Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Forgiveness & Family Abusers

First there were the bullies who bloodied her son. Then her husband’s job loss. Then bank threats to repossess her house. But most jarring of all was the message from her dying father.

He had one request of his mid-forties daughter, even if she refused to talk to him. Forgiveness. He’d like a little forgiveness-peace before his last breath.

She dialed the number of the father she hadn’t seen or spoken to in nearly 30 years. “I’m dying!” he wept. “Please forgive me for taking your jewelry!”

My jewelry! She was astonished at the thought. “Oh, no!” she said to a father several countries distant. “That jewelry doesn’t matter, at all!” This was the man who had raped her from age five. He had beaten her with belts, the metal buckles cutting into her flesh. He had smacked her face bloody – until she fled as a teenager, never to return. For decades, she had been tormented by nightmares of him chasing her with a knife, bent on murder.

Now, he wanted forgiveness?

“I don’t care about that jewelry,” Jaz said to her long estranged and now destitute father. “What you did to my body and mind is the issue.”

“You want forgiveness? That happened long ago,” she reported as he sobbed. “I wanted to get rid of hatred cancer inside me. So you’re asking forgiveness in the wrong place. Now, you need to ask God for forgiveness.”

She did not wish revenge. She felt not so much cold as dead to him. So her next actions were remarkable. Despite her own perilous finances, eviction threats, and terrifying memories, she scraped together a little money to send to her tormentor.

Cousins, aunts, uncles – all hated this family villain. So they were startled at new messages from the violated daughter. “He’s dying – so check on him,” she challenged those living near enough. “And pray for him, so he can go to God clean and white,” urged Jaz.

Finding his father living in squalor, a son took his own abuser home to die.

Rallied by a grim victim of incest, torture and father-violence, the relatives gentled the family ogre into a world he had never known. A world where kindness flows from the nature of the givers, who refused to replicate the patriarch’s vile nature. While seeking God’s mercy, the father gratefully soaked up family grace. His dying heart mellowed. Talking with him occasionally, Jaz’s heart began to mellow, as well.

“How does he look?” she asked relatives on the scene. “Sick and skinny,” they replied. So the images of Jaz’s dreams shifted. The knife-wielding monster morphed into a skinny, helpless safeness. The Jaz of dreamland now moved towards him calmly, not fleeing in terror. She wrapped her helpless father in her arms, comforting him in his agony. She felt happy and at peace.

The old family villain made his exit. His elderly sister called Jaz from an ocean away. “Thank you,” she wept, “for sending my brother to God clean and white.”

As it turned out, the entire family was astonished at the robust faith lived out by Jaz. It’s not that she was churchy. For decades, she’d hardly darkened the church door. Friends and relatives urged her to reconnect with God, as solutions for her issues were far beyond them. Threatening banks get some odd credit, too – shoving stressed-out Jaz to the only place where helped seemed possible.

“During the worst year of my life,” she said, “I found God. When I found him, no problems disappeared. But somehow dark clouds were chased from my mind. Now I trust him for whatever comes. Instead of feeling life is such misery, it seems now to me like sunshine, perfume and flowers.”

As for remarkable healing that rippled from Jaz throughout a physically and emotionally battered family, she sees this as a direct gift of recalibrated faith.

Jaz was not a cheap grace-giver, denying that evil was done. She spoke truth to the power figure in her life, from a safer place of self-protection. But she seized a greater power than revenge by shifting to mercy and grace. She started with forgiving behavior, long before she felt emotional warmth. The behavior gradually evolved into emotional forgiveness. It was not that she could shove her violating father into redemption. But she could offer herself as a bridge to that soul-saving state.

In the process, Jaz was astonished at personal healing, mental clarity, relationship repair and empowerment found for herself.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Triple Child Killer And Church Connections

Triple child killer Mark Castillo did more than drown his three young children in a Baltimore, Maryland, hotel bathtub on March 29, 2008. He also exploded common assumptions that such horrors engulf families mostly in seedy, drug infested, poverty striken underbellies of the American society.

As it happens, the children’s mother is a respected pediatrician in the Washington, D.C. area. Dr. Amy Castillo has also served in music, Bible study and singles ministries in local and South Carolina churches. But superb education, professional status and church engagement were not enough to save this family from slaughter – announced in advance as ex-wife torment strategy by Mark Castillo.

