Hope comes with understanding in bad situations. Deep confusion leads to despair. I have received many messages of appreciation for the series I have published in the last few years on the topic of narcissistic abuse and toxic people/relationships. A search on my home page (search window is just under comments in the right hand column) under those terms will locate them. It is eye-opening and tragic to hear from so many dealing with these issues.
Holidays can bring up a great deal of turmoil, both for those living in the midst of a malignant narcissist’s emotional, spiritual (or other) abuse or, those who are attempting to recover from it, even years later. The grief over a shattered ideal of a love that never was, wasted time, and often, failure to properly see things earlier is real. A time of year rife with sentiment and memories can open these wounds afresh.
One of the most painful things to watch are the enablers of malignant narcissists. These people serve to provide fuel for the perpetrator in harming a target. Their intentions, however pious, and their (willful) ignorance are beside the point. No malignant narc can operate without gas in his or her tank to run the engine of emotional and spiritual abuse. It’s important to understand the fuel and who is providing it in these situations. This is the subject of my latest article, linked here.
Additionally, a good article by another (and the comments below it) linked here, describes the difference between unconditional love and the toxic variety in these situations. It is crucial to understand this. It is easy to miss it when your heart and soul are involved with someone.
The latest article I have written is relevant to all, because even if you have not faced this situation personally, others around you have and are. You don’t want to be one of those operating the fuel pump for evil. Nobody should want to be a tool in the destruction of others.
Will recorded this traditional Thanksgiving hymn a couple of years ago. I thought I’d post it again this Thanksgiving. To American readers, have a wonderful day of thanks with friends and loved ones!
Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.
Yesterday, our 20-year-old son Will played at a recital at Wheaton College. He played the Third Movement from Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Dr. Karin Edwards, his teacher, on the accompaniment piano. This is the last 4 minutes of the movement (it is 14 minutes long total.) If anyone would like to see the whole thing, I will post the other 2 segments in the comment section. A friend of his took this video from the balcony. The video isn’t sharp, but the sound is good!
We heard this piece develop beginning last summer when Will decided to learn it after hearing the Chicago Symphony perform this at Wheaton with a Russian pianist. When Will decides to do something, all you can do is get out of the way. He would finish with his landscaping job where he worked hard all day, and then he would head straight to a church that let him use their grand piano to practice. He would return home at 11pm sometimes, not even having eaten dinner.
What I admire most in our son is his dogged tenacity and his work ethic. I have learned things watching him. This is a tremendously difficult piece of music. At times, it seemed like it would conquer him. But he kept at it, and ultimately, conquered it. That’s the spirit we all need. Never give up. Tomorrow comes the music! +Soli Deo Gloria+
Tom has a tradition of planting trees at our homes (we have lived in six in 21 years.) He also has had a tradition of painting our doors a warm red color. The red was inviting, I think. At our house in South Carolina, he also painted the shutters to match. The shutters had been a dull gray color, and it was a perfect color change for curb appeal.
At our snug ranch house where we moved last year, Tom is getting around to various projects, including putting up shutters a few weeks ago (a good improvement) and painting the bland, white front door. We were going to use red again, but Tom unexpectedly showed me a yellow color on a paint card. Against the white-ish brick on the front of the house, it looked cheerful and bright. So we now have a yellow door.
Every time I pull up to the house, it makes me smile. Along with the field stone borders he put around the little pines he planted and the same border under the Magnolia tree, it makes for a neat front yard.
We have such nice neighbors here. Emily is dear friends with our nearest neighbors whose little granddaughter comes over to play, in addition to the family on the other block who are friendly and helpful. Then there is the lady across the street who comes over with her little dachshund she adopted. Each day she comes by after school for Emily (as she did in the summer), and they take the little dog for a walk. I think Emily is good company for the lady and the dog, once very shy, is warming up.
By contrast, the political scene has never been uglier in our country. Social media is filled with the carnage. I read the news and try to digest what is going on and end up depressed and discouraged. Whichever way the election would have gone, this was a guaranteed scenario with great anger on one side or the other. In spite of victory laps from political conservatives, I remain convinced this nation is in terrible peril. There are no political answers in this divided country, ultimately. I believe that more than ever. The answer is spiritual, but nobody is interested in that subject at present. They await miracles from the new political messiah. We will see.
