When God planned the family the whole relationship was intended to be one of love and protection. Children come into the world helpless and dependent. God gave the animal kingdom an instinct for taking care of their young until they reach the maturity to take care of themselves. Humans don’t come with such instinct. They learn by what they observe in their own growing up and in what they see in the growing up of others around them. One of the strangest things about life is that an adult who was abused as a child is much more likely to become an abuser as an adult. You would think that if one were abused as a child they would see how much harm it does to a child and would become all the more determined that nothing like that would ever happen to a child in their family.
It is strange how the whole process works, not just on the topic of child abuse but on most things that go on in a family, A child growing up in a family that was addicted to alcohol or drugs is much more likely to grow up addicted themselves than one who grows up in a family where drugs and alcohol were never part of the every day life of the family.
A child whose parent was in jail or prison during their growing up is many times more likely to grow up as one breaking the law and spending time in prison. A child growing up in a family where the children were born outside the ties of marriage are much more likely to grow up having children outside of marriage than one who grows up in a family where marriage and family go together.
Whatever is standard practice in the family we grow up in, is likely to become standard practice in the home I establish later on. Face the point with regard to child abuse. A child growing up in a sexually abusive family, will search for ways to declare their family life normal and accepted. Even though they may express horror over what has happened and be condemning of the abusive parent, they will still look for ways to make it normal. Everyone wants to see their life as like others.
The damage done to the one who is abused may turn them in the very direction of being what they hate. The truth is, any problem could be turned around in one generation if every person made up their mind that they would be the one who is different from their heritage. Think of all the families that have lived on welfare for generations without anyone breaking out of the habit. Children group up thinking this is the normal way to live. The idea of one getting a job and supporting their family by earning a living never enters their mind. People who go to college, get jobs and support their family seem like a completely different race of people.
How are we to break the cycle? Whether the topic is abuse or living on the mrecy of the people from one generation to another, how can we make the next generation the one that breaks the mold and passes a healthy way of thinking down to their children? Step one in the program is to stop justifying, excusing or trying to explain away what has happened in our family background. Often the best answer is to declare our parents sick and in need of help rather than trying somehow to make them seem normal. If we admit they are sick and full of sin it becomes the norm that one would want to change from that way of life. As long as we go down the road of making some excuse for their wrong actions or trying to normalize it, the pattern will continue from one generation to the next. Label the action as sinful, sick and demonic and it loses its appeal for us.
While stopping the process so that it doesn’t pass to another generation is vital it isn’t enough. How is the person who was abused to recover from the abuse? When the abuser was a parent or step parent or even an older brother or sister it is even more difficult because we come into the world trusting those very people to be our protectors. When the one supposed to protect us becomes the one who hurts us it messes with our whole mind and spirit. Many times I’ve had adults who were abused as children to describe how they handled the abuse that often went on for years in their growing up. I’ve asked over and over again, “Why didn’t you tell someone?” Most of the time the answer is something to the effect of “what’s the use?” Often they believe the others in the family already know but don’t consider the one abused of enough value to upset the family in trying to stop it. Many times the one who was abused will say, “I just pretended it wasn’t really me. It was as though my body was dead and I was just observing what was going on.”
How is a person who has gone through much of their life pretending they aren’t really there to find themselves and find meaning for their life as adults? It will require some reeducating of yourself. What happened was not your fault. It didn’t make you unclean. It was the sinful, demonic actions of someone who has allowed Satan to take over their lives. If Satan can make you feel like the guilty one and get you to think you are unclean before God, he has won. Realize when the Lord forgives our sins he forgives them all and we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Know that the abuser was acting for the devil and it broke the heart of God to see you abused.
Two powerful tools that are available for the one who has been the victim of abuse especailly by a family member are allowing God to reshape your thinking about parenting and being filled with the Holy Spirit. How can a person have a right attitude about God as our father when it was our physical father that abused us as a child? Don’t let a sinful person become your standard of fatherhood. God is your father and he loves you more than you will ever understand. Talk to God as your father and ask him to change your ways of looking at a father with him as the standard.
Because of the emptiness that usually goes with being a victim of abuse it is extremely important that we live a full life. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul wrote, “Do not be drunk with wine for that is dissapation. But be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The only way to drive darkness from a room is to fill it with light and the only way to drive darkness from inside us is to fill yourself with the Holy Spirit of God. When we are filled with the Spirit, the Spirit will bear fruit in us of love, job, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Just as the Lord could free Mary Magdalene from the demons that occupied her and give her new meaning and purpose in life, he can do the same for you. When you find this fulness in Christ you can then become one who helps others who face such a horrible past and need a hopefilled answer as you did.