I am writing this post because I have discovered that I have an issue that has been with me since I was a child. I knew it was there, but didn’t know how much it truly affected me. It has been at the core of my being. This issue is why I have a hard time liking myself. I am writing about it because I know it affects many people in different ways. The word that I am speaking about is contempt.
I know that most of us don’t go around thinking or saying that we have contempt for ourselves or someone else. You might not realize you have any issues with contempt. You don’t realize when you criticize or judge yourself or someone else, it might be from contempt. When you compare yourself with someone else, it could possibly be from contempt. When you verbally abuse or want to harm yourself or someone else, it might just be from contempt. Murder and suicide are the ultimate results of contempt.
“Simply defined, contempt is our effort to cover ourselves and our shame apart form the grace of God.” The Journey Begins workbook Shame leads to contempt. I have felt deep shame for my Dad’s actions most of my life. And the weird thing is, I am not the one who committed the abuse.
“Children in abusive situations are exposed to more than they are capable of understanding relationally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Whatever forms the abuse takes, children will come to believe something is dreadfully wrong with them and for that reason they are responsible.” The Journey Begins workbook
I didn’t realize how much I thought something was dreadfully wrong with me until this year. I also didn’t realize how responsible I felt for everything. No matter what I did to change the environment at home, I couldn’t get my Dad to stop his behavior. I couldn’t get my Mom to protect. I even felt responsible for my brother’s issues. I took it all on!
“The misrepresentation of reality is one of the diabolical twists that results from being harmed as a child. Children’s perceptions of why the abuse or neglect happened to them are distorted because of their vulnerable dependence upon the adults responsible for their care. Children naturally experience themselves as the center of their universe, believing that what happens is within their control. Because of this, they quickly assume the blame rather than believe that the one who harmed them was responsible.” The Journey Begins workbook
When I read those words, I had a moment when it all made sense to me. I believed I could somehow control my home environment. I made vows to do whatever it took to keep the peace in the family. I needed to be a good kid and not make waves. I was constantly watching and observing what I could do to help my home life get better. My eyes were on them and not on me. I lost myself.
I knew making good grades was important, so that’s what I did. I became class president to get my Dad to notice me. I made it into National Honor Society and remember my Dad coming for the induction ceremony. Being class president and in National Honor Society were the only times I remember my Dad showing up and being proud of me. I lived to make my parents happy thinking it would make a difference at home. It didn’t.
So, you can imagine how the contempt for myself just grew and grew every time I tried and failed. Day by day and year by year it grew. I knew it was there. I knew it affected me in so many different ways. But, I didn’t know how to deal with it until recently.
Let me say that forgiveness plays a big role in this process. Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” and the material from a workbook called “The Journey Begins” are the tools that are really helping me with my issues.
I want to help anyone I can because contempt can lead to so many harmful things. Suicide is one of the results of contempt. I have a tender spot in my heart for anyone that feels that way. I have felt like ending my life many times because of the shame and contempt I have felt for myself. I believe those issues were at the core of my brother’s OCD and eventual suicide and I believe it has been at the core of my anxiety and depression.
I want to share something I read from “The Journey Begins”.
“A part of you was left behind very early in your life;
the part that never felt completely received.
It is full of fears…You have to bring home
the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy,
because you have become quite a formidable person…
Your grown-up self has to become
very child-like, hospitable, gentle and caring so
your anxious self can return and feel safe.” Henri Nouwen
If you are struggling with shame or contempt like I have, I am learning that I have to show kindness to my little self. Little Laurie learned some very bad habits in order to survive. She felt shame when things were out of control and then contempt took over to make her feel in control. Violence was a way of life. The violence that was happening around her made her feel contempt for herself because she couldn’t stop it. (I am the oldest child!)
I have to go back to my little self and show kindness to her. This might sound weird to you, but it works. I had to go back to some of the memories and bring Jesus into them. By bringing Him in, I brought in truth and kindness. Jesus has kind eyes. I have to look at myself through His eyes.
“You feel your feelings and then give them to God. Emotions are meant to move you toward God.” Ann Voskamp I always felt uncomfortable with my feelings. I really didn’t know what to do with them so I shoved them down deep into my soul. I thought it was wrong to feel what I felt. It was so hard to admit the contempt and shame I felt. Now, I am learning to bring Jesus into my feelings and share them with Him.
Proverbs 4:20-22 “Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight. Keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”
When you bring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into your life, their words are going to change your life. If you are willing to let them into your feelings, your memories, your pain and whatever you struggle with; you will be changed by the truth they bring.
I have started picturing the Trinity sitting at a table with me. I am discussing my memories and my pain with them. They listen. They talk to me and speak truth to my heart. They pray over me. They’ve been able to show me how much contempt I had for myself and show me kindness.
I am going to share something I wrote while conversing with the Trinity from my journal. “Laurie, you have so much contempt for yourself because you loved someone who abused you. You feel stupid for loving him. Are we stupid for loving evil people?” That question cut through me like a knife and made me catch my breath! Of course, they aren’t stupid. And I am not stupid either. That gives you a picture of how much contempt I felt for myself.
Let me say this, violence can seep in and you not be aware of what it is doing to you and to others. There is so much violence in the world today and part of it is what we are doing to ourselves. I am learning that the antidote to contempt is kindness. We need to show kindness to ourselves and others.
I have lived most of my life thinking something was dreadfully wrong with me. That lie took my life over. The contempt that formed deadened longings I had and shut down my heart. Contempt kept me self-protected. It caused me to lose hope. I denied my desires and I settled for so much less than I should have. I want to help anyone I can realize there is a better way to live.
I am going to leave you with something I read by Lysa Terkeurst. I have been struggling with the thoughts that I have wasted so much time struggling with so many things. Maybe you think that way too. I pray this will help you as much as it is helping me.
“This time isn’t a waste, and it’s definitely not pointless when we are walking with God. Let’s cry out to God, declaring that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time. And let’s choose to believe that there is good happening, even in these places. Because wherever God is, good is being worked.” Can I get an AMEN???
Until next time. This is my journey to joy.