My news about our cheery yellow door isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I thought of it as a metaphor in these dark times. As I have said before, life is really lived in the micro sphere of every day things and people. If Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump, we would still get up every morning and do the little things that make up our lives. The little dachshund would still live across the street with her humans, Emily would still be found talking to the neighbors and making new friends all the time, and I would still spend my days making a home for my family as best I can.
I have learned that to be happy, we have to make a choice to be that way. There is a great deal of evil in the world, more now than ever. We have all had wounds and hurt from that evil in our lives, some more than others. The losses evil people can cause are undeniable. Among so-called Christians, I am sorry to say that indifference, coldness and brutality are no less prevalent. Those perpetrating it and those who watch silently as enablers seem to go from strength to strength while their victims long for things to be made right. But, having said that, happiness and cheerfulness is still a choice. This is the only life we have, the one God gave us. I believe God does see the injustice and the evil, and in His time, He will vindicate, He will deal with those who have so disregarded His commands to love. Meanwhile, we are called to live in the light.
So don’t hesitate to “paint your door yellow.” Or to put it another way, smile just because, be thankful for what you have, and do a little happy dance, if nothing else, in defiance of the joy killers who seem to so populate the earth these days. I do that. I am home alone a great deal. I put on music sometimes when I am down. My kitchen has a big slippery, laminate floor, and Em and I do our own dances in our socks until we laugh ourselves silly. Last night, we listened to Sleigh Ride and several other Christmas songs (I know, I know, it isn’t Thanksgiving yet.) Whatever you do, don’t give in to the darkness. God is the author of joy, not despair. God is in His heaven still. By looking up and not around us, we can remember that best.
My songbird was up early and cheered my heart today. This is what she sang out in the kitchen in the first stanza. (She’s learning this at school.) There is good counsel in this hymn, written in 1734, Stanza 3 is particularly fitting today with all the fear and tumult on the political scene in our country.
With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.
Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.
With the Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.
If your task by thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow every where
While you here must wander.
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.
Hymn # 483
Author: Peter Frank
Tune: Fang Dein Werk
1st Published in: 1734
An Armenian- Russian painter captured waves on his canvases like none other. These depictions of powerful, translucent waves are beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and the ships in distress add poignancy to the paintings of Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky . See some of them here at MyModernMet.com
The ships caught in the terrible storms the artist depicted reminded me of the Navy hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save. What a metaphor these scenes are for our country right now, and how appropriate the hymn. We are in deep peril. America, a country that has been a rich recipient of grace and favor from Divine hands, has mocked God for too long. The results all around us, as we can see, are catastrophic. Those who put their trust in God alone will find refuge from the storm. There is no other safe place.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge
Once in a while I treat Emily to the breakfast sandwiches she loves at a local McDonald’s. (I am making quite a confession here!) On a school morning, if we leave by 7am, we have plenty of time to sit in the parking lot while she munches away and we talk.
There’s a middle-aged man who works in the drive-through who is there every time on that shift. We sometimes get him on the speaker when we order and, he’s there either in the money window or the pick-up window. Emily always notices. “Mom, he’s always so cheerful.” He is. He comes across always as professional, courteous and warm sounding. That is a rare thing in the service industry. So he stood out, even to my young daughter.
Today was one of our drive-through mornings and there he was. As I took the bag, I told him my daughter calls him “the cheerful guy.” His face broke out in a huge smile. “Well, thank you, that means a lot!” he said.
People like him stand out, because there’s anger everywhere right now, and it’s catching. I feel it catching hold of me thanks to the constant drum beat of terrible things that frankly, we can do little about. Yes, we are in bad times as a country, but that’s why when you find a cheerful person in your small part of the world, or somebody who smiles when they don’t have to, who treats you kindly, they shine like a bright light.
It isn’t easy to be cheerful. I think of the man in the drive-through and having to deal with the public all the time. People can be really ugly. Really ugly. But he somehow manages to come across as cheerful anyway.
Here’s to all the cheerful guys and gals who do their best at their jobs, whatever they may be, and treat others well. Whatever your employment, caring about excellence and caring about people is an awesome and rare trait to have. You are a blessing, and you are noticed!
