Hurts Me More Than You: Christine’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Willfully Disobedient: I Was a “Lovingly” Spanked Child

HA note: Christine’s story originally appeared on her blog on September 24, 2014 and is reprinted with permission.

“I was spanked but I turned out just fine.”

“There is a difference between spanking and beating a child. This story clearly crosses the line.”

“Sometimes parents need something a little more to get a child’s attention. I was only spanked when I was doing something dangerous or being a hellion.”

“I deserved it and needed it.”

I inhale sharply as I read through the comment section of an article about NFL player Adrian Peterson’s indictment for child abuse after whipping his son bloody. The glow of my iPad screen is harsh in my otherwise darkened bedroom. Maybe staying up reading the internet wasn’t such a great idea. I quickly glance over at my sleeping husband and cats while I debate getting up or staying in bed. I know this topic has already captured me and it is after one in the morning.

My heart is racing and my mouth dry as I click the “comment” button. I’m nervous, triggered into an emotional response that I still haven’t learned to control, that I’m not sure I want to control. Anger and frustration bubble in the pit of my stomach. Anxiety grips my chest as it claws up my throat. Adrenalin washes over my limbs, which twitch under the sheets. It’s time to fight. Feeling most secure in my bed, I opt to stay as I roll onto my stomach for better access to my tablet keyboard. Then, walking the line between complete emotional cyber meltdown and rational, logical, mind changing academic argumentation, I begin to type the same response I have been sharing in comment sections for the last five years.

Over these years spanking “debates” have made me crazy because many people don’t seem to understand the abuse and damage that so called deliberate, “calm”, or “loving” spanking leaves behind. There seems to be an assumption that so long as the physical hit is done with love and doesn’t leave a mark, then this is not violence or abuse. My mother performed these calm, loving spankings on me and my sisters. They were terrifying and shaming. They were also so normalized that I used to argue that spanking was ok and necessary for children to learn valuable lessons.

I had such an internalized notion of my own badness or rebellion that I believed I deserved such discipline.

My mother ascribed to the teachings of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. His books Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child outline steps for parents to follow to make their children compliant. Dobson claims that children should not be disciplined when the parent is angry but that children need to know spanking will be the consequence of “willful disobedience.” He claims that this is a formula for loving correction that will not harm children. However, the thing about the term “willful disobedience” is that it boils down to lack of compliance, which is often found in the actions of just being a child. This was my experience.

There are any number of reasons that I or my sisters were considered to be willfully disobedient. Any instance of not obeying my mother was a prime example of my naturally sinful nature. I have been spanked for running in church, climbing a neighbors tree, following my friends into the woods, or not answering a question when addressed. Disobedience also came as a group if I was unable to maintain the obedience of others. On one occasion my mother tasked me with rounding up my young sisters after church. We would all often scatter after the church service, finding nooks and crannies to play in while our mother talked with the pastor. I tried to wrangle them, get them to the front door, but they were still playing when mom was ready to leave. Due to our collective defiance we were informed that we would be spanked as soon as we were home.

My mother was always calm when calling me to her bedroom, a dusky room with pulled curtains that diffused the afternoon light. It was perpetually warm with the smell of my parents. It was a room that I was only allowed to enter when invited and under other circumstances I would have found it comforting. But not today. I am instructructed to get The Wooden Spoon from the utensil holder in the kitchen and bring it with me. The Spoon or a wooden hairbrush were often used instead of her hand because these were considered to be “neutral objects.”

Spanking with her hand would be abuse. This was correction.

The Wooden Spoon
With tears already rolling down my cheeks, I approach my mother shaking with fear and shame.

Why didn’t I get my sisters to come faster? I should have been better. More good. I wanted to be good but seemed to have a hard time obeying.

She closes the bedroom door softly behind us. She is sure not to slam it because that would indicate anger and spanking a child when angry would be abuse. This was correction. My mother’s voice is soft when she explains that, in the Bible, God says children need to obey their parents. Parents who do not discipline their children actually hate their children.

“This hurts me to spank you but I do it because I love you.”

I don’t want to end up in hell where I will be tortured and gnash my teeth for eternity but I also don’t want to be hit. I continue to cry, tasting the wet salt on my lips. I hope that this time she will change her mind. Not that she ever has. Pointing out my pre-spanking tears my mother warns me that they won’t get me out of this. For her, a child crying in the face of discipline is manipulative and a sign of a sinful nature. She can not give in.

Once across her knees she hits my bottom swiftly and rhythmically. I do not remember how many times she would hit me but I know she was dedicated to spank as many times as it took for me to cry “genuine tears of contrition and remorse.” I know that I cried harder while controlling my desire to wail or scream. Crying this way was considered theatrical and attention seeking. It might have even gained more spanks so I avoid it and try to give my mother’s loving correction respect.

