Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc
Monday, July 24, 2017
For Adult Daughters of Controlling or Abusive Birth-Families

WHY DO I PUT UP WITH THIS GARBAGE?Approval Needs, Abandonment Fears

WHY DO I PUT UP WITH THIS GARBAGE?

GIVING UP THE NEED FOR APPROVAL,

FEARS OF ABANDONMENT, & OUR OWN HIDDEN MOTIVATIONS

 

          By Rev. Renee Pittelli

 

You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!  In fact you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.  To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!....2 Corinthians 11:  19-21 (NIV)

 

 

          At one time or another, most of us have asked ourselves why we put up with this garbage from those we love and who are supposed to love us- why we tolerate being continually mistreated by those whom we treat very well.  Of course, no article can adequately substitute for some therapy in helping us to discover the reasons we allow ourselves to be abused.  However, in this article we will discuss three common issues, which are often referred to as signs of co-dependency.  If the thoughts expressed by these questions ever enter our heads, then we need to understand that it is indeed possible that they are influencing us to remain in abusive situations.  As you read on, consider whether there is in reality some pay-off to you which keeps you enmeshed in your abusive relationship.

 

OUR NEED FOR THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS

 

          Is our need for approval and to be liked holding us back from the life of freedom and joy we deserve as a child of the King?  Let’s consider the following questions:

          Do I want people to like me?

          Do I want people to think I’m nice?

          Am I afraid of sounding harsh?

          Is what others think important to me?

          Do I believe that people think a strong woman is bitchy?

          Am I afraid of hurting the feelings of those who abuse me?

          Do I think what I want isn’t really that important?

          Do I “not really mind” putting others’ needs first?

          Am I usually the one taking care of everyone else?

          Do I pride myself on being dependable?

          Do I not really expect others to do for me what I am willing to do for them?

          Is my role the “giver” in most of my relationships?

          Am I proud of being the giver?

          Do I avoid conflicts?

          Am I afraid of other people’s anger?

          Am I afraid of showing my anger?

          Am I uncomfortable if someone disapproves of something I say or do?

          Do I avoid controversial discussions?

          Am I afraid if I speak my mind others will stop loving me?

          Do I want everyone to think I’m lovable?

          Do I not want others to think I’m a whiner or a complainer?

          Do I think it’s unladylike or unfeminine to stand up for myself?

          Are other people’s needs, wants, thoughts or feelings more important than mine?

          Am I embarrassed or uncomfortable when someone compliments me, thanks me, gives me a gift, or does something nice for me? 

          Am I more comfortable trying to think of nice things to do for others instead of having them do nice things for me?

          Do I avoid rocking the boat?

          Do I hate inconveniencing anyone?

          Is other people’s happiness my responsibility?

          Am I always apologizing, even for things that are not my fault or that I didn’t do?

          Do I like being a “peacemaker?”  (My birth-mother’s definition of “peacemaker” was “abuse-tolerator”. Her “peacemaking” consisted of convincing the victim to continue accepting mistreatment without ever expecting anything at all from the abuser.  This is not what is meant by “peace-making.”)

          Do I feel that if I speak the truth, people will not like me?

          Do I feel that if I speak the truth, people will withdraw their love?

          Will I feel guilty if I speak the truth and it upsets someone?

          Do I think putting up with mistreatment makes me look like a “good” person to others?

 

          Our need for the approval of others has been ingrained in us since early childhood.  Our abusive relatives controlled us by dangling that approval just out of our reach- in order to keep us trying harder and harder to please them. Witholding their approval is a tactic that control-freaks use against us.   Striving to please unpleaseable people is like running endlessly on a treadmill and going absolutely nowhere. 

          We need to fight our inclination to equate approval with love.  Our families should love us UNCONDITIONALLY.  If they don’t, then something is wrong with THEM, NOT US.  Their love is not supposed to be dependent on whether or not we obey them, accept their criticism, or allow them to control, manipulate, exploit, or degrade us, etc.  If people only “love” us when we tolerate their mistreatment, then we really don’t need that kind of love.  If relatives only “love” us when we allow them to use or exploit us, then we don’t need that kind of love, either.

