Blaming Daddy? | Part 1 of 2
Not once have I blamed Daddy for his beatings and troubling behavior toward me. In Part 3 of The Air I Breathed, I talked about my habit of constantly blaming myself. I didn’t like seeing this then, and I still don’t like it. Blaming myself may have been OK as a survival skill when I was a young child and teenager; it’s not OK now, decades later.
So where am I today? I took seriously the need to do something about the blame thing, especially if I’m going to move further in the direction of forgiveness. Since I posted Part 3 in May, I’ve written several pieces about this. My goal: to state clearly the things for which I blame Daddy, not myself.
I used Lewis Smedes’ book as a guide. As noted in Part 3, “Smedes deals with the challenge of forgiveness in complex cases such as child abuse–when trauma has radically changed the direction and nature of an individual’s life.” On pages 84 to 85 Smedes suggests three tests for determining whether someone is to blame for injuries suffered at the hands of someone else:
- He or she did it.
- He or she meant to do it.
- He or she initiated the action.
What you see below has been lightly edited to preserve my dignity.
My first attempt – Blaming My Father
- You did it. (It’s a simple fact.)
- You meant to do it. (You knew what you were doing.)
- You initiated the action. (Nobody forced you to do it.)
Therefore, you are accountable for doing it.
What you did wronged and wounded me personally in every part of my being—body, soul, spirit, emotions, mind.
What you did—simple facts:
You are to blame for willfully, intentionally and repeatedly beating me harshly with your hand (when I was very young), a ruler, a wooden spoon or a cane in an attempt to break my will, quench my spirit, shame and humiliate me, and silence my voice. You did this from the time I was about 2 years old until I was 15 years old. Sometimes you did this in the presence of one or more of my younger sisters.
- You forced me to stop crying, stop calling out for mercy, stop trying to cover my body or soften the blows in any way by beating me even longer and harder.
- You forced me to say what you wanted to hear, and to pray to God in words you wanted to hear and in the tone of voice you wanted to hear.
- You forced me to beg your forgiveness for my sin and show signs of submission to you.
During the beatings and in other disciplinary actions
- You forced me to deny and hide my feelings, especially anger, physical pain of any kind, or emotional frustration that you heard or detected in the tone of my voice, my body language, my manner with you or the look on my face.
- You did this by threatening me with more punishment (beatings) or banishment to my room (rare).
You were to blame for your abuse of me. I was not. I did not make you do it. You did it; whether you intended to hurt me a little or a lot, you did it. Nor did I force you in any way to do it. You initiated the beatings and punishments. I did not.
Put in other language, you provoked me to anger; closed your heart to me your first-born daughter; quenched my spirit and abused my body—both given to me by God.
I refuse to accept blame for what you did to me knowingly, intentionally and wilfully—without being forced to do it. You were to blame for your abuse of me. I was not.
DO I WANT TO FORGIVE THIS MAN? I’m not yet sure.
What happened next
It took me a while to write all those words. I felt relieved to have done it, and pretty good about what I wrote. I decided to show the document to my husband. This is not my regular habit, since we process things rather differently.
A brief digression that explains a lot:
- My husband says he’s a Skunk and I’m a Turtle. Skunks have no problem blaming everyone and everything out there for whatever just happened. Skunks just point away from themselves and spew the blame stink from one end of creation to another! It doesn’t matter that Skunk is actually to blame, because Skunks are never to blame! Case closed.
- Then there are the Turtles. Turtles blame themselves for everything that just happened. They don’t know why they’re to blame; they just believe it and feel guilty. When something goes wrong, Turtles, who live in hard shell houses, pull their little heads deep down into their shells, feel ashamed of themselves, and start figuring out why they need to apologize for what just happened. ‘It must have been something I said or didn’t say, wore or didn’t wear, did or didn’t do.’ Even if it wasn’t.
Over the years, some of my Turtleness has rubbed off onto my husband’s Skunkiness. And vice versa. Which is to say we get along a bit better than we did back in the good old days of shame and blame.
So I take my piece about BLAMING to my SKUNKY husband! See, I do have a logic!
I hand him the printout and wait. In less than one minute he sizes it up: ‘I thought you said this was about blaming your father! Give me a piece of paper and I’ll do it for you!!!’ He’s stoked. That goes nowhere, of course.
We talk; I take my despair back to my office with my one-page wonder, put it on my desk, and leave it for several days. Then I read it again. My husband is right. Here’s why.
- My one-page wonder is more about what happened to me than about what my father did that injured me.
- In fact, it’s almost an invitation to debate! My father would nitpick it to pieces, debating every point, and justifying every move he ever made against me. And once again, I’d be to blame.
- Worst of all, my piece rambles on and on. It lacks punch and concrete distinctions that matter.
- In fact, it’s an invitation to keep this struggle going. It is NOT a statement blaming my father for injuries I suffered at his hands.
- Finally, it maintains a voice that isn’t true to my current situation. My father died in 2010. I’m not doing this against him. I’m doing this for myself—so I can get on with whatever needs to come next. I already aired my grievances against him in 1993.
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2014