My Victory/Identity Anthem – “This Is Me”

If you haven’t seen The Greatest Showman yet, you should.  It’s a beautiful movie that hits all my criteria:  Great acting, great music, a moving story, a meaningful message, and something that can be watched with my kids.

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The story is about P.T. Barnum, the man who started the first circus.  He enlists a band of society’s outcasts, and they form their own sort of family; they understand each other’s scars and come together to support and love each other.

Barnum then gets caught up in his fame, and the pride sets in.  He shuns his loyal troop at a fancy party because he doesn’t want to be associated with this group of outcasts in front of his hoity-toity friends.

The bearded lady then responds with an absolutely stunning musical number, and it resonated with me BIG TIME.  I regularly rock out to this song; it’s my victory anthem.  Check it out.

Here are the lyrics, and here’s the YouTube video.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
This is me
and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me

Is Adoption God’s Plan?

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A favourite past time of Christians is to gloss over hard things by declaring that these things are “God’s plan”.  Adoption – and all the loss, the grief, the trauma, the separation, and the damage – is no exception.

So is it true?  Is adoption God’s plan?

I really don’t believe it is.

I don’t believe it was God’s plan for my first mother to be alone and pregnant for the second time when she was only 18.  I don’t believe it was God’s plan that she was born into a family of addiction, raised in foster homes, and then learned to fend for herself at a mere 16 years old.

I don’t believe it was God’s plan for me to separated from my mother and my older sister. I don’t believe God is in the business of broken families.

I don’t believe it was God’s plan for someone to step up to take a baby, but leave a mother alone and wounded – so they could fill their own needs. I don’t believe He is okay with adopters benefiting from a young mother going through a crisis.

I don’t believe it was God’s plan for me to be adopted by parents that would neglect and emotionally abuse me.  I don’t believe it was His plan that I grow up as a lonely little girl, seeking the love and belonging I desperately needed, and having emotional damage that would never be acknowledged or tended to by my adoptive parents.

No.

I believe God’s plan is for every last one of his children to be born into families where love and grace abound, and where they are nurtured and cherished.  I believe God is in the business of people and families being whole.

“But that’s not reality, though.”

Duh.

Here’s a newsflash:  Not everything that happens in this world is “God’s plan”.  In fact, most of it is not.  So why do we call these things “God’s doings”?  Are we really so simple that we can’t accept the great chasm that sometimes exists between our circumstances and God’s perfect will?

Just because it sounds nice and may feel good to believe that adoption is “God’s plan”, doesn’t make it true.  It’s a lie.  And it’s a harmful lie.  I’ve had many people tell me that being adopted was part of His design for me.  I don’t buy it.  Why would His plan for one person be to grow up in a loving, secure home with their biological family, and His plan for me to begin with loss and trauma?  God does not dole out good fortune to one person and less-than-ideal fortune to another; that would make Him a sick and twisted puppet master.  I know it is not in His character to author harm for any of us.

Part of the enemy’s scheme is to convince us that God is the creator of our pain and hardship to turn us away from Him.  The enemy doesn’t have to go any further than finding religious Christians and churches to spread this lie on his behalf.  It’s sick and demonic, but it’s brilliant marketing on his part.  Who better to get to spread his lies than than God’s kids themselves?

And there’s no shortage of religious Christians who will line up to spout this garbage and teach it freely.  Had a miscarriage?  “Well, God’s ways are mysterious, but He must have some plan for you in it.”  You were diagnosed with cancer?  “God wants you to learn through your suffering.”  (*BARF*)  That theology is a lie from the pit of hell and from the mouth of the enemy himself.  God gives us life, and life abundant; He gives us hope, and a future.  It is the enemy who steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10).  Don’t believe a demonically-inspired theology that will inevitably harden your heart and turn you away from the One Person who can truly help you.  Because that is what that theology and the spirit behind it intends to do.

Adoption was never God’s plan for ANY of his children.  And just think of the damage it causes to the heart of an adopted child to tell them that God wanted this to happen.  That God authored the hurt, the trauma, the grief, and all that goes along with it.  Think about it again:  Why would we tell adopted children that God wanted this for them?