(As a P.S., letting people know that you appreciate their cheerfulness may brighten their day. You just never know!)
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
My husband is a professional trumpet player and for 21 years, he has called from intermissions at orchestra concerts, ballets and shows he’s playing at night to help support our family. I look at the clock and know right when the phone will go off and I’ll hear his voice. “Hi, Ing…”
A mother anonymously went public online seeking help regarding a rebellious daughter. She and her husband were heartbroken that the daughter they had lovingly raised had entered adolescence and had turned into a foul-mouthed, rebellious young adult. The girl rejected any requirements for change by her parents and had created a living hell in the home. The distraught mother sought advice from readers of the site about what to do to “improve her relationship” with the girl. Advice ranged from “Tell her her tattoos and body piercings look nice and don’t judge!” to “Don’t argue with her at all. Let her do what she wants, so she doesn’t see you as authoritarian.” One commenter said, “Rules create rebels.” That’s the thinking out there.
As a mother who has had five teens thus far (all of the five are adults now), my husband and I have certainly seen our fair share of what it is to parent adolescents and the challenges it presents. What I want to address in this post is not run of the mill boundary pushing, attempted (emphasis on attempted) disrespect or occasional disobedience to parents. There is hardly one of us in existence that has not tried this growing up. What I’m talking about here are the extreme cases where a home is literally being destroyed by a young person who is at war with authority and is engaging in abusive conduct towards his or her parents.
When Tom and I were first married 21 years ago, friends of ours were going through this with a high school aged child. We would hear them describe what the daughter, raised in a Christian home with love, was doing (things like stealing from her own grandmother’s checking account, leaving school to have sex with her fast food manager, etc.), hear about the scenes she was creating in front of the other kids in the home, and we would wonder, how can they let this go on indefinitely? What is being accomplished here other than destroying the home for the other kids and destroying their own mental and physical health?
Getting back to the anonymous account from the devastated mother I referenced at the start of this post, she said her daughter was screaming at her husband and her, using the ugliest profanity, reserving the ugliest for her own mother, hurling f-bombs and then slamming the door (of the home they paid for), breaking things in her room, saying she hated them, and so forth and so on.
I will get to the point. Allowing any resident of your home, minor or otherwise, to behave in this fashion and keep residency, is to do the following: A) Send the message that abusive speech and behavior towards you is OK B) Train other children in the home that this is how conflict and disagreement is handled and how parents can be treated C) Demonstrate that your home can be turned into a war zone by anyone who so chooses D) Signal that you are not a full human being with boundaries that must be respected.
I have seen enough of the “unconditional love” of modern parenting, Christian or otherwise, to see that the current interpretation is a disaster. I believe in unconditional love, but not if it means that you and/or your spouse willingly serve as a doormat, punching bag, and a slum landlord who must accept anything and everything your tenant (that’s what an angry rebel becomes) dishes out. You also become an enabler of domestic abuse. Yes, abuse.
These young people are abusive. When this is a lifestyle pattern that harms others, it’s not “hormones”, “typical adolescent angst”, or anything else. It’s abuse. Nobody in my home will call me filthy names, accuse me with lies, and use profanity and anger in my presence. Nobody. My home, our home, is a haven from the rest of the world that has gone morally insane. This is our refuge of peace, and we will have peace. Tom and I are in complete agreement and always have been (spousal agreement on these things is crucial) about these issues. We did not allow any one of our kids to turn our home into a hell hole of rage and anger. When a child is at war with the parents, it’s time to seek alternative living arrangements for the rebel. There’s a time to work and pray with a child. There is also a time to acknowledge that their problems are doing gross harm to others.
Parents need to enter parenting having these thing straight in their minds. Our warped culture, as I pointed out earlier, thinks that having foul-mouthed, abusive teens who spit on the parents who have raised them, loved them and provided everything they have, is normal. It may be normal in America, but it should not be.
Some of the horrific headlines of parental abuse and even murder are an outgrowth of the kind of parenting we have today where parents try to be friends, shower kids with stuff instead of inculcating values, while kids morally rot in front of their eyes. Then these sociopaths and psychopaths turn on parents when they (in desperation) take technology away or make some 11th hour attempt to regain control they lost long ago.
