J-O-Y

Do you ever look back at your childhood & think it was normal…until you start talking to others? I’m not just talking about the obvious damage like abuse.

My brother & I were raised in a fundamental Christian home. Televangelists were to be honored & respected, regardless of their slimy ways. Halloween was “evil.” And we were at church every time the doors were open, including all holidays, birthdays, or random “prayer meetings.” I remember spending New Year’s 2000 at church. I wanted to spend it with my Christian friends but I wasn’t allowed.

I thought our home was like every other Christian home, but it really wasn’t.

See, our mom was a pastor. Not dad. Mom. I obviously don’t have a problem with women in leadership but she’s a narcissistic gas-lighter so it’s pretty much “worse case scenario” all the fucking time. Being told God is disappointed in you is difficult for anyone, let alone, a CHILD.

But we weren’t just raised Christian. We were indoctrinated.

There are so many stories I could tell that would probably make your jaw hit the floor. But I decided to choose one at random to show you how fucked up things were. A little amuse-bouche, if you will.

Being a child of the 80s & in an indoctrinated home, I listened to a bunch of Christian records on my cheap little player. There was this album that I loved that had a bunch of fun songs & it felt like they were my friends. Kind of like a radio show but for kids & with peppy music.

The album was called “The Word Birds” & it was one of my favorites. There was this song called “J-O-Y.” In it, children are taught to have true joy in their life, they need to “put Jesus first, & others second, & put yourself at the end of the line.” So J-O-Y is Jesus first, Others second, then You.

Get it? JOY?

Let me tell you about the problems this can create in a young mind. Living under an abuser, I was taught my joy didn’t matter. And now, I have this source of comfort & friendship, in the form of a record, telling me that if I REALLY wanted to be happy, I had to put my needs, my wants, my feelings at the bottom of the pile.

As I got older, this belief was further ingrained in me. I heard from famous pastors & preachers that “joy doesn’t mean happiness” & “to be great, we must be servants” & every other toxic teaching that cripples the mind & the heart. It would be one thing if I was taught to be kind to others because others are worthy of kindness, but that was never the case. If I was kind, it was because I was scared of what God would do to me if I didn’t put Jesus first & others second. To me, it was a fear-based religion.

Fast forward 30 years & I’m in therapy. I realize I have a hard time doing things that will make me happy. I don’t feel worthy of love or of happiness. Dr. G keeps telling me to release those thoughts & to be accepting & trusting of goodness but it’s really difficult for me. I’ve been deeply branded that my voice isn’t important & I can only speak my truth when everyone else has had a chance. And if they don’t want me to, I need to put their needs ahead of mine. That’s “true joy.”

I’m not trying to hate on Christianity. I know I have some Christian readers & I really hope it works for them. It didn’t for me. I’m still schlepping through some of this shit & some of the memories are more painful than others.

But, hey, if you are a Christian, don’t teach your kids that. That is toxic behavior. Teach them that their voice is heard & their opinion matters.

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