Afterward, she stands me up in front of her and straightens my clothes before I fall into her arms and sob my apology into her chest. With tears in her own eyes she reminds me again that this hurts her more than it does me. This was for my own good. I promise never to transgress again. “I love you,” she coos as she hugs me. If she did this without love, then it would be abuse. But her love makes it a correction. I thank her for loving me so much that she refuses to spare the rod. I do not want to be spoiled. Her own tears subside as she prepares for the next child to correct and signals my time to leave. The others are waiting for their turn. I need to send the next one in.

This form of discipline was normal in my house growing up. Although, it did become less frequent with each new daughter. She would later describe the two youngest as “spoiled” due to their lack of spankings as young children while reminiscing fondly about how I used to try and keep my sisters obedient.

I bitterly told her that I was trying to save them. She just smiled.

As a teenager and young adult, I held onto the belief that spanking with love was the only real way to teach children right from wrong, yet I had a hard time imagining what it would be like to hit my own child someday. I began to question this method as a psychology major when I read studies that clearly illustrated the lasting psychological harm spanking has on children. However, it wasn’t until my mid-20s, when on a city bus, I had a discussion with a friend about childhood spanking and I described my discipline “without anger” experience. As the bus rumbled and bustled around us, I watched as horror, pity, and sadness crept across her face. With tears in her eyes she replied, “I am so sorry that was done to you.” I was taken aback. So deep was the internalization of my own “badness” as a child that I tried to assure her it was no big deal. Spanking did me good. I deserved it. I needed it. I was a bad child.

But how can a child of ten, six, or two years old be bad? And how can anyone claim that the child deserves physically violent discipline? Why would anyone want to equate love with physical violence?

It has been heart wrenching to come to new conclusions about how a parent “loved” me. After a lot of reading and evaluation I now understand how being treated this way had a negative impact on my mental health and conditioned me to ignore my personal boundaries or emotional needs. I now call “spanking with love” what it is: abuse. I have a zero tolerance for any form of physical violence toward children or adults.

I want people who claim that “spanking with love” or “without anger” or “within prescribed parameters” to realize that I am that child. I do not fully relate to other’s abuse stories that include lashings from belts or punches to the head or angry outbursts. My mother claimed to love me every step of the way. She was calm and collected. I had warnings and was given a consequence. My experience is the loving discipline that so many claim to support. And yet, when I share these details I am always met with the response that my experience is clearly abuse and that is not what the debater is talking about. They tell me it was done to them or it wasn’t so bad and that they deserved it and so do their own children. All I can really say to that is what my friend said to me, I am sorry that you have been treated that way. I hope you can see you are more valuable than what was done to you and that you do not need to perpetuate harm.

The stories of others in similar situations have been a life raft in my most troubled waters. In telling my story recently, I also thanked another for telling theirs. I needed that person. Maybe others need me. To you I say, I understand you. I have been there.

You are so strong and have survived so much. I am with you in this.

Hurts Me More Than You: Jessie’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Jessie’s Story

Childhood Recollection

You know where the best place to color is? The walls. You know where the biggest canvas in all of creation? The walls.

You know where you get punished for coloring?

The walls!

Can you guess where your stubborn, imaginative baby’s gonna draw anyway? You guessed it baby. The temptation’s too strong. Even when your parents tell you not to, even when you know a spanking will follow. The urge to fill those empty dull spaces with the marks of your creative genius are too powerful to be denied.

Pain is a baffling thing, how it’s subjective and personal and always in flux, and apparently always “your own fault.” As the blows fall, some tiny voice in the brain braces against the sting with the mantra of “only have to make it to ten.”

Experience has taught that around the 10th you stop feeling the pain. The sting won’t bite so hard and the following burn won’t scorch so badly. “Hold your breath,” I tell myself… sometimes it doesn’t hurt so badly if you hold your breath, and with face down in their scratchy comforter I try to hang on. But then I’m betrayed by my own body. I was expecting a sensory overload and a full shutdown to see me through this ordeal. But I’ve never been swatted so many times, and at the thirteenth strike I’m ambushed by the pain again. The walls of ‘otherwhere’ I’ve built to protect me in this moment collapse inward and I’m drug under the burning blinding pain. Everything’s on fire, I’m on fire, in fact in that moment I could believe I’m made of fire.

