Shaming Is Often Very Overt
I’ve devoted much of my recent writing to helping you understand the more subtle – even “unintentional” – ways that shaming occurs. I would be remiss, though, to not commit space in my writings to address the more obvious forms of shaming. I wrote my blogs for the person who has been overtly shamed through experiences of being abused or demeaned within their own family culture, and also for those of us who internalized shame while in family environments that outwardly appeared to be very healthy and, in some ways, even enviable.
Tragic Real-Life Examples
Undoubtedly, many who are reading this have experienced shame in ways that were far from subtle. In fact, everyone may have been aware of it. That, in itself, may be the worst part of the shaming – that other adults were present or aware, yet seemed to condone the shaming we received, and made no effort to protect us.
Allow me to share paraphrased versions of several stories of parental / family shaming that I’ve heard from my clients over the course of my years as a Christian Counselor. To assure client confidentiality, I’ll refer to these clients simply by initials.
- “Any time my dad would get mad at me, he would make me sweep our gravel driveway until it was clean.” – RC
- “My parents divorced when I was in high school. My mother told me that if I went to or even talked to my dad that she would move everything I owned out onto the street curb. After I came home from seeing my dad, I found all of my possessions in a pile next to the street. For the next 45 years until her death, I never spoke to my mother again.” – JK
- “For about six or seven years, when I was between the age of five and about twelve, my parents would use me as a sex toy for them and their friends. There was a shed behind our house where they would do this. Sometimes it was just my parents – my dad sexually abusing me and my mom videotaping it. Other times there were several other men there who would take turns molesting and abusing me while my parents watched.” – JT
- “Any time I was sick and vomited, my step-dad would make me eat my own vomit. I grew to hate that man.” – MC
- “I grew up on a farm, pretty far away from other people. One day when I was a very young girl, my older brother came home drunk and beat my mom to within an inch of her life while I was there in the room.” MJ
- “Before I reached puberty, my mom’s husband would come into my room when I was in bed, and he would pinch my testicles until they nearly bled. Then he would deny to my mom having done it.” – BJ
- “My husband was so wounded and compulsive that the house had to always be spotless. He wouldn’t let the kids step foot on the floor after it had been cleaned, so they had to jump from one rug to another in order to get through the house.” – HW
- “At the private high school I attend, to make an example of me for getting in trouble, the principal called all of the other kids and their parents together in a big room, then spent a long time berating me in front of them for what I had done. And my parents were there the entire time.” – TT
- “My mom and dad divorced when I was in middle school. When I would visit my dad’s house and stay overnight there, he and his girlfriend would have loud sex in my dad’s room. And he had taken off the door so it couldn’t be closed.” – KW
- “For some reason, when I was a young girl, my dad could not stand for a girl to have bangs. So, one day he came home, and I had done my hair with bangs. He didn’t say anything, but just went and got the scissors and cut my bangs off all the way to the root.” – JK
- “My husband’s grandfather had eight children: the first three were born of is wife, and the next five were born of his oldest daughter.” – AW
A Family Culture of Shame
There is a significant difference between not aware and not responsible. Many adults whom I talk to about them perpetuating generational shame assert that there is no way they could know they had shamed their child in these ways because they did “the best they could.” Really? By simply duplicating their shame-based childhood pain into their own children – whether unknowingly or intentionally – they considered that the best they could do? The pain in their own lives should have been proof enough that something needed to be radically changed.
What the parents are implying is that they cannot be responsible to provide their child something their own childhood did not provide them. I won’t argue that this makes reasonable, logical sense. How can a person give away something they don’t possess? But I believe God sees it differently.
You and I always have a choice. Whether we were raised in church or in the bars; whether we had two parents, one parent, no parents, foster parents, adopted parents, grandparents… as adults, we still have the choice to either impose our pain onto others, or find a way to do better – no matter what it takes!
If we fail to parent our children from the foundation of the love and grace of Jesus, and the truths of God’s word, then we are guilty of perpetuating generational shame for three to four generations. Our grandparents represent the first generation, our parents would be the second generation, we are the third, and our children are the fourth. The passage in Deuteronomy clearly states that God will “lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected–even children in the third and fourth generations.” And if you’re reading this book, there is a pretty good chance that you’re one of those four.
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Life Training offers convenient sessions at our office in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as online counseling via Zoom or FaceTime. Our non-profit counseling practice has an outstanding track record for over a decade helping men and women, individuals and couples who are ready to move beyond anxiety, depression, and conflicts in marriage or other relationships find hope and healing in their lives. Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org