From my own clinical work with church communities, this I know: rare is the church that does not include families with similar traits. It’s not that they’re likely to generate blood curdling headlines. More likely is the opposite. Carefully, quietly, covertly to avoid outside observers, churchy abusers cultivate respectable, even saintly images, while savaging the hearts and minds of spouses and children.

Statistics show that Christian families are just as likely to suffer their own private holocausts as abused families in a surrounding culture addicted to violent imagery. When one such victim in Washington state sought help, church leaders told her to “submit more” and challenged the husband to “love more.” The wife tried compliance. The husband opted for murder, fatally shooting his wife and three children while wounding his elderly mother-in-law.

In such situations, the church not only fails to give refuge to the innocent but is used as a front and a weapon for the treacherous personality who, like Judas, may hang out with the righteous while privately plotting evil.

What can church leaders, counselors, congregational care ministers and concerned individuals do? A brilliant move would be attending this conference next October 10-12 in Takoma Park, Maryland: Partnering for Change: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence. Featured speakers will include Christian academics, intervention experts and government officials bridging those worlds. More information, as well as immediate gateways to research and guidance is available at http://www.peaceandsafety.com/.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Alcoholic Father's Secret Gift

(c) Beverly Hubble Tauke, Author
Healing Your Family Tree

In her mid-twenties, Diane was a beautiful young environmental scientist jetting around America’s ports as a civilian with the U.S. Coast Guard. I was a press secretary plunging into the intriguing world of Capitol Hill media relations. We shared apartments before and after my two years teaching in Africa. She served as a bridesmaid in my wedding, and husbands delivered children into our lives. Decades came and went.

We confided in each other of convoluted family histories, including my great-grandfather, Billy Hubble. Hubble...hmmmm.... Yes, he was a distant cousin of the brilliant astronomer, Edwin P. Hubble, of space telescope fame. Nestled among numerous superstar Hubbles of his era, the wayward Billy went to his grave renowned for spectacular drunk driving crashes with his horse-drawn logging wagons--long before breatholizer alerts. By my count, fallout has trickled downline from alcoholic Billy for six generations now.

I knew early on that Diane’s life was impacted more directly by an addictive personality—that of her father, given to drink as was my own Billy. After the first edition of Healing Your Family Tree, a response came from Diane. Plunging into a new journey through family history, she had gained, it seems, a gift from the grave. The gift from her father was not new. But she finally saw what had been invisible in her mind's eye, but waiting all along to be embraced and cherished.

This was Diane's discovery: [The first edition of Healing Your Family Tree] "is life changing -- bringing relief for pain I have carried most of my life. Since childhood I have quietly mourned my father's life, which followed a very sad course and a tragic end. But I have always heard that 'every cloud has a silver lining,' and as I used this book to examine my orphaned father's childhood, I had an epiphany! I realized that my father's entrepreneurial spirit and extraordinary resourcefulness were born from his early need. Further, it was a cause for celebration because I have been told all of my life that one of my most helpful qualities at work and at home is my resourcefulness. So, that "silver lining" can be inherited. Thank God that this book's Plan for Transformation blessed me through a greater understanding."

As the author, I note candidly that the point is not the book. The point is the process of mining family history for unclaimed gold. Diane's epiphany can be a gift to others. Definitely, it's a gift to her children. Research shows that parents who make sense, find meaning, excavate gold out of whatever rubbish litters their histories are most likely to produce stabilized emotions and enriched relationships in their kids.

Pain can blind its victims to silver linings, leaving them twice-burnt. But as Diane discovered, secret treasures can be rescued out of difficult father relationships. What better time than now to excavate a richer emotional legacy, a soothing snuffer for cinders of the soul?

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Surprising Presidential Fathers

© Beverly Hubble Tauke, Author
Healing Your Family Tree

Brain Teaser #2 From Prior Blog: As Father’s Day nears, what U.S. Presidents were raised without birth fathers? Which ones were raised by alcoholic father figures? Of numerous Presidents who fit this description, several appear below.

Answers to questions above can be surprising—and perhaps encouraging to those lacking physical or emotional presence of a nurturing dad. Following are my observations from a 2005 newswire, presented here as Father’s Day approaches:

Some of our more remarkable presidents were shaped not by family success but by grim family pain. George Washington, for example, was fatherless by age 11 when his prosperous father Augustine died. Turning to older stepbrother Lawrence as a surrogate father, George mourned Lawrence's death a few years later as well.

Abraham Lincoln's father Thomas was impoverished and illiterate, physically and psychologically brutal. Thomas raised Abe and his sister Sarah in a forest shack and beat Abe for reading, violently opposing the ambitions of his young son to escape the squalor. Resenting such abuse, Abe refused to visit his father's deathbed, attend his funeral, or mark his grave with a tombstone.