          Another way of looking at this is to consider our relationship with our abuser and ask ourselves this question-  if the love is only present as long as abuse is allowed, then how come WE don’t get to abuse our relative and still have him love us?  How come the abuse only goes one way?  By this logic, we should get to treat our abuser just as miserably as he treats us, and everybody should claim they love each other anyway and be happy as clams.  But of course, it never works that way.  The abuse only goes in one direction. 

          Love and approval are not necessarily part of the same package.  And they certainly cannot be combined with abuse- they are opposites, not the same.  Those who really love us may at times disapprove of our decisions, but they love us anyway.  They don’t have to like everything we do, but they do have to understand that that does not give them the right to criticize or control us.  We need to live our own lives whether they approve or not.  We do not need their permission to be an adult.  Genuine love is not dependent on approval or disapproval.  Nobody who truly loves you will stop loving you just because you don’t always do what they want you to do.

          None of us should care so much about the approval of men- certainly not to the point that we will excuse evil just to win someone’s approval.  The only approval we need to concern ourselves with is God’s. 

          AM I NOW TRYING TO WIN THE APPROVAL OF MEN, OR OF GOD?  OR AM I TRYING TO PLEASE MEN?  IF I WERE STILL TRYING TO PLEASE MEN, I WOULD NOT BE A SERVANT OF CHRIST….Galatians 1: 10

          THE SPIRITUAL MAN MAKES JUDGMENTS ABOUT ALL THINGS, BUT HE HIMSELF IS NOT SUBJECT TO ANY MAN’S JUDGMENT: “FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?” BUT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST….1 Corinthians 2:15-16

          WE ARE NOT TRYING TO PLEASE MEN BUT GOD, WHO TESTS OUR HEARTS.  YOU KNOW WE NEVER USED FLATTERY, NOR DID WE PUT ON A MASK TO COVER UP GREED- GOD IS OUR WITNESS.  WE WERE NOT LOOKING FOR PRAISE FROM MEN, NOT FROM YOU OR ANYONE ELSE….1 Thessalonians 2:4-6.

           I CARE VERY LITTLE IF I AM JUDGED BY YOU OR BY ANY HUMAN COURT;  INDEED, I DO NOT EVEN JUDGE  MYSELF.  MY CONSCIENCE IS CLEAR, BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE ME INNOCENT.  IT IS THE LORD WHO JUDGES ME….1 Corinthians 4:  3-4

         

 

OUR FEARS OF ABANDONMENT AND BEING ALONE

 

          Many of us would rather stick with the familiar, even if it is destructive, than face the unknown- being without our abuser.  Sister, are you fearful that if you start to defend yourself and set limits, your relative will disown you?  Many abusive relatives use this as a threat to keep us in line- often coming right out and saying that they will stop speaking to us or “cut us out of the will” unless we obey them unquestioningly. 

          Others are not so direct, but our fear that they will cut us off is still there.  The reason for this is that we sense the truth- that they do not really love us for ourselves, but are only interested in having a relationship with us as long as they can dominate, use, and control us.  

          Sister, you deserve your family’s love without having to be anybody’s doormat.  After all, would YOU stop speaking to a family member just because they didn’t always give in to your demands?  No- because normal people do not resort to extortion or blackmail to get what they want from the people who love them.

          When considering the following questions, ask yourself if you really want to spend your life trying to please someone just so that they won’t dump you, or is it time to hold your head up high and reclaim your dignity?:

          Am I afraid my relative will disown me if I start defending myself or setting limits? 

          Am I afraid I will be abandoned or betrayed by other relatives who will take my abuser’s side?

          Is my whole family so enmeshed in the sickness of the abuser that they will outcast me if I speak up?

          Would I rather keep quiet and endure a lifetime of abuse than risk losing my family?  If this is a genuine fear of mine, do I understand that, if it is indeed true, it means that my family doesn’t really love me after all?  That they don’t really care about me or want what’s best for me?  That their “love” is conditional on me continuing to accept their abuse or control?

          Do I believe that I could never survive if my abuser was out of my life?

          Do I fear her leaving and think it would devastate me to lose her?

          Do I fear the loss of her love if I start setting limits on her behavior?

          Do I fear losing the love of other relatives if I speak up?

