I don’t like my parents. For a long time, I could keep myself quiet. I let them call my girlfriends friends. I let them treat my relationships as illegitimate because they were struggling so hard. I let them be mean.

Evangelical Christians are stuck. They want you to believe that they mistreat you because they are moral. They believe these black and white things and this is a gray world and that’s why they pour money into anti-equality legislation. That’s why they support reparative therapists. My father has written a series of Letters to the Editor advocating reparative therapy. Decrying gay rights. Talking about the moral decay of our society.

His own daughter. He would have me reprogrammed. He would have my family torn to pieces. He would call that saving my son.

My parents are unkind. And for a long time, I felt I deserved their unkindness.

This weekend, I stood next to some of my favorite kids and the girl said, “That’s my grandmother!” She was pointing to a jubilant woman marching with the Giant Ass Drum Corps. Dancing and beating a paint bucket. The thunderous battle cry of equality. On the coldest, rainiest Pride in recent memory, we were all celebrating our community.

I don’t get a mother like that. I don’t get parents like that. And in this society, people shift uncomfortably and tell you, “Well, they’re moral people and —”

No. They aren’t moral people. Moral people don’t attempt to destroy families. Moral people don’t make others feel illegitimate. Moral people love despite everything. Moral people realize that parents cannot define children. That we don’t have to approve of situations to accept them. Moral people believe in a constructive society. One where we build together. Moral people recognize and celebrate the humanity of all their brothers and sisters.

I don’t like my parents. And I used to pity them. Their angry god. But at some point, I’ve had to protect myself. I’ve had to separate from them. I’ve had to recognize that I never deserved their miserable treatment of me. They are free to believe as they will. But that is never a license to mistreat me. That is never absolution to work against my family and my happiness. You would think, if you believed that we’re all made in Christ’s image, it would be simpler to recognize the goodness in one another.

I believe you have a soul. I believe you are worthy of grace. I believe you are good. And can be better. I believe these things about you, and I believe these things about me. The radical message of redemption is that we are all worthy. Every fucking one of us. We deserve love.

5 thoughts on “Empty”

  1. “No. They aren’t moral people.”
    That is the damn truth. They are mean-spirited and dangerous. I’m tired of hearing how “well-intentioned” the churchgoing citizens are who block or dismantle my rights and damn me.
    Fuck ’em, Jill. You deserve to have ridiculously proud parents and you didn’t get them. Amoral, dispassionate Fate, not worthiness created that vacuum. And there are tons of people (as your readers will attest) that are happy to step up and fill the empty.

  2. Enita, you are lovely. Thank you. They are mean-spirited and dangerous. That’s a terrible thing to realize about your own parents. But it has taught me to be a better parent. I love him for all that he does well and all that he doesn’t. I love him. It’s effortless. Over time I’ve learned to love myself that way too. Grace is not supposed to be a sword.

  3. Your story resonated with me deeply. I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have struggled with those feelings of guilt, shame and feeling like I deserved everything I got. My father has told me that many times. I left when I was 18 and now at 33, I’m still unforgiven and alone. My son is their only grandchild and they’ve seen him 3 times in his 10 years. They ask me to send him down to them on a plane, I know they hope he is more pliable than I was. Your story made me sad because I know it is a common tale, but it’s one I wish none of us had to tell. Thank you for sharing, and you’re right, it’s important to protect yourself and your family. You’re doing a great job.

  4. Thank you Jill! Its comforting to know I am not alone. I love my parents but hate what the pour there hearts and money into. I know I deserve better.

  5. And Jesus said “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother’s.. that you do unto me.”

    Just what part of that don’t they understand!

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