Updated: Jun 22, 2021
This week I started reading Pure by Linda Kay Klein and oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. If you are a Recovering Evangelical, this is a must read. But, serious trigger warning. I have to read it in small doses.
The same day I started the book, I drew this power thought card:
“I see my parents as tiny children who need love. I have compassion for my parents childhoods’... They are perfect for what I had to learn. I forgive them and I set them free. I set myself free.”
I know I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to parents who accept my deconstruction and new identity. My parents are exceptional because their fundamental belief in parenting is that they’re here to love and help foster a great human, not micromanage every part of their kids’ lives just so they can feel successful or whatever (I wrote a blog about this if you’d like to read more…). But that doesn’t mean I haven’t dealt with a decent amount of frustration and, honestly, anger at them for raising me in Purity Culture.
Okay I guess I’m a little angry.
I once had this conversation with my therapist:
“Look, my parents are wonderful. They really are! I love them and I…”
“Why do you do that?” My therapist stopped me.
“You qualify your affection for your parents before you, I think anyway, go on to perhaps negatively review some of their parenting choices.”
“Because I love them. I’m not like...angry.”
“I don’t’ think so.”
“Then what do you feel?”
I used to fucking hate this question in therapy. Thanks to acting classes in adulthood, however, I’ve gotten better at identifying my feelings. Moment to moment even. Like just a second ago I was feeling so great about my writing and on top of the world and I AM A MASTER ESSAY CREATOR. And now I’m just really tired. Being human is wild.
“Hurt. Mad, maybe?”
“Okay I guess I’m a little angry.”
“Why is it so hard for you to admit you’re angry with your parents?”
“Because they aren’t bad people!”
“You never said they were bad people. Why do you think ‘angry at = bad people’?”
“Because I’m Midwestern and any negative emotion towards a person or situation is automatically deemed ‘bad'? Also women aren't supposed to be angry. It's unbecoming.”
"Yes. Not cute."
"You’re allowed to be angry at your parents, MJ, especially here. I won’t tell them*, and I'm not judging you for your feelings. Maybe allowing yourself to be angry for a bit will reveal some ways in which you could (if you wanted) forgive them in an informed, healthy way. Instead of just brushing over whatever it is you’re feeling.”
“I will give this a try.”
Or something like that.
*but you probably will one day on the internet
So much of my hurt and trauma has come from the culture in which my parents actively chose to raise me. And yet, so much of my healing has been possible because of the woman my parents raised me to be.
Part of my healing was actually allowing myself to be angry at my parents. Dissecting why I was angry, what was I angry at, and how could I find forgiveness and freedom moving forward.
I was angry that, due to so much focus on marriage in our culture and household, my value as a woman was heavily based on my ability to "get a good, Godly man." And therefore, being the kind of woman that kind of man wants to marry (aka don't be "boy crazy"). I was angry they didn't actually teach me about sex, they just told me it was wonderful within marriage. So when I actually started having sex, I was sure the reason it was not enjoyable is because it was taking place outside of marriage. Not like, because I had absolutely no idea physiologically what was going on. I was angry they parented me and my sisters differently than my brother when it came to sexual behavior. I was angry that, for such smart people, they raised me around a lot of (in hindsight anyway) dummies who had no business being leaders.
I didn’t have to tell them about this anger or insult them constantly. It didn’t mean I hated them, that they were bad people, and it especially did not mean that they were awful parents. It just...meant I was angry. I was allowed to be angry.
Before I even finished the introduction of Pure, I text my dad “You and mom need to read this.” I know my parents “get” the Purity Culture trauma thing because I’m a loudmouth about my suffering, which has, in turn, encouraged my other siblings to speak up about theirs. So, when we can, we talk about this shit.
Oftentimes, when we get really into these tough conversations, my parents start to get a little defensive. They think I’m attacking their character, their parenting. They immediately think I’m coming after and (all-inclusively) criticizing their execution of the hardest role in the world : raising another human being.
So I have to remind them every single time “Y’all. I do not hold any of this against you. I do not blame you. You were and are exceptional parents. That doesn’t mean you didn’t make some mistakes that caused me hurt. But none of this means I hate you or think you’re terrible! Being a parent doesn’t make you less human.”
I’ve been able to come to a place of compassion and human-leveling with my parents because I let myself feel angry. I let myself learn from all the feels, instead of experiencing my internalization or response to situations in a binary of good and bad.
There’s a story in Pure about a girl who was always outspoken, opinionated, and smart was told repeatedly in church that no man would ever love her because of “how she is.” That women like her repulse men. Women like her ruin men.
Then she goes on to comment on her healing from this bullshit “I don’t know how people without good parents do this.”
Caaaaaaan relate again.
My parents never shamed who I was at my core -- loud, hyper, opinionated, creative, strong, loud -- they called it my “spark.” They believed in me. They believe in me. They had/have such confidence in my talents, ambitions, intelligence, Mattiejo-ness. Their trust in me to honor being fully me always just barely carried me beyond the Evangelical bullshit.
It's a weird thing to reconcile, that so much of my hurt and trauma has come from the culture in which my parents actively chose to raise me. And yet, so much of my healing has been possible because of the woman my parents raised me to be.
I don’t know where you are in your Recovering Evangelical journey. I don’t know how your parents raised you or the kind of relationship you’re able to have with them. If you’re angry at them, it’s okay to sit in that anger for awhile. Hell, it’s okay for it to stir up from time to time for the rest of your life!
But for true healing -- which I think is what we’re all seeking here -- at some point I do believe it’s important to meet your parents with compassion. It’s important to take your life into your own hands and not live bound to what they expect of you or live out anger constantly. Because even in that space, the trauma is still in control. You are not truly free.
Most importantly, trust that because of their influence in your life -- even if it’s painful -- you’re learning the lessons you need to learn to be the person you’re supposed to be in this world. Like, if my parents never bought me a purity ring, you wouldn’t be enjoying my storytelling now and HOW TRAGIC. Also maybe you're teaching your parents something they needed to learn because of what they taught you! A circle of life win-win.
Hopefully, one day you can have gratitude for their influence. This is not me minimizing pain or trauma. I realize I’m lucky to have parents who even listen to what I have to say without telling me I’m going to Hell. I’m just saying, being human is messy. Your parents are not exempt from that messiness.
And Just think. One day (if you want to be anyway), you'll be a parent who inevitably does something to send your kids to therapy and won't you want them to have compassion for your messiness? I always say, the only part of the Bible that really matters is the Golden Rule. Treat others as you want to be treated and let the rest collect dust on your proverbial (soul) shelf.
I went to see Backsliders series at Tribeca Film Festival last night and met a whole bunch other Recovering Evangelical creative weirdos. It was heaven on earth. When you get the chance, check out this series and follow @keyleemakes on Instagram. They are releasing new episodes soon and you will, I can guarantee, painfully and belly laughingly relate to these stories.
IRL footage if me and my dad discussing Pure, sexual assault, and comprehensive sex education. #fathersdayconversationswithmj