Among recent Presidents, Ronald Reagan endured an alcoholic father who was "a cynic who tended to suspect the worst of people," reported Reagan. Dying before his son was even born, Bill Clinton's father left his young son to be traumatized later by an alcoholic, wife-battering stepfather, Roger Clinton.

How is it that young George, Abe, Ron and Bill not only survived severe family suffering, they seemed to pry triumph out of tragedy?

U.S. presidents who came from harsh family backgrounds had a nurturing presence in their lives that helped them to reach great heights. Abraham Lincoln's stepmother adored him and encouraged his studies; Ronald Reagan's mother was his rock and Bill Clinton's mother built him up during tough times.

The positive influence of one heart-warmer, whether a relative, friend or mentor, can spark a person to overcome a painful past. Research showing how surrogates can profoundly enrich and redirect lives suggests important actions we can all take on this issue:
1) Recall and savor the empowering impact of those who have enriched our lives as children or adults.
2) Thank those who have sweetened our journeys, blessing their lives in return and reinforcing their impact in our own hearts.
3) Thank God for allowing our paths to cross—often correcting or boosting our direction in life.
4) Assume that others who enter our lives--including our own and our kids’ friends--have invisible wounds we may never see. Surely, for some it is we who will be life sweeteners and boosters—if we’re willing.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Family Trauma Triumph

© Beverly Hubble Tauke, Author
Healing Your Family Tree

BRAIN TEASER #2 ~ See end of this column

As has been said, the boy is father to the man. The girl is also mother to the woman. Early history hardwires our systems. Thank God, minds, hearts and relationships can also be retrofitted.

So it was for physically and emotionally abused Abraham Lincoln.

Thomas Lincoln raised motherless Abe and his sister in squalor—in a forest shack without proper doors, windows or roof. Expressing bitter disdain for his son, the elder Lincoln beat knowledge-hungry Abe for the offense of sticking his nose in books.

What’s with Thomas? Why was he such a tyrant?

Thomas was himself a trauma survivor whose father had been killed by Indians. From the age of eight, Thomas roamed rural Kentucky as a child laborer. A product of illiteracy, poverty and rootlessness, Thomas sucked his son into his own misery.

While abusers tend to produce abusers, some victims emerge from early abuse with super-sensitive radar for others’ emotional trauma, as Daniel Goleman notes in Emotional Intelligence. Perhaps that’s why Abe’s sons created chaos in the White House. Their dad could not bear to discipline—as severe punishment had so deeply embittered Abe that he severed himself from his birth family, including a step-mother who loved him dearly.

But Abe’s high-gear oppression radar may also explain why he had eyes to see and ears to hear the agony of slaves, and was compelled to act. Peer beneath the skin of many liberators and find an oppression-soaked soul. Think Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela.

Such ability to pry triumph from trauma is a prime trait of those who soar out of suffering, as the legendary phoenix rose from ashes. Viktor Frankl, survivor of four Nazi death camps, saw such trauma-transformation as the key to life itself for those who shared his death-defying journey.

Old Testament political superstar Joseph demonstrates mind and heart healing secrets for other trauma survivors. Sold into slavery by his own brothers and framed into prison, he refused to whitewash family treachery. But he also celebrated his good grief, grateful that the very acts “meant for evil” by his brothers were used by God to catapult him into astonishing power (Genesis 41:51-52; 50:20).

What old wounds infused character, wisdom, resilience, and strength into the core of each of us, enlarging both potential and opportunities? As Joseph showed, answers to that question can dramatically revise autobiographical memory. But answers also reveal intriguing clues to God’s choreography of our lives--even at the darkest moments.

As Father’s Day 2007 nears, what U.S. Presidents were raised without birth fathers? Which ones were raised by alcoholic father figures? See the next blog.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 8, 2007

Parent Hatred Melter

© Beverly Hubble Tauke, Author
Healing Your Family Tree
June 9, 2007

BRAIN TEASER #1 From the last round:
See answer below

Daniel Goleman notes in Emotional Intelligence that early abuse or neglect wires victims to scan for treachery, shifting the neural alarm system into overdrive in an emotional hijacking. Solomon put it more simply: “As a man thinks, so is he.” The good news is that change in thought patterns can produce truly astonishing shifts in internal emotions that drive responses and relationships.

