My Dad: the Abused Becomes the Abuser

I really didn't want to go on any tirades about my dad here on my blog.  He's gone and I didn't want it to seem like I was bitter or bashing him.  I will tell you, lest you think any different, we did make total peace with each other before his death and I feel pretty much at ease in my mind about him now.  In any case, I do want to detail a certain pattern in the life of my father that I think is very needful to expose.  A pattern that I believe has been definitely repeated over and over again in other places concerning myself and other people in the Christian circles of my life.  A pattern that needs to be stopped. 

My dad had a really trying childhood.  He was not raised in a Christian or what someone would consider a normal, loving home in the slightest.  His father was abusive to him, his brothers and his mother.  My dad would talk of tales of my grandfather chasing my poor grandmother around their dining room table with a beer bottle in hand ready to strike her while the kids hid in fear under that table.  He also told of my grandfather gambling himself silly to pay for my grandmother's cancer bills.  She was dying and did die when my father was nine.  My dad had nothing but good to say about my grandmother.  She was wonderful in his eyes.  I remember one night he began to tear up when he and I were alone talking.  He recalled her hands, how beautiful and loving they were to him.  That was one of the only times I had ever seen my father cry in my whole life. 

After my grandmother's death, dad continued to live with his father's gambling and drinking and abuse.  Grandfather did provide for them, but he was negligent after his wife died, so my dad got into a lot of trouble.  He found himself on the wrong side of the law and a sympathetic Christian couple began reaching out to my father.  They had eventually asked the courts and my grandfather if they could take him in and take care of him and watch out for him.  The court allowed my dad to live with this Christian couple.  I think he was fifteen or sixteen when they took him in.  My dad entered their home, into a relationship with Jesus and was now on a track leading him through Christendom.  He was off to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri to study theology and become a pastor of a church someday.

While attending college my dad heard word that his father went missing and then was found murdered a couple of years later, his remains lying in a farmer's field, miles from where he lived.  My dad had to go down and identify his clothing.  They dug up his dental records, they were my grandfather's.  The theory of how my grandfather was killed stems from his ostentatious gambling habits.  Someone wanted a ride home from a gambling party and he killed my grandfather and took his money or that's what they believe.

From that point on the only family my dad had was one half brother who was in an insane asylum and one half brother who moved away and didn't hear from much since.  His new family was within the realms of Christianity and the Independent Fundamental Baptist community.  He graduated from BBC and became a pastor of a couple of churches in Wisconsin.  He got married and had five children.  We moved to Connecticut where he took over another church and we lived there most of our lives. 

So my dad went from such a family and straight into this new religious community who also became his family.  I am not sure about all that happened in the transition period between those two places in his life.  I know he says he became a Christian.  Jesus, to him, was believed to be enough for him.  His new religious family was also, I can imagine he believed, would be enough to see him through life.  His wife, his kids and his ministry.  He had everything he needed to get on in life happily, right?

I would love to say, yes, we all lived happily ever after, but I am sad to say that our lives together with my father and in the religious community we were forced to be in were anything but happy.  I really could write a book about all that happened, but I'll just say we were all abused in all forms and I really think my dad needed professional help.  His mental stability definitely came into question almost daily by his words, his actions and his abuse.  It was so bad that his children hated him and secretly his wife hated him, too.  In honesty, to indicate the total climate of my home further to you, I will tell you that me and my brother plotted to kill him at one point it was so bad.  It was just talk, we were little children at the time and only knew of the hell we were in and were so desperate to get out of no matter what.  It was our feeble attempt at the time to get through such deep suffering and sadness.  It was our way of consoling each other I suppose.

Now, as a true believer in Jesus Christ myself, I know that coming into a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ should be life transforming.  I do not believe you will become perfect and I am a perfect example of being far from perfect.  But there should be a transformation in your life as a result of the Holy Spirit residing in you.  A transformation from darkness into light.  A new desire to turn away from sin and go a new direction of desiring to do right by others and God.

We were in a community that did supposedly believe this as well, but something I will add to what I believe is that certain people like my dad need professional help in combination with his supposed life in Christ.  My dad went through a horribly insane childhood.  I know it could have been worse, but it was still bad enough to mess a kid up I think.  I am convinced that my dad needed help for all that he went through.  He needed Jesus for real, a real transforming relationship with him AND he needed help, counseling and maybe even some psyche drugs.  I don't say this lightly.  I know in our day and age it seems like everyone is on a drug of sorts for their ailments or that so many have some sort of phobia or problem, and in some cases people are hyper-focused on what "might" be wrong with them at every turn.  I know we need to be aware of that, but I say, my dad was insane.  He needed help.  Period.

