Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hate the sin, love the sinner?

So you'd have to actually know me to get how ironic this post title is. I grew up in an incredibly conservative, literal-minded, Bible-believing, born-again evangelical Christian household and am now as left-leaning, eastern-philosophy-oriented, non-religious as they come. (Public service announcement: If anyone takes this opportunity to post anything about my being a lost soul and hoping I will come back to the fold of Jesus' precious sheep, I will delete your comment immediately. I will then commence to send you evil thought-vibes over the internet, which may or may not progress to my buying a voodoo doll with your name on it. Just sayin'.)

"Hate the sin, but love the sinner" was something I heard a lot growing up. I believe that translates into something like, "We are judging the hell out of you and are totally okay with it. You're going to burn, by the way." I know it was a little more nuanced than that, but still. When you're a kid, hating the person and hating their actions aren't so far removed from one another.

Turns out, as an adult it's not so easy, either. Given the amount of pain my parents have inflicted over the years and my current desire to be a healthy, happy person, it's difficult to maintain (or create, as the case may be) a healthy relationship with them. I know a lot of people in my situation have made the difficult decision to end all contact with their parents. I applaud their courage and sometimes wish I could follow suit. In many ways, it would be simpler. Not easier -- that is, in no way, an easy road -- but simpler.

After much soul-searching, I have realized that I wouldn't feel okay about myself if I simply walked away from my family. For better or worse, they're my people. But I have also realized that just because I got the short end of the familial stick doesn't mean I need to maintain relationships that are painful and damaging. So where to go from here? Is there a way to separate my parents as people (the sinners, so to speak) from their damaged, shaming, hurtful, judgmental, hateful sin?

While this struggle has different nuances from making peace with a hoarder parent, for me they feel very similar. It's difficult for me, even as an adult, to separate my mother as a person from her hoarding and her behavioral oddities. I've worked through and let go of a lot of the childhood resentment and recrimination. I have changed quite a bit, but the fact remains that she, well, hasn't.

I've realized more and more that creating a healthy relationship with my mother may not actually be an achievable goal. I realized this afresh recently after she stopped speaking to me. Over the course of the last decade, she has repeatedly requested that we talk about my childhood. I'd refused every time, because that was clearly not going to end well. She was looking for validation as a mother and a person, and I have none to give. It's not really my job, anyway. But this time I decided that maybe it would be good for me to say my piece, and so I did. There's really no gentle way to explain how being raised by a clinically depressed hoarder feels to a child. I tried. She didn't like it. And now she isn't speaking to me. Which is kind of sad. It's also kind of awesome. It definitely makes that whole hate the sin, love the sinner thing simpler. Until she starts talking to me again, but that's a whole different post.

1 comment:

  1. The whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" line is SO much easier accomplished when you aren't the direct target of the sin. Had you grown up being the next-door neighbor's kid, I doubt you'd be suffering so much conflict about what "should" be. I hope you find a way to a peaceful mental place on this.

    I have no experience with hoarding, only what's been on TV lately. While looking for organizing/decluttering sites, I started running across children of hoarder blogs. Yes, I used to watch those shows with a good dose of "omg - how can they live like that?!" attitude. After reading blogs like yours, now it's with extreme sadness now that I know more about the full horror for the kids (no matter what their age) involved. Thank you for writing about it. Kicking the problem out into the light is the only way it will be taken seriously.