          Do I think that I could never live if my family abandoned me for speaking the truth or defending myself?  Would the betrayal or abandonment of other relatives devastate me?

          Am I afraid of being alone?

          Do I realize that there is life after “divorce”, and that I will make it just fine?

          Am I afraid of having no one to depend on, or to take care of me?

 

          Many of us have had our self-esteem literally criticized out of us, until we no longer believe we can actually take care of ourselves.  We have also been abused into believing that we are unlovable, and that we don’t deserve to be loved for ourselves. Our abuser probably spent a lifetime (ours!) undermining our confidence, making us question our judgment and abilities, and doing everything possible to convince us that we're much too incompetent and helpless to ever make it without her.  We panic at the thought of displeasing and possibly losing her, mistakenly feeling that she might not be perfect, but at least she is there for us, to take care of us and to help us if we need her. 

          But if we really think about it, we will often realize that abusers and controllers were never taking care of us in the first place.  That is just not what abusers do.  On the contrary, we were always the ones they could depend on to take care of their needs, while our needs usually went unmet.

          If we stop and think, we will often see that WE were taking care of EVERYBODY’S needs all along, including our own, while nobody was ever taking care of us, anyway.  In fact, if the time ever arose in the past that we did need to be taken care of, supported, and loved, most likely our abuser was either nowhere to be found, or actually added to our troubles in some way instead of helping or comforting us.  The only difference it will make in our lives to be rid of selfish, narcissistic, controlling abusers, is that there will be that many fewer demands placed upon US. 

          In the light of this truth, being “alone” becomes an attractive alternative.  Being without users and abusers is an IMPROVEMENT in our lives, not a detriment. Sometimes we can’t imagine life without our controller- but Sister, in my experience, if she does decide to disown you for setting limits, after a short adjustment period, life without her will be just great!   Once you taste freedom, you will never go back.

          Even if our worst fears come true and our families do choose to cut us off, being alone only lasts a little while, because the Lord sets the lonely in families  (Psalm 68:6).  He will always put people in our lives to comfort and care for us.  Many times we need to break our bondage to our abusers in order to be free to enjoy these new, Godly relationships.

          Above all, we must never forget that in reality we are NEVER alone.  The Lord is always with us, and no one else really matters.  Jesus walks right beside us all day, every day of our lives. His Holy Spirit is always within us.  Our blessed Father does not take his eyes off us for a second.  He has engraved us on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16), and no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28-29).  He is always caring for us and providing for our every need (Matthew 6:25-34).  Our Father knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8).  Being less dependent on other people frees us from demanding or controlling relationships, and also allows us to depend more fully on the Lord, and to grow in our relationship with him. We need to increase our faith and have full confidence that he is in control at every moment, and that he is taking care of everything and will always work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

          Best of all, no matter who else leaves us or forsakes us, including our own birth-parents, our heavenly Father has promised that he will NEVER leave us nor forsake us  (Joshua 1:5, Psalm 37:25, Deuteronomy 31:6).  In truth, he alone is the only person we can completely trust to be there for us no matter what,  and to always take care of us.  We need not remain in bondage to any man, especially not out of fear of being alone, because as long as we have God, we are never alone.

          THOUGH MY FATHER AND MOTHER FORSAKE ME, THE LORD WILL RECEIVE  ME….Psalm 27: 10

          IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?....Romans 8:31

          THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS:  “CURSED IS THE ONE WHO TRUSTS IN MAN, WHO DEPENDS ON FLESH FOR HIS STRENGTH AND WHOSE HEART TURNS AWAY FROM THE LORD.  HE WILL BE LIKE A BUSH IN THE WASTELANDS; HE WILL NOT SEE PROSPERITY WHEN IT COMES.  HE WILL DWELL IN THE PARCHED PLACES OF THE DESERT, IN A SALT LAND WHERE NO ONE LIVES.  BUT BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TRUSTS IN THE LORD, WHOSE CONFIDENCE IS IN HIM.  HE WILL BE LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY THE WATER THAT SENDS OUT ITS ROOTS BY THE STREAM.  IT DOES NOT FEAR WHEN HEAT COMES; ITS LEAVES ARE ALWAYS GREEN.  IT HAS NO WORRIES IN A YEAR OF DROUGHT AND NEVER FAILS TO BEAR FRUIT.”….Jeremiah 17: 5-8.

