you.  I needed your acceptance. I needed your love.  I needed a mother. 

Now, I need to grieve the loss of these things.  I wish that weren’t so, but it is.  It’s what you chose.  I grieve what we could have had, the love we could have shared, the relationship we could have known, the conversations we could have had, the things we could have done together, the art we could have created together. 

Even though you don’t love me, I do love you.  I needed to let you know that.  I needed to tell you all this so that it doesn’t suffocate me anymore from being held in and denied.  I need you to know that I needed you and your love. 

I know now that God can fill the hole that you created by your rejection.  He can give me all the affection and attention that you were not able to give me.  He can be my mother and love me wholly and completely. 

I release you from this burden, from this debt, from this hurt you caused in my heart.  I forgive you for not loving me or being a mother to me.  I forgive you for rejecting me.  I forgive you for blaming me for your choice to reject me.  I forgive you for all the bad stuff that you did to me, too.  You wreaked a lot of havoc on my soul with your violence and wicked actions.  It’s cost me a lot more than you know, more than I could ever express in a letter.  The Lord knows what your harm cost me. 

I need you to know that I don’t hate you anymore.  I need you to know that I won’t expect anything from you that you are not able to give me.  I know that you have limitations. I accept that. 

I accept you as you are.  I acknowledge that you gave birth to me, named me, clothed me and gave me a place to sleep, fed me and sent me to school.  You did these things.  You could have chosen to have an abortion, give me up for adoption or throw me away in a dumpster.  You chose to keep me and do what you were able to do for me. 

And what does the one God seek?  Godly offspring. ~ Malachi 2:15

Mother, I can bring you no greater honor than to live my life for Christ, to become refined into His image and serve Him all the days of my life.  I do this for Him, for myself and for my bloodline – past, present and future.  May my life be a blessing over you!

I don’t really know what else to say.  I’m emptied right now from this expression of my heart. 

Your daughter and godly offspring,

Rebecca

Godly Offspring: Bringing Honor to Abusive Parents

I’ve wrestled with this one for more years than I care to admit.  It’s in the top ten (commandments, that is) so it should be a well-understood and thoroughly taught subject within the church.  But it’s not.  It’s more often than not flat out ignored or fearfully tiptoed around in the church community.  Let’s be honest, if it were easy to talk about and face, then everyone would be doing it.  To be clear, I’m talking about honoring parents who are abusive.

My parents were, scratch that, are abusive.  I’m not in their lives anymore so I tend to think of their behavior in past tense because it’s in my past.  When I left, they were quite adamant about not changing their abusive behavior and quite unwilling to even admit that their behavior was bad in any way.  They’re both narcissists so what did I expect?  Too much from their wounded souls, as I later realized. 

Narcissists are hard nuts to crack.  They protect their pain so viciously that they don’t even admit to themselves that they are in pain.  And forget about talking feelings with them.  They squash any honest conversation on feelings as soon as it begins.  Narcissists just can’t handle honesty, authenticity, feelings or anything that has to do with anyone else but themselves.

I am the daughter of narcissists who neglected me.  They verbally and emotionally abused me.  And then they did worse things.  Even today, it’s too much for me to think about it all at once.  It breaks my heart to think my parents hurt me so vindictively and sadistically.  I wrestle between two opposing forces: accepting them as they are and wanting them to be loving and caring.  It’s hard to love someone who is abusive, to need them and want to be in relationship with them but knowing that they aren’t able to be there in any real or authentic way.

How can I let them go?  How can I accept them as they are – abusive and unloving?  How can I bring honor to people that it’s not even safe for me to be around?  Why would I want to bring them honor?

All good questions.  I wrestled with these for a long time.  Truth is I still wrestle with them from time to time.  It’s a process, learning to accept people as they are and not as I would have them be.

The last question is simple to answer but not so simple to come to terms with: why would I want to bring them honor?  I want to honor them because the Lord commands it, and He only commands me to do things that are good.  I trust Him, so doing this thing is what I want to do and what I trust Him to help me do.  I can’t do it in my own strength but with His help, I am able to do this seemingly impossible thing – bring honor to my abusive parents.

As for the “how to”, that I find in the scripture that says God wants godly offspring (see Malachi 2:15).  I am that, now, godly offspring.  No thanks to my parents.  Everything they taught me was bad – perversion, mocking, hostility toward all, distrust of authority, disrespect, gossip, deception, manipulation, isolation, unhealthy self-reliance, self-loathing and so on. 

I am only godly offspring because of Who He Is and Him only.  He was the one who cared for me, who is healing my wounds and teaching me His ways.  It is because of Him and through Him that I am godly offspring today.  I would not otherwise know how to be godly offspring. 

I am His daughter.  I walk in His ways and follow His commands.  I seek His face every day and delight in His presence in my heart and soul.  I am becoming more and more like Him every day.  I long to do what is pleasing in His eyes.  Even if that means honoring people who caused me devastating trauma and who tried to destroy me every single day of my childhood. 

I believe that it pleases God that I am willing to be merciful to those who harmed me and that I am willing to acknowledge the good things that my parents did for me – house me, feed me, send me to school and let me go to church.  These are the things that I can acknowledge and honor my parents for doing for me. 

God wants godly offspring.  I am that godly offspring for my parents.  I bring honor to them by living my life for Christ.  How I live my life brings honor to my parents.  There is no greater honor that I can bring them but this!

The strange thing as I think on who I’ve become in Christ is that I am actually delighted and humbled that I can bring this honor to my parents.  Even though I am small and insignificant in their eyes, I bring them this great and holy honor.  God has given me this amazing gift to bring honor to those who don’t deserve it.  The Lord has allowed me this opportunity to be like Jesus to my parents, to make a sacrifice by forgiving them and covering them with the honor and dignity of having godly offspring.  That is an overwhelmingly beautiful treasure to ponder.