In the community we were in, not only did people not know about what was going on in our home, but I am not sure that they would be in agreement that my dad needed professional, secular help from the medical community.  In our community, Jesus was enough, Christianity is supposedly enough.  And yes, I do believe in God' power and the power of the Holy Spirit, but I do not think that that belief has to defy or be in conflict with someone's need for professional, medical help when necessary.  It's obvious that my dad was scarred by his childhood and because of that and yes, that combined with his sin nature, he couldn't cope with daily life, with his wife or his kids.

For some reason, almost every simple problem that occurred became a great ordeal  to my dad.  These daily problems were something that couldn't possibly be dealt with calmly.  My father got to a place in his schizophrenia where he thought people were following him and trying to kill him.  Something as silly as losing the television remote would put my dad into a crazy fit and a hot pursuit of accusation and screams while attempting to locate that piece of made in China plastic.  A misplaced bill would turn into hours of searching and desperate crying out to the ceiling as to where it was.  Spilled paint in the garage turned into an angry beating.  Our laughing while playing a game was always directly toward him in his mind, "Why are you laughing at me?!" he would say.  He would never allow us to help him because everything had to be done perfectly or his way.  We couldn't touch his mower because we would break it.  We couldn't help him paint or do anything because we would screw everything up so badly that it couldn't be fixed, at least to him it seemed that way. 

I could go on and on and on and I don't need to, you get the point.  It's obvious to me and to any person with common sense that something was amiss, awry in my dad's brain.  Something had a hold of his mental capacities and I would like to say he definitely had a mental disease(s).  A disease that was never allowed by him or his religious community to be diagnosed, because Jesus should have been enough.  Sermons, bible reading, praying, church going, being a pastor, going to conferences and meetings...they were believed to be enough.  And because of that all prevailing mindset I do believe the abused became the abuser.  What probably could have and should have been diagnosed as a child or a college student never had a chance of being spotted or ever helped. 

My dad had multiple personalities.  He was schizophrenic.  He was probably a little bi-polar, manic depressive and obsessive compulsive as well.  He had all the signs and so much of what he did made no sense to any of us in our family.  A yes, he had a horribly abusive temper to boot, but we know that there was so much more than that wrong with him.  He needed help for sure.  But he would have never agreed that there was even a problem with him or that he needed help.  But when does someone who is insane agree to help or seeing the need for it?

In any case, I do believe that my dad got a whole lot of religious masking tape to hold him "together" and through this life.  He wore a suit.  He greeted people at his church warmly.  His family would stare at the whole thing in astonishment I think.  There was a cover up in our community.  Surely by my dad, but I think it very amazing that nobody noticed something amiss about our family in the religious circles we ran in.  Nobody noticed that my dad had any serious mental problems or that he was extremely abusive and hot tempered.  And I think that is where his multiple personalities came out the most, at church and with other Christians, but at home he was somebody altogether different.  To them out there, at work, with other Christians, at his church, at other churches, he was a pretty nice guy.  At home it was a sporadic and crazy, unstable person running rampant...that needed professional, medical help.

Help for the abused so they don't become the abuser.  Any abused person could possibly become an abuser themselves.  There is help for the abuser in the world and with Christ, too.  I do believe we need both in many instances.  I can only imagine what it would have been like if all involved would have help my dad to see that he needed to go for that help, to get diagnosed all that was wrong with him, how that would have helped him.  I can only imagine.  We can surely learn from this so that, yes, the abused does not continue a cycle of abuse themselves.  The madness has to end and it would help much if all circles of Christianity would see the need for this kind of help for the abused instead of just giving them a Jesus card and a bible and Christian college education.  The abused need more than that.  The warning signs are there and help must be given and the seeking of medical help and the use of drugs need to be strongly encouraged when necessary. 

The abused need more than religious masking tape.  Much more.         


Incongruous Circumspection said...

Ouch. Very familiar story. My mother is just like that. I look at myself every once in a while to make sure I do not become like here. Thanks for sharing.

Robbie Grayson said...


shadowspring said...

I never meant to be anything like my mom, and swore I never would be. But it takes more than a decision to change the "bomb in the brain". We should all encourage therapy and even meds where needed. We can change the world for the better, but it takes more than just will power.

Thanks for posting. Peace and good will, SS

Anonymous said...

As a mother of two children, that also suffered from post-pardum depression, currently using "medication" and someone who also grew up in the "IFB" world I completely agree! There is a stigma in the christian relm that if you use medication to help with mental health you are not truly relying on God. I guess I might buy into that if people that had cancer or any other disease (in the IFB) didn't go to the Dr. for medication for their particular illness. I believe God gave us brains and Doctors and we should use them both!

anonymous said...

Thank u. I too suffered from an abusive childhood due to my dads psychological issues. Your story sounds parallel to mine.

Freedom2B said...

Peace. Googled the name of an older blog and IBF and landed here. So glad to be back and reading again. I often find myself in your journeys.

Thank you.