A renowned Virginia pastor once told me that even after a profound spiritual awakening as a Christian he “hated” his mother for her cruelty throughout his childhood. Then one day he observed his mother’s parents with her.

So vicious were they that he “got it,” instantly. His hatred melted. He saw why she was so clueless about love and about parent-child relations. This revised image of his mother produced an emotional seismic shift, and he was filled with sympathy for his tormentor—herself a victim of emotional brutality. As compassion softened his behavior towards her, she was drawn to his faith and her life was transformed.

Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) notes that early neglect or abuse sabotages empathy—thus the abused son had a cold heart for his mother. But empathy--a foundation of emotional stability and morality—surged dramatically when jolted by revised mental images of the players on his family stage. Thought change hotwired new emotions which in turn rippled spiritual vitality and relationship healing throughout the family.

Liberation did not come by the minister ignoring or denying ugly skeletons in the family closet. Inner freedom came by confronting his grandparents’ emotional violence, with truth revising his mental image of his mother. Thus the son’s heart became a nurturing and transforming refuge for the parent. Inevitably, such emotional detoxing offers new emotional vitality to multiple relationships – including spouse and children. Trickle up and trickle down “blessing” for the family by “confessing” ancestral error—just as Moses’ promised (Leviticus 26:40-45).

BRAIN TEASER #1: The U.S. President in the #1 brain teaser wasn’t so fortunate:

What U.S. President’s estrangement from his verbally and physically abusive father resulted in refusal to visit his dying father; refusal to attend his father’s funeral; and refusal ever to place a headstone on his father’s grave?

ANSWER: Abraham Lincoln

This answer, of course, raises intriguing questions:

How could a man whose “heart became a fortress for millions of oppressed slaves” (Healing Your Family Tree) reject his dying father’s request to see him?
How did childhood abuse mold Lincoln as a father?
How did abusive Thomas Lincoln infuse a liberator’s mind in son Abe?

Answers reveal both risk and opportunity for the rest of us: Next blog.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 4, 2007

Welcome to the Journey

© Beverly Hubble Tauke, Author
Healing Your Family Tree

Permission to Reprint for Groups

Those who ignore their own family history are volunteers for lobotomies—deadening big chunks of their brains—the parts that sort out life, love, relationships and spiritual vitality.

It’s not just that family history wires thought habits, beliefs, emotions, character, self concepts, relationship patterns, world view, and hope or despair for the future. More, it’s that we are enslaved or liberated by our views of that history, regardless of its triumph or trauma. Research shows that those who make sense of family history gain hope for:

Improved marriages
Emotional vitality
Relationship healing
Stable kids
Quality family life

So if that sounds appealing, hang around. Popping into this blog occasionally, you’ll find a mix of research, personal stories, historic figures, public personalities and biblical wisdom plus the inevitable mystery or quiz intertwined for our shared adventure.

We’ve invited a panel of experts to launch us on our way:

MURRAY BOWEN: Inspiring renowned programs named for him at Georgetown University, this was a revolutionary Bowen discovery: Those who deal with family-of-origin issues make faster, more profound progress in marriage repair and quality than those in traditional marriage therapy.

JAMES FRAMO: Another giant in secrets of retro-fitting families, this was a revolutionary Framo discovery: One single multi-generation family session can out-produce extensive individual therapy, as work with the family group unleashes powerful emotional and relationship repair.

DANIEL SIEGEL: Internationally acclaimed UCLA expert on attachment issues, shows how those who find meaning in the past – including left-over family trauma – shed emotional baggage and gain a richer inner life that nurtures their own children into higher levels of emotional and relationship health.

MOSES: Should send a cosmic-shout, “I told you so!” to all of the above and to the rest of us. Millennia ago he promised a new crop of family blessing to those willing to admit not just their own blunders, but also ancestral errors (Leviticus 26:40-45). If only my great-grandfather, Billy--the family alcoholic--had listened. Could have saved my chromosome connections rivers of trickle-down grief….

On this point, Murray, James, Daniel and Moses are synchronized: Few moves can pack the payoff of scrutinizing your family history. So come on back. Hang out. Just wait and see….

Meanwhile, here’s a brain teaser for your next rendezvous here:


What U.S. President’s estrangement from his verbally and physically abusive father resulted in refusal to visit his dying father; refusal to attend his father’s funeral; and refusal ever to place a headstone on his father’s grave? As for trickle-down impact, how would you expect his own family history to mold relations between this President and his kids – and with his spouse?

Labels: , , ,