There are some parents who have parented with love and discipline, however, and the spirit of the age takes hold in the heart of a child anyway. It is all the more devastating when you have invested your heart and soul into the life of a child only to see them wander away from truth and love. Having seen this as a parent, it can be devastating and inexplicable. That’s because we sometimes see parenting as a formula that, if adhered to, will provide certain results. That line of thinking, common among conservative Christians, is also incorrect. Sometimes kids reject what they are taught outright. They are not machines that you can program. Down the road, living in the rubble of their own bad decision making, sometimes they return to the light and to the truth. I have seen this. Sadly, some do not. Those things are not in our hands. It’s our job to love and teach them what is right and true. What they do with that is firmly their own choice.
So what is in our hands? That is the point of the post. We must, emphasis on must, not allow any one child to destroy our homes with their sinful warfare. Love must be tough, and sometimes that means finding a residential option that removes a minor child from the home they so despise. It can be the only hope they have of seeing that their willful rebellion and abuse of others has long-term consequences. When you have a young adult living in your home who is showing complete and ongoing disrespect, the answer is obvious. Stop enabling it. Lay down the expectations of the rules of the home for young people early on, and let them know that they have one warning, after which, they will face the consequences. Write it up as a contract so things are perfectly clear. Stick to it. Failure to do this will result in you making a mockery of your own boundaries, authority and your requirement of personal respect.
Tom and I have lived through these things through the years. When I see Christian parents in total dismay at young adult rebels wanting to sit around gaming or refusing to do the most basic chores, expecting to enjoy the fruit of their parents’ hard work while contributing nothing but mouthiness and disrespect, it’s evident where the problem lies. You get the respect you expect. It’s that simple.
I saw a teen comment on the same post online written by the dismayed mother. The teen wrote, “Parents treat us with disrespect and think we’ll respect them back.” This is the attitude I am talking about. It is the job of the parent so say, “You have clearly rejected us as parents and are most unhappy with the job we have done. We respect your right to hold an opinion. Now you can view us as landlords instead. All landlords have expectations and rules for tenants. Here are ours if you expect to stay in this home and also listed are the consequences if you decide to do things your way. Then be ready to calmly enforce it. Dispassionate, calm enforcement of the rules, and a refusal to be drawn into emotional screaming matches is essential. Letting them push your buttons puts them in control, not you.
Cause and effect. Teaching that to young people is critical. Teaching respect for others is crucial. Start early and reinforce boundaries, something that modern parents-as-friends fail to do, beginning in early childhood.
Parents are people, too. We sacrifice the best years of our lives when we have children, pouring our time, energy and resources into our kids, because we love them. Don’t send the fatal message that they can turn around and spit on you. That is the wrong message.
Addendum: To those who say this is not parenting with grace and forgiveness, understand this: Repentance is turning around. When a son or daughter is truly sorry for their behavior and treatment of parents, it will be evident by conduct, not just verbal promises. If you hastily restore fellowship with someone in your home who has been abusive as described above, you only destabilize your home and invite further chaos. We are called to forgive seventy times seven as Christians. We are not called to lightly re-expose ourselves to health-threatening stress and abusive conduct from someone who may be manipulating to re-enter the home. This is true of any abuser, whoever they are. Forgiveness is not the same as renewed fellowship. That can only come where there is ample fruit of real heart change. Remember that.
Remember something else. When dealing with a full scale rebel who has turned your home into a war zone, be prepared for ignorant and hurtful judgements from others, some even within your own family or extended family. When you decide to be proactive and find an alternative living situation for the child/young adult, you will be accused of various and sundry parenting failures. “It must be something in their home. They are too (fill in the blank with accusation here.)” To parents already in pain, this can be doubly hurtful. I urge parents in this situation to refuse to discuss the situation with anyone placing themselves in a seat of judgment. Only you as parents know what has gone on and what drove you to an extreme decision. The response to such judges should be, “That is not your call to make. We are not interested in discussing it with you for privacy reasons. ” If they persist, cutting off contact with busybodies not showing respect for your own experience and decision making is the only wise course of action. Those who judge without the facts serve to further divide and injure you emotionally, something you don’t need at a time like this.