That’s when the screaming truly starts. To her credit, my mother doesn’t shush me. She goes about her work of discipline as I go about mine of endurance. All told, there are twenty blows- accumulated for each time I draw on the walls. If I disobey again, there will be twenty-one in store for me. She has me sit beside her on the bed when it’s done, on my newly scorched flesh. We pray and she looks grim but determined to win this struggle. She reminds me that “we” agreed to this and I nod still crying.

I am seven years old, and I agreed this.

I’m seven years old, and I agreed to this… apparently.

Adult Retrospection

When you’re a strong-willed child you learn so many things about spanking, about discipline in general. It becomes both the axis and guiding star to nearly every aspect of your life and your parents. Everything’s a battle of wills that your parents are going to win, no matter the cost.

I was spanked so many times growing up, and for so many reasons. I can say it was usually done in an emotionally restrained fashion. But I also can recall times I was hit from a state of rage. Once I was picked up by my lapels and shook. While my mother screamed that she wanted to throw me through the screen door onto the hood of our family car. I reminded her of that incident in my adult years … she didn’t remember, and chuckled as she hoped I had forgiven her. The worst spanking I ever received was for drawing on the walls. She set down an arrangement with me when I was seven, for every instance of vandalism I would receive an extra swat. I took twenty (20) blows before I plain stopped drawing altogether.

The chief instrument was a series of hard plastic cooking spoons. They sat next to the stove in a large wooden vase, like a bouquet of pain. To this day the sound of a spoon being drawn from the bunch causes my brothers and I to visibly flinch. My mother used to complain that I never wanted to learn to cook, but I wanted to be as far from those spoons as possible. Once I spoke to a school councilor about the spankings. It felt surreal, and when I told my mother, I had to spend the rest of the day comforting her.

As an adult I can actually withstand her screaming now. It’s easy to drift away and not care if she yells herself hoarse.

Though I spend a fair amount of time wondering if she’ll slap me … and if this time I’ll actually slap her back.

Hurts Me More Than You: Sophia and Odessa’s Stories

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Sophia’s Story

My mom said that she received smacks on the head by her mom with a ruler as a child, but not very often, because she always “learned from her mistakes.”

I was spanked so often because I was a “strong-willed child,” and refused to learn from mine.

I didn’t mean not to learn. I just wasn’t ever sure of what it was I was supposed to be learning. I’ve blocked most of these episodes out, but there are a few that stick in my memory. There was the time I was 8 and my sister was 6, and my father was convinced that we had deliberately killed his favorite plant in our garden. He took the “rod,” a zingy rubber object, marketed by a Mennonite company specifically for spankings, and told us to go to my sister’s room.

All spankings were bad, but we particularly hated “The Rod.” When my mom first jubilantly returned from a homeschooling convention with it, my dad tested it on a stack of newspapers, cutting through several of them with a moderate hit. That afternoon, my dad decided to use it on us to force us to confess that we’d killed his plant (which we’d never touched. It probably died because it was the wrong kind of plant in the wrong kind of climate.)

He alternated between us two bare-bottomed little girls, zinging each of us repeatedly, giving us an opportunity to confess, and then zinging us again.

We cried and cried until my sister decided to make up a confession, but she didn’t understand what she was confessing to (because she’d done nothing wrong). This made my dad madder, and he continued until he got tired, then sent us to our rooms to “think about what we’d done”.

My mom found me in my room later, sobbing and reading Lamentations. I picked Lamentations because my Sunday School teacher told me the word meant a deep expression of sorrow. I hoped it would make me feel better, but I was pretty sure God wasn’t there anyways.

I may have only been 8, but I already knew about fear, and pain, and hate, and injustice, and wishing I could die.


Odessa’s Story

“If you only had listened..”

“The Bible commands it..”

“What if you had broken the instruments they used or threw them away? Then they couldn’t have hit you any more!”

I was powerless and indoctrinated to believe I deserved it and was rebellious for not wanting it over quickly. Society says I should have had power and told someone, yet the culture I lived in has repeatedly informed me that I should have listened and I never would have been hit, not even once.

Those who use the Bible to justify hitting their children, stop. It is time for a re-evaluation of what the Bible really says. It’s time to ask deep questions of yourselves.

Those of you secular parents, please reconsider.

It doesn’t matter how fast, how hard, or with which instrument you use – whether it’s your hand, or something else entirely – spanking your children truly does damage their very heart, soul and mind; not to mention their little bodies.

You may not think you will ever harm your child. If you are hitting them, you are every single time you lay a hand or instrument on their little bodies.

The truth has been repeated often for over 30 years: Spanking leaves long-lasting effects on children.