If you were adopted, hear this again:  Adoption, and all the pain and hurt it causes, WAS NOT GOD’S PERFECT PLAN FOR YOU.

He doesn’t hurt us just to turn around and heal us.  He doesn’t harm us then expect us to come running to His arms.  Doctors don’t break our arm and then want to fix it – they would get charged for that, right?  They’re not that stupid or twisted, so why do we think God is?  (Which seems intuitively obvious, yet much Christian theology teaches this mixed-up, harm-then-heal theology.)

So where does God play a role in adoption, then?

He is the healer and redeemer.  He is the one waiting to redeem all the damage done by adoption.  He is the one who wants to help pick up the pieces, while he shakes His head over what messes we humans make of things when left to our own devices.  He is the one who mends what was broken.

He is the one who took my shattered, orphaned soul, and tenderly pieced it back together.

He is the one who has been showing me what perfect Love is and what it looks and feels like.

He is the one who whispers to me, “I never meant for you to get hurt” and draws me into His arms, the same way we do for our kids when they experience an emotional blow at the hands of another human.

He is the Perfect Parent who has never and WILL never leave me nor forsake me.  He is both mother and father, filling in the gaps and lesions I had in my heart.

He didn’t author my adoption.  Because if He did, that means that He authored my mother’s wounds, my abandonment, a life of psychological abuse from a narcissistic family system, and the fact that I will never be part of a “normal” family.

No.

He authored my redemption, when I gave Him permission.

And He wants to author yours, too.  Whatever brokenness you’ve experienced.

Please, let’s stop giving the enemy free advertising by spreading his lies that make God the bad guy, turning people away from Him; instead, let’s learn God’s truth and spread that, so that people can be drawn in by His love.

God is the good guy.  He is in my story, and He wants to be in yours too.

Adoption is not His plan.  But healing, redemption, freedom, truth, and hope?  Those are exactly His plan, which He is just waiting to carry out in each of us, if we let Him.

The Darkness Hates When The Light Exposes It

The truth is all the more important when speaking out results in attacks; it’s a sign you’re on exactly the right track. The darkness hates when the light exposes it.

The last thing an abuser wants is for their victim(s) to speak out about their behaviours.

When this abuse happens within the narcissistic family, it’s not just the narcissistic parent who doesn’t want the victim to speak out – the children who become the parent’s enablers and protectors also make that their goal.

It seems pretty backwards that children who grew up in the same abuse (or at the very least, watched it happen to others in the family) would protect the very person responsible for that abuse. But, as we know, narcissists are experts at grooming those around them to cater to and protect them in every way.  Often, the entire family will protect the narcissist and enable them to continue to abuse; certain children will even become perpetrators of the abuse as well. It’s one of the sickest family trees out there.

I recently received a comment on a post from a sibling who commented with a fake name. (Mistake 1: Underestimating the detective skills of the scapegoat. 😉)

Here is what “Steve” had to say.

This is textbook narcissistic family dynamics.

It is very common for emotional abusers to gaslight those they abuse by minimizing the abuse – they reduce it down to a “pity party”, and/or accuse you of being self-centred.

And if you haven’t yet been able to get out of the abuse, you might even believe those words.

I did for years. “You’re too sensitive, get over it.” “That never happened.” “Mom didn’t mean that, she’s just getting old.”  “You’re all about yourself.”

This is a prime example of the kind of emotional manipulation that the narcissistic family feeds off of, and how they attempt to silence the victim and keep them under their thumb.

If you’ve experienced this – let me tell you: WHEN YOU OPEN UP ABOUT THE ABUSE, IT IS NOT A PITY PARTY.

The “pity party” card is a common one used by abusers and their enablers.  Don’t fall for it. I don’t anymore.

There is no pity involved in escaping an abusive relationship or system. There is no pity involved in opening up about the abuse.

Petty accusations are simply a tool used by someone who feels threatened; if they can’t shut you up, at least they can try to insult you, right? They can try to dismiss your words and try to make you question yourself. They can try to spin you in a negative light so others question your experience too. They can try to intimidate you into shutting your mouth.

But we know better.

The truth is all the more important when speaking out results in attacks; it’s a sign you’re on exactly the right track. The darkness hates when the light exposes it.

