Dysfunction doesn’t always correlate with religion, does it? There are actually religious people that have good, healthy families, right?
My parents just left from a week-long visit to see their brand-new granddaughter. (We are now a family of 4! 😀 ) Living 1000+ miles away from them, sometimes I forget what it’s like to navigate the stormy waters of my family’s dysfunction. I think up these great plans of fun adventures to have with my parents when they come visit, delusional desires of making normal adult parent-child memories. And then they arrive, sometimes we get organized enough to do one of these plans, and once again am thrown into the controlling, manipulative, passive passive passive aggressive, easily-offended cyclone of a relationship. I always leave the venue frustrated with my unmet expectations.
What would it be like to enjoy going to a pumpkin patch, corn maze, petting zoo with them? I will never know, aside from my own longings from seeing more “model families” posting smiling faces of similar experiences on social media.
I can’t entirely blame religion for dysfunction, for it was religion that helped bring healing to some of my own. (Although, one could argue it was religion that put the unhealth there in the first place). However, I noticed there are very strong correlations with my parents’ religious beliefs and pieces of their personalities and behaviors that I find, at least mildly, repulsive.
I don’t want to spend this blog complaining about my parents, so I’ll keep this list to those more relevant to the subject and limit it to just a few examples.
Tendency toward (what I would call) abusive authority:
My dad’s very strong, loud, angry tone in commanding our first daughter (22 months old) is not only something she fears and responds to immediately, cowering, but something in which he takes great pride. “This is how you get them to obey. You must command authority. See?” Oooooh that word. Obey. So much abuse has come from it!
A colony of ants danced on the corner of the sidewalk a block from our house. It must have been quite the festival, for there were a great many of them congregating together. My husband, taking an opportunity for educating our daughter and peaking her curiosity, guided her over to look at them. “Look Clarity! Ants!” My mother ran over, disgusted, “Ooh yuck!” she exclaimed as she stomped and wiped her feet all over the little bugs, squelching their lives. Although ants can be pesky creatures, their presence was in no way impeding our lives. Her assumption of control over their life and death really bothered me and reminded me of Genesis 1:26 — “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'”
Conversations about politics, my husband asked genuine questions attempting dialogue with my father. Rather than answering with a conversational tone, he responded angrily, authoritatively, and defensively. Even swearing at Silver to reinforce his authority. No hope of dialgoue, let alone any return questions of interest in the way Silver thinks.
Certainty, which begets foolishness:
My sister sent my mom with a check to give me, repaying me for some local coffee I mailed her. “Hey, can I have that check?” I asked my mom. Looking utterly horrified with brows that furrowed into her soul, “I gave you that check!!” She exclaimed.
“Um, mom I have no memory of that at all. I reeeeeally don’t think you gave it to me.”
“I GAVE IT TO YOU. I gave it to you!” Lips pursed with the fear of having a daughter who loses things, she looked like she had been physically injured at the thought.
We went back and forth for a couple of minutes. The difference? Although I was absolutely convinced she hadn’t given the check to me yet, I gave her the respect due any human of letting her opinion and perspective stand as valid. Instead of saying, “No, you didn’t,” I only ever said, “I don’t remember that,” “I don’t think you did,” “I have no memory of that,” etc. saving face for her sake. Contrastingly, my mother only asserted absolute statements. “Yes I did!!!” “I gave it to you!” “You lost it!”
Five minutes later my mother found the check in her purse. She handed it to me. No apology, nothing. As a sort of childish act of frustration at the whole thing, I waved the check in the air for my husband and father to see. “See? Do you guys see this?” My mother joined in, “Yes! Do you see I gave it to her? Now if she loses it, you all know.”
With trepidation, disdain, and utter terror, my mother asked me, “You’re not a liberal, are you?!?”
The question “You’re not _____ are you?” is completely unsafe and places the feelings of the questioner above the pursuit of the other person and his/her reality. Only an answer in the negative continues to maintain the peace. Any question making it easier to answer one way rather than the other isn’t really a question at all, but rather an underhanded way to control the other.