No matter how calmly or “biblically” you spank, you are still damaging your children. The Bible never actually commands spanking, not once. That the quote “spare the rod, spoil the child” is from a bawdy poem called “Hudibras” and is talking about sex, and the “rod” in the Bible was a symbol of parental or ruling authority, denoting discipline; not physical harm. It makes me wonder how a sexual poem came to justify child abuse and was conflated with the Bible.

Here are a few things your child may experience, or are at high risk for, if they are spanked:

  • Alcohol or Drug dependency
  • Asthma
  • Attachment Disorders
  • Auto-immune Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Cardiac Disease
  • Decreased Language Skills
  • Externalizing behaviour
  • Mental Disorders or Emotional Disorders (Aggression, Low Self-Esteem, Oppositional or Anti-social behaviour)
  • Poor moral internalisation/regulation
  • Reduced Empathy
  • Suicide or Suicidal Ideation

Please reconsider your discipline methods if corporal punishment is one of them and talk (often!) with your children. No one deserves to be harmed by their parent for any ideology, even if it is part of your culture. If you truly want world peace, it starts with your babies.

Michael Farris Recommends Child Training Manual That Promotes Beating Dogs and Spanking Infants

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By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

At the end of Michael Farris, Sr.’s recent white paper, he recommended James Dobson’s The New Strong-Willed Child (2003).

Unlike the works of the Ezzos, the Pearls, and Bill Gothard, this Dobson volume was not a foundational piece of my childhood. So I decided it was time to give it a read-through. Saving Victoria Strong has reviewed the beginning of the book in great detail here. This critique is not intended to be comprehensive, rather a cursory look at Dobson’s child-reading philosophies.

I have to admit: I expected better content considering Michael Farris ended his essay by recommending this. I was shocked by the dehumanizing themes of control and projection of power as well as the animal-like dominance by fathers. “Love and control” were Dobson’s guiding principles. Yet there was a disturbing amount of violence justified throughout the volume. Dobson seemed to model his training methods after a wolf-pack and a wolf-pack’s “Alpha Male.”

dobsonThe introduction set up the book with an analogy about Dobson beating obedience into his “confirmed revolutionary” dachshund. Dobson admitted that “Siggie” wasn’t “vicious or mean,” but Dobson nonetheless demanded absolute obedience from the animal. One night, when Siggie obstinately refused to retire to his doggy-bed, Dobson knew the “only way to make Siggie obey was to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else worked.” He “turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with ‘ol Sig.”

While the dog angrily stood its ground, Dobson began beating it with his belt (trigger warning for animal cruelty):

“I gave him a firm swat across the rear end, and he tried to bite the belt. I popped him again and he tried to bite me.”

“What developed next is impossible to describe. The tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling. I am still embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie jumped on the couch and backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him into his bed, but only because I outweighed him two hundred to twelve” (3).

In order to avoid any confusion between people and animals, Dobson explained exactly what he means:

“Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, a child is inclined to do the same thing, only more so. This is no minor observation, for it represents a characteristic of human nature that has escaped the awareness of many experts who write books on the subject of discipline.”

Unconcerned by the way he dehumanized children, Dobson offered a quick counter, “perhaps I seem to be humanizing the behavior of a dog, but I think not.”

You read that right: just as he had to have a pitched battle, beating his tiny dog with a belt, you should be prepared to control and exert your dominance over your “strong-willed” children.

Dobson followed his dog-beating story with sage advice on the “Hierarchy of Strength and Courage,” which sounds curiously like something Ron Swanson would invent in an episode of Parks and Recreation. Apparently, the only way for children to sort out their relative social position is to fight:

“Whenever a youngster movies into a new neighborhood or a new school district, he usually has to fight (either verbally or physically) to establish himself in the hierarchy of strength. This respect for power and courage also makes children want to know how tough their leaders are… I can guarantee that sooner or later, one of the children under your authority will clench his little fist an take you on. Like Siggie at bedtime, he will say with his manner: ‘I don’t think you are tough enough to make me obey.’ You had better be prepared to prove him wrong in that moment, or the challenge will happen again and again” (4).

What a model of peace-making and cooperation, Dr. Dobson! His explanation of why children defy and look for boundaries sounds like something straight from the Pearls’ toxic teachings:

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of original sin that has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant seeds of personal disaster. The weed that grows from it may become a tangled briar patch during the troubled days of adolescence” (5).

At the end of the introduction, Dobson described another dog they owned. “Mindy,” he wrote “[was the] most beautiful, noble dog I’ve ever owned. She simply had no will of her own, except to do the bidding of her masters. Probably because of the unknown horrors of her puppyhood” (11). Oh, you mean like being chased around the room by a man beating you with a belt because you don’t want to go to your doggy-bed? Dobson did explain that his two dogs fell on opposite ends of the compliant-defiant spectrum (just like a minority of children are compliant), but he seems far too happy that Mindy acted like an abused, traumatized animal.

