A school bus passes by our home in Englehart, northern Ontario. I think back to my time riding in a school bus to a Kiwanis music festival in Ontario. I will compete as a soloist. Our vocal teacher has us suck on lemons. She says it will help us sing better. As a child I hate lemons. They are bitter. I suck them only because our vocal music teacher watches us like a hawk to see that we are doing as she asks. When I am given my bag of lemon slices to suck on I think to myself, “Yuch! I hate lemons!”
We sing songs to get our vocal chords ready to perform. That is the sweet part of my memories of the many Kiwanis competitions. Thoughts of those songs lift my spirit on this dull day in Englehart. The sky is an anemic grey. The street has little life showing except for the occasional passing of a car. It is one of those cold and gloomy days when you want to sit and treat yourself to comedy movies. You want to be reminded that there is still life and laughter in a world where hate has been allowed to grow into an all-consuming parasite. Hate is sucking life and joy out of far too many lives.
Our Beaver Valley Elementary School choir does well. I get an 84 singing, I’m very fond of earwigs. Anyone who can convince a panel of judges he loves earwigs deserves a high mark! The pianist loses her place in the music. I continue singing. The judges try hard to contain their laughter without any success. I win out over my cousins. They are such gifted singers. I am shocked at the high score I receive.
Thinking they will always be a loser is also the permanent recording that can be left in the mind of the abused. Abuse can destroy one’s self-confidence. Although I am shy as a child, I am determined to prove my father wrong. I will show him that I am not a failure by surpassing everyone’s expectations. While this drive to succeed has helped me accomplish many things in life, there will be so many times I engage in unhealthy competition with my brother, classmates and some of my colleagues. Even when it damages my health I remain steadfast proving that I am not the lies my father and all who have abused me in my life say I am.
My father would constantly compare me to my brother. He would say, “Your brother is smarter than you’ll ever be. Your brother will succeed. You will always be a failure.” I know these thoughts come from a sick man who needs to heal so much from the wounds of his own abuse. No matter what he did he could never please his father. In his eyes his son would always be a failure.
Many of us have memories that are bitter as I have with my physical and emotional abuse from my schizophrenic father. Those times too numerous to count when he hits me and tells me I am lazy, weak, stupid, clumsy and will always be a failure, have not been forgotten. They are still in the process of being healed after over four years of counseling. I denied the pain. I gunny sacked it. It felt so much easier for over 48 years to believe the lie that I could emotionally deal with the surface of my abuse issues while convincing myself that looking at the deep wounding to my spirit, heart and mind would cause me a paralyzing fear.I would be prevented from achieving goals to keep pleasing my father. I convince myself that minimizing my suffering is healthy. That is the terrible damage abuse does. It truly is as Dr. Heyward Ewart says in his book Soul Rape, a rape of the soul. Child abuse steals away the innocence of children as they are shown a world that is shameful, terrifying, ugly, dirty, mean and judgmental. Their warped world is filled with a defeating false reality. A destructive recording plays in your head without ceasing. You begin to believe that you are a failure. You are the piece of garbage your abuser says you are. That is the defeating programming I believed for 48 years.
We hopefully can recall those sweet memories of family, times of love, laughter and having fun, being children again in our hearts.
I could choose to be bitter about all the people who have hurt me deeply in my life. Instead, I have decided that hate is too heavy a cross to carry. If I or any one of us are to live a life of purpose giving to others we must let all hate go so that love, beauty, peace and joy would enter into our lives.
Today and every day live your life letting all hate and anger in you go, so you will feel healing love flood your soul. No, it’s not easy. I know. Giving up the hate I carried as a badge of honour has taken many years. The damage abuse does to a person’s sense of their true character can take several years of counseling to heal from. The sad reality is that many who have been abused sexually, emotionally or physically never heal fully. Physical scars heal. Emotional wounding can leave permanent scars that will never heal.
I choose to remember those more loving and joyous times of my childhood like when I masterfully placed a blueberry pie that my sister, Valerie, ended up sitting on.You can read more about that in a future story entitledThe Blueberry Pie Caper. I was such an angel as a child, but nobody ever believes me when I tell them that.
Let us choose to focus on those healing memories. There is a prayer my wife, Karen, says often. “Lord, please make me willing to forgive and help me carry out that forgiveness in my heart.” This is a prayer I have often found difficult to say. There are times I have insisted on my right to be right.Throughout my life and in my marriage the journey of forgiveness has required me to admit when I am wrong.
I am thankful that I saw that school bus today. Those wonderful memories of the love I have for my mother, father, sisters, Valerie and Judy and my brother, Brian, come back again. I do have healing thoughts of my father, who would carry me piggy back on his shoulders as ice-cream from my ice-cream cone drips down my cheeks on to his shirt. He tells everyone how much he loves me. I honestly don’t know if this ever happened in the way I am telling this story. I keep it though as a healing memory of those brief glimpses I would see my loving, humorous, kind and gentle father.
Bitter experiences of life can be healed as you take time to also remember those sweet memories of those who love you.
I am healing as I let love in so hate will lose.
Kevin Osborne, B.Th. with honours, D.D., D.Sc., Diplomate in Creative Ministry, is training to be a Christian psychotherapist through St. James the Elder Theological Seminary. He will be a Master of Divinity student at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. He will soon be opening a Christian counselling practice called You Can Hope Again with his wife, Karen, who is an M. Div. student at Trinity College. He is a member of The Word Guild, a Christian writer’s group in Canada. We are available to go where God sends us to do His will preaching, doing motivational speaking, teaching, singing, giving marriage enrichment seminars or however needed. You can reach me at my email address firstname.lastname@example.org
May the Lord pour His richest blessings into every area of your life!