And the “Steves” will always be there.  Forgive, give grace (because most of them are still bound up by the lies and abuse), and move on.  But don’t let them squash you.

So keep at it, light shiners. This world needs you. ☀️

The Narcissistic Mother: Sex, Lies, and Misinformation

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I had to heal from Stockholm Syndrome before I realized that my narcissistic mother’s lies and omissions were harmful.  For a long time, I thought my mom was simply uneducated, had no time to discuss important topics, and was even just a little endearingly daft.

It took me a long time to realize that these lies were yet another facet of narcissistic abuse.

The Red Cross defines “child abuse” as any action that results in physical or emotional damage.  Check.  This can happen through neglect (check), lack of proper hygiene (check), and lack of appropriate education (check).

Remember too, that narcissists lie.  They tell lies of commission (telling misinformation) as well as lies of omission (leaving out important information).

Rewind to my childhood:

I thought it was normal that my mom didn’t have conversations with me about my changing body.  When I started sprouting breasts, it was my oldest brother’s girlfriend who admonished my mom to purchase me some bras to conceal my overly-obvious nipples.  When I started experiencing body odour, it was again my brother’s girlfriend who told my mom to buy me some deoderant so I wouldn’t stink.  I often cringe thinking about little girl Sarah, going to school with nipples showing and reeking of body odour.

I thought it was normal that we never used proper body terms.  When I was around age 7, I recall seeing our dog’s penis sticking out one day, and asking what it was.  My mom replied, “Oh, was his little red wagon sticking out?”  We used colloquialisms for anything related to genitals; I learned that there was something inherently shameful about those particular body parts if we weren’t even supposed to say those words.  I didn’t know until I was an adult how much that one detail increased my risk of being sexually abused as a child, and how much it would help me talk about it properly (and have a proper testimony) if it had ever happened.  Never mind to have a healthy body image and proper view of sex and reproduction.

I thought it was normal that I didn’t know about the menstrual cycle until I explored the plastic-wrapped packages I’d see in the garbage every so often.  I was alarmed to see that someone had been bleeding, and was old enough to have already been in the know about changes my own body would undergo in not too long.  Years into having my period, I had to explore tampons on my own, as my mom had never offered them as a more comfortable and discrete option.

I thought it was normal that my parents never taught me about sex.  I vividly remember figuring out what the sex act was, when I overheard a rape victim describe her rape in detail on the evening news.  I recall the shock I felt as I heard her describe her perpetrator forcing his penis inside of her.  I remember being frozen in time, hearing this information, and in this manner.  My heart beat and the words rang in my ears as I processed what I had just heard.  I should never had had my first knowledge of sex come in the context of rape.

I thought it was normal that my mom told me misinformation about topics she didn’t want to discuss.  I’ll never forget the time I was in grade 6 and inquired about how a person contracted AIDS.  With her own agenda in mind, as always, she flipped off a quick reply to my query: “By having sex with more than one person”.   I knew not to press, but held that information inside of me and wrongly trusted that my mom was telling the truth.  I also remember when my good friend told me later that year that her mom was pregnant; I knew her mom was with someone other than my friend’s dad, so I replied in concern: “But now your mom has AIDS!”  She laughed at me, and told me how ridiculous that statement was.  My cheeks burned in embarrassment, and felt such anger at my mom for setting me up like that.  I should have known the truth.

I thought it was normal for my mom to tell me I needed to wash better because she had seen the slightest amount of vaginal discharge in my underwear as a teenager.  I showered daily, but figured I wasn’t doing a good enough job.  I remember washing obsessively, thinking I was dirty and gross, and feeling ashamed for my body doing something that was, in fact, perfectly normal.  I felt shame over a bodily function that God designed us to have, because my mom had again given me misinformation.  It wasn’t until my adult years, when I began exploring natural birth control methods, that I realized that cervical mucus was normal and a sign of a healthy body; it was part of how God designed women.  Instead, I lived for years in shame with the lie that I was dirty and abnormal.