          BECAUSE GOD HAS SAID, “NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU; NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU.”  SO WE SAY WITH CONFIDENCE, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.  WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?”....Hebrews 13: 5-6.

         

THE HARDEST QUESTIONS OF ALL

 

          Could it be possible that those who abuse, control, or manipulate us aren’t the only ones with hidden agendas and ulterior motives?  Sometimes those of us who are perpetual victims have hidden motivations of our own.  Such secret reasons are often so thoroughly buried in our minds that they are hidden even from ourselves.  Prayerfully and honestly searching our hearts, with a willingness to understand and admit our part in our own victimization, will unveil our eyes and allow us to see ourselves, and what may be driving us, more clearly.  By the grace of God, all will be revealed to us, so that we may begin our healing process, and rejoice in becoming free from abuse. 

          And now for the hardest questions of all:

          Do I get more mileage out of appearing sweet, soft, timid, or “feminine” rather than strong, brave, independent and competent? 

          Am I using “vulnerability” to manipulate either my abuser or other people into taking care of me or being with me?

           Do I consider being taken advantage of, criticized, used, or abused simply the price I have to pay for remaining dependent on others and their approval?  Am I reluctant to make changes because I really prefer it this way?  Even though I might complain, do I not really mind being exploited by others because in reality I am exploiting them as well? 

          Do I enjoy the attention or sympathy being a “victim” gets me from other people?  Do I secretly like it when others listen to my tales of woe and consider me a “saint” to put up with the abuse my family (or spouse) heaps on me?  Am I actually using my abuser to elicit approval or love from outsiders?  

          Do I enjoy it when outsiders disapprove of my relatives’ behavior towards me?  Do I feel validated when outsiders defend me or pity me?

          Do I like others to feel sorry for me?  Do I think it means they care about me?  Do I have a “martyr complex”?  (This is something my birth-mother got a lot of mileage out of .)

          Do I pride myself on being the one everyone else can count on?  Do I like being “needed”, or 'dependable'?  Has this role been so ingrained in me that it is part of my identity?

          As difficult as it may be to believe, most of us do have a choice in allowing ourselves to be victimized.    It is one thing if bad behavior towards us is an infrequent occurrence.  But if it is a pattern, then we need to ask ourselves why we allow it. Fool me once, shame on you- fool me twice, shame on me.  What exactly we are getting out of this relationship, that is causing us to keep coming back for more?  And more precisely, what exactly are we getting out of the dynamics of this relationship?  Why do we prefer the negative status quo and resist positive change and freedom from abuse or exploitation?

          If there were not some physical, mental, emotional, or even financial benefit to us, we would be much more inclined to simply put a stop to our mistreatment in some way- either by setting and enforcing boundaries, or by avoiding our abuser, ending the relationship, or otherwise getting free from her.  Understanding our reluctance to claim our God-given freedom will help us avoid becoming involved  with  different abusers in the future.

           In order to understand our own willingness to be repeatedly victimized, we need to admit to ourselves what the payoff is, and then we need to decide if it is really worth it.  Dear Sister, if you have recognized yourself in any of the things we have discussed, or if you suspect you may have other co-dependent tendencies, we encourage you to get into therapy and begin your recovery.  With God’s grace you can and will heal, and claim the victory of an abuse-free life.

          BUT WHATEVER WAS TO MY PROFIT I NOW CONSIDER LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.  WHAT IS MORE, I CONSIDER EVERYTHING A LOSS COMPARED TO THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD, FOR WHOSE SAKE I HAVE LOST ALL THINGS.  I CONSIDER THEM RUBBISH, THAT I MAY GAIN CHRIST AND BE FOUND IN HIM, NOT HAVING A RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MY OWN THAT COMES FROM THE LAW, BUT THAT WHICH IS THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST….Philippians 3: 7-9.

 

          “NO EYE HAS SEEN, NO EAR HAS HEARD, NO MIND HAS CONCEIVED WHAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM” BUT GOD HAS REVEALED IT TO US BY HIS SPIRIT…1 Corinthians 2: 9-10

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The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues. 
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships.  We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.