Logan attended a delightful young lady’s birthday party on Saturday. They go to school together. And not just any birthday party: Sweet 16.
Apparently this young lady—I’ll call her Jaycee—has a set of grandparents who don’t come around very often. Said grandparents started acting badly at her party and Jaycee asked them to leave. Give that girl a medal—and her parents who raised her well. Translation: “You do not have my permission to ruin my birthday party. You’re not going to steal from me by acting badly here. If you can’t behave, you’re out.”
Truth and courage trump “courtesy” and “politeness.” Sadly, most families are more committed to avoiding conflict than teaching courage and healthy boundaries. I’ll say it again. Give that girl and her parents a medal. The next day I journaled, “What beautiful strength and wisdom.”
I ended part 5 of The Sneak Attack like this:
A misbehaving child needs correction, not a lollipop. Likewise, a sociopath needs the word no, not acquiescence, fear or a victim who resembles a door mat.
In other words, rewarding bad behavior is very bad for everyone.
The whole truth
After my mom died in February and before her funeral, I told Brandon and Logan, one at a time, the whole story about my younger sibling—Pam, The Almighty—and everything she did before, during and after The Showdown. Brandon remembered most of it, but it was very helpful for him to hear the whole messed-up tale in order, now that we were 10 years away from the emotions of it all. Logan heard the details for the first time. He was livid at his aunt, often referred to as You Know Who. Logan needed to know the truth before seeing “Aunt Pam” and his cousins at the funeral. He was old enough to hear it all.
Basically, I knew that Brandon and Logan needed to hear The Whole Truth, and I needed to speak it.
We would not be playing any old roles at the funeral or going forward.
Deprogramming the roles
When you were groomed for your role in a dysfunctional family—and mine was The Narcissistic Supply, better known as Nameless Silent Movie Character Actor—it’s very challenging to shake that role, to remove your costume, to say no. You were trained every day for more than 18 years for that role. And they expected you to play your role for life. That way, everything runs the way it’s supposed to in Our Perfect Family—I mean Our Perfectly Dysfunctional Family. The same ol‘ movie gets cranked out every time you’re together, and even when you’re not.
What every movie needs
You thought your dysfunctional family role was who you were naturally, but it wasn’t. It was who they tried to make you become. Who they molded you to be. Who they groomed you to be. Because every movie needs a star. Every movie needs an antagonist. Every movie needs an audience. Every movie needs a director. Every movie needs a behind-the-scenes costume designer. Right? Right.
Most of the people in the house play more than one role. Someone might be both the director and the star. Someone else—someone like Brandon and like me—might be both the antagonist and the audience. I’m seeing the credits roll…. You know, the list at the end of the movie of who played or did what. Hmmm.
But life isn’t a movie.
Dysfunctional family roles
Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family? If so, what were the roles? And I don’t mean Mother, Father, Child. I mean these kinds of roles:
The Accuser, The Addict, Angry One, Black Sheep, The Boss, Brainiac, Chaotic Domineeress, Chip Off the Old Block, Dad’s Pal/Favorite, Drama Queen, The Drunk, Escape Artist, The Gossip, Hypochondriac, Ice Man/Ice Princess, Indentured Servant, The Jock, The Loser, Loud Mouth, The Martyr, The Mistake, Mom’s Pal/Favorite, Nameless Nobody, People Pleaser, Perfect Princess, The Performer, The Preacher, The Pretty One, The Punching Bag, The Rebel, The Sadist, The Scary One, Show Boater, Silent Audience, Silly One, Slugger, Stupid One, Substitute Dad/Mom, The Whiner, Wild Child, The Winner, Work Horse, The Yeller, etc.
I’ve seen all but two of the roles in that list in the people that Brandon and I grew up with. Quite a list, isn’t it.
And there are more roles. What were yours?
If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you were given roles. You were trained to play your roles. You were also trained to not do certain things—to not see the truth, to not speak the truth and to not respond appropriately to the truth. You could call the training—I mean mind control—“See no truth, hear no truth, speak no truth.”
Abusive and neglectful parents use words like nice, polite, courteous, loyal, respect, love and truth a lot. Sadly, they use them inappropriately—to control instead of teach. Also, as many of you know, they lie about what those words mean and they lie even more about how those concepts should be applied to various situations—especially abusive ones.