I thought it was normal for my mom to include nothing more in my sex education than “don’t have it”.   (And at this point she still hadn’t officially discussed anything about human reproduction with me).  She was adamant that I just don’t have sex until married, but never expanded more on it.  I was never given a healthy view on what sex was, how to enjoy it safely, how wonderful it is in the context of marriage, and that it was a good thing.

I thought this was all normal.

I thought it was just mom being mom.  Haha, she’s so funny and clueless.  Oh, mom.

As a younger adult, I laughed about these stories with my siblings, and about their own similar stories.

It’s just mom.

But the I realized that no, it’s not.  It’s abuse.

It’s abuse to fail to provide proper hygiene from a child.

It’s abuse to lie, omit information, or give false information.

It’s abuse deny proper sexual education for a child.

It’s abuse to set up a child for embarrassment and shame, and to go into adolescence and adulthood not knowing basic information about our bodies and reproduction.

So no, it wasn’t just mom being cute.  It wasn’t just mom being embarrassed.

It was mom being selfish.  It was mom neglecting.  It was mom breaching trust.  It was mom doing damage.  It was my mom emotionally abusing.

And it was not okay.

It has taken years to reshape those topics in my mind.  Years of seeking truth to replace the lies.  Years to realize that this was yet another facet of the dysfunction and abuse.

But I’ve also discovered I am not alone.  Recently, in a Facebook support group, the topic came up on the absurd lies that narcissistic mothers have told.  I was shocked to see that that VAST majority of them were related to sex and reproduction.  What I experienced was very common, and there is extreme comfort in that.

So if that was also you, I want to affirm you by saying that it was wrong that you were not taught properly.  It was wrong that you were lied to, that you were given misinformation or no information, and that you went into your teen and adult years ill-equipped.  It was wrong that you started your adult life with so much wounding in this area, and so much falsehood to undo.  It was wrong.

We needed our moms to teach and guide us.  We needed our moms to tell us the truth, to be open and honest, and to be the source of information that we could trust.  We needed our moms to be the safe place we could go to talk to about sex and puberty.  We needed to have a healthy view of sex, not a distorted one based on lies.  We needed so much more.

Thankfully, God is in the business of redemption, and He can redeem this too.  You are not alone.  I am not alone.

 

Spiritual Abuse – When someone uses the Bible to justify their poor behaviour and to convince you to endure it.

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Spiritual abuse is a common – and particularly twisted – form of mistreatment found within the narcissistic family dynamic.

Many articles out there focus on spiritual abuse within the context of the church, but it happens within the family just as (or more?) often.  It can be hard to notice, because these narcissists are upstanding Christians who we shouldn’t question, right?  So I thought I would share my experiences with spiritual abuse in the context of the narcissistic family dynamic (but please know this happens in families in the absence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder too).  I hope this helps others be able to pinpoint, and then stop, any spiritual abuse in their life.

The definition of the word “abuse” is as follows:

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“Spiritual abuse” is the act of misusing Biblical principles for one’s own agenda, and as a means to continue maltreatment of another.  Spiritual abusers will use Bible verses and faith concepts to justify their abuse and harm of another person; they will also use the Bible as a means to avoid changing their behaviour or taking responsibility for their poor choices.

Sounds like the perfect tool for the narcissist’s tool box.  A narcissist is not interested in ever taking responsibility for how they affect others, nevermind change their behaviour to stop the hurt.  On top of it, a narcissist will turn it on you and make sure you know that you are the problem.  Never them.  And spiritual abuse is just another facet of how they do this.

Here are some examples of what spiritual abuse looks like:

1. You are told you should continue bearing the abuse of someone, because Jesus was also abused and walked on.

Let’s get this one straight.  Jesus was persecuted for his faith, and He was walked on and eventually crucified to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.  The abuse and death he endured was for the salvation of mankind, not for the justification of an abuser’s actions.  The suffering you endure at the hands of a narcissist or other unhealthy person does not serve a greater purpose; in fact, the only purpose it will serve is to enable the abuser and keep them in their sin longer.  And that is not a purpose that God is on board with.  The Bible does not tell us to bear the sinful actions of others; in fact, we are told in several places to have nothing to do with evil actions.  Persecution for the sake of our faith (which we are told will happen if we are truly following Jesus) is an entirely different thing than being persecuted by another person’s sin.  It is pure evil, in my opinion, to use the name of Jesus or anything written in God’s Word to even suggest that someone’s abusive behaviour is justified or should be tolerated.  He came to make us free, not to put us in bondage to another person’s dysfunction.

