My grandmother always told me that we aren’t to air our dirty linens in public. Obviously, her philosophies on life were gelled before the social media revolution. Now that she’s on Facebook, I wonder if she’s rethinking that. This is the Age of Oversharing. While I agree that sometimes too much sharing can be a bad thing (like when teen sexting incidents gone awry become life-changing internet scandals), I think if you mean what you say – really, truly mean it, and aren’t going to change your mind about meaning it later – spilling sordid stories can be cathartic for you, and quite possibly helpful for others. So, here goes.
I was abused as a child. I also watched people close to me tolerate abuse, and somewhere around the age of 13, I started to say, Never me; when I’m grown, I will never, never put up with this crap, and I will certainly never allow this to happen to my children.
While I don’t espouse the whole life-time victim mentality, what I do know is that it becomes very easy to repeat patterns that you see in life, because they’re the only sequences that you know. If no one ever taught you long division, odds are good that you’d be stuck using your fingers to calculate your checkbook balance for the rest of your life (I’m not good at balancing my checkbook, either). Despite my best intentions to avoid an adult life of dealing with abuse, and my active choice of a partner who was as ostensibly opposite of the abuser I knew before, I somehow ended up in an abusive relationship – mostly verbally, though we had a few domestic violence incidents, too – and I ended up leaving him, moving halfway across the country, and then realizing I was having a child with the guy. I moved back.
For those of you that don’t know, I was raised an Independent, Fundamental Baptist. I don’t blame Christianity for the abuse that I experienced, but I do blame many Christians for perpetuating the belief that women are to submit to their husbands even in dangerous or outright wrong situations, because their husbands are accountable to God, and all we are accountable for is submitting.
This book is an embodiment of the problems I have with fundamentalism. Basically, it trains people into tolerating abuse (which is easily learned, otherwise), and that is a mighty hard habit to unlearn. I have a hard time with God being used as a means of guilting people into doing things that they sense aren’t right. I know that the author would say that was never her intent, just like the Pearls say that their child-rearing methods were never meant to cause abuse of children. I also know that I’ve personally seen this book have that effect. Just look at the Table of Contents:
The kind of black-and-white mentality that goes into a book like this runs rampant in fundamentalist churches. It’s the cause of people being told that divorce is never okay, that children need a strong nuclear family no matter the circumstances, that turning the other cheek and quietly submitting is the way to turn your husband’s heart toward God. Have enough of that drilled into your head for long enough, and you’ll have years of guilt over running contrary to the diatribe, even if you have good sense on your side.
In my experience, the guilt is the hardest part of divorce, and it’s the hardest part of single parenting. Even if the situation is abysmal, you’ll always wish it had been better. Sometimes it just isn’t.
In my case, no amount of wishes and prayers have been able to change the people in my life. “People change organically,” a friend told me last week. I’ve seen my ex make a few changes over the past year or so; none of them have been for my sake, or for my son’s. All of the nagging, begging, coaxing, cajoling, and tears in the world weren’t enough to get through to him in any meaningful way. The only person’s actions that I’ve been able to change have been my own, and somehow the idea of going along with someone else’s bad ideas just seems like a… bad idea. And I have enough of those on my own. Amen?
NOTE: I didn’t purchase a copy of this book; I read a copy my father bought for my mother (already a soft-spoken, submissive woman) during one of his many “salvation” journeys. I am absolutely not endorsing the book in any way, and expect to receive no money for not plugging it.