My dad, the narcissist, was particularly fond of the word nice. From part 4 of The Trauma of Perfection:
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything” was the most difficult mantra for me to overcome. I was trained not to notice when things were wrong, not to react when things were wrong, not to speak out. I was trained to smile and be nice. I was trained to be polite. I was trained to say what other people want to hear. This training obviously gave me serious problems.
Interestingly enough, the word people would use to describe my mom was the word nice. I wrote about that in part 3 of this post.
Not so nice
So that’s the challenge for me. Here was this “nice” lady who did “nice” things, who people always described as “nice.” But I always felt conflicted about her. Why? Because she was against me. And deep down, I guess I knew that. That doesn’t sound so nice, does it.
Brandon was raised by two sociopaths. One of his dad’s favorite words during a berating was loyal and his mom was fond of shrieking, “I love you!” Good grief. Nightmares on steroids. I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes—a two-for-one.
Taking off the costume
When you think about the long list in Dysfunctional Family Roles, you can probably picture some familiar or maybe some extremely colorful costumes to go with a few of those roles—whether the roles belonged to you or the other people in the house.
How can we be transformed from a character in a bad movie into what we need to be—a truth-seer, a truth-speaker and a Courageous One? How can we take off our costumes? The costumes they gave us? The costumes they told us we were “made” to wear?
The real you
We must seek truth from The One who is truth—God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6, New Heart English Bible
And somebody else, even your parent, doesn’t get to tell you who you are when that “who” conflicts with what God has to say on the subject. And what does God have to say on this subject? It’s an important one—who you were made to be. Let’s check it out.
Created by and for God
Enjoy some or all of these scriptures from God’s word.
And God created man in his own image. In Godʼs image he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27, New Heart English Bible
For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers; all things have been created by him and for him.
Colossians 1:16, New Heart English Bible
“Do not be afraid; for I am with you. I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will tell the north, ‘Give them up,’ and tell the south, ‘Do not hold them back. Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the farthest parts of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yes, whom I have made.’”
Isaiah 43:5-7, New Heart English Bible
Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, New Heart English Bible
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you do not receive our witness…. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged. He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.”
John 3:10-11, 16-21, New Heart English Bible
“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before people; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16, New Heart English Bible
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba. Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God….
Romans 8:14-16, New Heart English Bible
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
Luke 12:32, New Heart English Bible
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7, New Heart English Bible
Thus says the LORD, “Do not let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, do not let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who boasts boast in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 9:23-24, New Heart English Bible
He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does the LORD require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8, New Heart English Bible
I hope these truths from the Bible bring you hope, understanding and peace.
Today you read a lot about dysfunctional family roles. If something about that reading felt familiar, it’s a good time to get out your journal and start writing. What roles were you given? Are you still playing some of those roles? How are those roles impacting you and those around you today? What do you need to do to take off your old costumes? What will you choose as a healthy replacement for those roles and costumes?
Read and write
What do you need to do to experience The Truth—God—personally? Our preacher has a funny saying: “If you want to hear the voice of God, read the Bible out loud.” Yep. That’ll do it.
See this post, beginning with the section called The Healing Power of Journaling. I hope you’ve started reading your Bible and journaling. It’s a very therapeutic way to begin your day. And you’ll learn a lot about God and yourself in the process. If you’re not reading your Bible and journaling, is there something that you’re afraid of? Here’s the thing. God already knows everything you’ve ever done or not done. You don’t need to hide from him.
Seek and find
More importantly, Jesus is The Good Shepherd written about here. He told the parable of The Lost Sheep here. He’s the one that Cory Asbury sings about in “Reckless Love.” If you don’t know him yet, take your time reading through these posts: Thanksgiving and The Post-Trauma Transformation.
Coming next: Like I’ve said before, today’s post surprised me. I thought the part about family roles would be a couple paragraphs and it just kept on growing. Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll finally get to read about those dreams I mentioned in part 3.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Daniel 10:19
Song for Healing: The morning after publishing this post, I woke up singing this song in my head. After listening to it, I changed the original song to this one. Drink in “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.