2. When you question or call out an abuser for their behaviour, you are told you need to have more grace, or be more gracious,.

Grace is defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”  Grace is God’s gift to us, to empower us to be what the Bible says we are; grace is not for enabling sin.  When an abuser (or an abuser’s enabler) uses the grace card on you, it is not really grace they are asking for; they are asking for you to tolerate their abuse and to quit speaking up.  They are expecting you to enable them in their poor behaviour the way that others in their world do.  Are we to give grace and allow someone to continue to mistreat us?  No.  In fact, Paul said that we are not to continue in our sin so that God’s grace will abound (Romans 6:1).  God himself placed boundaries around His grace to prevent it from being misused.  And narcissists are experts on misusing grace.  The very nature of a narcissist (never seeing their flaws or their responsibility in anything, never mind doing their part to repair and reconcile) make them a prime suspect of this manipulative use of grace.

Are we to extend grace to others?  Of course.  But using God’s own word as a guideline, we are not to use grace simply so that sin – our own or others’ – can abound.  And that is exactly what a narcissist does: their sin abounds, and they do not want to own or change their behaviour.  Giving grace to a narcissist can be very dangerous ground.  If someone in your world is telling you that you need to be more gracious, or expects you to extend more grace to them BUT IS NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR BEHAVIOUR OR MAKING CHANGES, they are misusing the concept of grace to continue to abuse.

3. When you try to speak to someone about how their actions affect you, and they use Bible verses to justify their poor behaviour.

This is a common one I have encountered; a verse about “loving one another” or “bearing one another’s burdens” is slipped into a conversation where the abuser’s behaviour is being called out, and they don’t want to take responsibility.  A Bible verse is a sick tactic used to shift the focus of the conversation and to implore the victim to be more “loving” or “patient”.  This twisted use of Scripture holds some irony in it – an abuser uses God’s Word about love and patience, yet themselves show none of it.  Spiritual abusers do not think the rules apply to them, only to you, and only to shut you up and stop you from questioning them.

It is wrong for anyone to use God’s Word to justify any ongoing behaviour that wounds another person; God’s Word is meant to bring freedom, not to bind people further. Quoting Bible verses to others should serve to encourage another person, not to abuse.  Not to silence.  Not to shame.  Not to justify sin.  Period.

4. You are told to be more forgiving and let it go, because that is what the Bible says to do.

Yes, the Bible absolutely says to forgive.  However, to forgive does not mean to continue to be a doormat for someone’s abuse.  Here is the definition of “forgive”:

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Nowhere in that definition does it say “to continue to be abused and bear it silently”.  To forgive is to cease feeling angry, and to cancel someone’s debt; but it doesn’t mean we keep lending to them.  I once heard someone say, “Forgiveness is mandatory.  Trust is earned.”  When we forgive, it doesn’t mean we continue to make ourselves vulnerable and open to ongoing hurt and abuse.

When someone implores you to forgive but they don’t change their behaviour, count it as a red flag.  They are using the concept of forgiveness to control and to avoid changing.  Most spiritual abusers I’ve encountered want “forgiveness” so they don’t have to change, but have no intention of achieving true reconciliation (a process which involves both parties owning, acknowledging, forgiving, and changing future behaviour).  Remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things: you can forgive someone on your own, but reconciliation involves the efforts of both sides (something you will not get from a narcissist).

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Spiritual abuse is a common tactic for the narcissists out there who call themselves Christians.  It is just another way that they do what they know: To hurt people, and then to find any way to avoid responsibility or change, and to make everyone else the problem.  Unfortunately, spiritual abuse spins God and His Word in a negative light, and perpetuates lies about Him that keep people from wanting to know Him.

I feel grieved to think of the countless sons and daughters out there who have been turned away from their Heavenly Father because of how their narcissist parent twisted and misused His words and message.  If that is you, please know that God’s heart is the absolute opposite of what you experienced:  He would never damage you, and He wants to heal you and set you free.