Clearly, it’s vitally important to discipline all the defiance out of your children so they can grow up to well-adjusted members of society. To make this abundantly clear, Dobson described Franklin Roosevelt as a “strong-willed child” who became a “strong-willed man” (8). There is no value judgment of Roosevelt as a person, or President, so one is left to assume that you should dominate your children, lest they become President of the United States. Dobson made it clear that being strong-willed is not a good quality and must be driven out of children (and dogs).

This is virtually identical to the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl, except the Pearls use Amish horse training as a model.

Dobson wanted a compliant, docile dog (child) that obeys his every command without question. Somehow, that will prepare children for adulthood. To get this result, he advocated parents engage in physical violence and wolf-pack domination to prove how Strong and Courageous they are. The fact that he does not recognize that beating your children and animals can eliminate all their internal desires and wishes is a bad thing should alarm everyone reading him.

I personally owned an abused animal. He was a dog named Freddy. Like Mindy, he was traumatized and we got him from someone who found him on the side of the interstate. I was only five years old when we got Freddy, so I didn’t understand why he acted differently from most dogs. He was deathly afraid of water and loud voices. Looking back, he had all the hallmarks of a traumatized puppy. At times, in my  frustration I lashed out in physical anger. I can remember being confused and somewhat heart-broken by his reactions.

Ironically, around the same time, my parents began reading James Dobson, Michael Pearl, and other Evangelical/fundamentalist homeschooling child abuse advocates. I distinctly remember my early childhood suddenly punctuated by violence against animals – our cat Puddy was an early victim – and Freddy. I was merely modeling the same behavior my parents were using to train me and I saw the impact my cruelty had on my happy dog.

Modern studies of children and spanking show that young children who are spanked are more likely to lash out physically against animals and people.

I learned my lessons and Freddy and I grew to be fast friends over the next decade. Traumatized kids and traumatized animals have a special connection. Unfortunately, part of that is the shared experience of trying to escape the violence of our masters modeled after James Dobson. It disturbs me greatly that Michael Farris thinks this is a good book to recommend, given the giant controversy and deaths associated with the Pearls’ methods.

Even more disturbing: I hoped, somewhere in The  New Strong-Willed Child, I would see Dobson make it clear that spanking infants was a bad idea, but the conclusion to his volume left me almost in tears. A woman, “Mrs. W.W.,” wrote to him complaining about their very young, and very strong-willed child:

“Our third (and last) daughter is “strong-willed!” She is twenty-one months old now, and there have been times I thought she must be abnormal. If she had been my firstborn child there would have been no more in this family. She had colic day and night for six months, then we just quit calling it that. She was simply unhappy all the time. She began walking at eight months and she became a merciless bully with her sisters. She pulled hair, bit, hit, pinched, and pushed with all her might. She yanked out a handful of her sister’s long black hair” (209).

Dobson explained that she “[closed her letter by] advising me to give greater emphasis to the importance of corporeal punishment for this kind of youngster.” His reply consisted of general encouragement and offering hope for the future – nothing of consequence. I can only assume Mrs. W.W. began beating her infant before she was twenty-one months.

Five years later, this mother wrote to Dobson praising his wonderful methods. Mrs. W.W. outlined the two things that improved her daughter: spanking, sometimes creating “an hour of tantrums,” and “allow[ing] her other daughters to fight back with the younger daughter.” Within two days of her older sister “giv[ing] her a good smack on the leg… the attacks ceased.” Mrs. W.W. went on and claimed that “without [the spankings] our Sally would have become at best a holy terror, and at worst, mentally ill. Tell your listeners that discipline does pay off, when administered according to the World of God… I don’t think you went far enough in your book, loving discipline is the key. With perseverance!” (210)

There you have it. I expected, after these letters, James Dobson would offer some sort of “there is a limit to the spankings,” but no. Instead he doubled-down and wrote, “If Mrs. W. reads this revised edition of The New Strong-Willed Child, I want her to know that I had her in mind when I set out to rewrite it.” Because, we must all remember, as Dobson concludes his volume:

“If you fail to understand [your strong-willed child’s] lust for power and independence, you can exhaust your resources and bog down in guilt” (211).

I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

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I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Neriah” is a pseudonym.

It’s with excitement that I’ve read all the articles posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous — yet I could never figure out which experience of my own to write about.

Until the mental health week.

I was anorexic from about age twelve to thirteen — honestly, the months are blurry and I can’t handle going back and reading my journals from that time to get a more precise number.

But, safe to say, for about a year I starved myself.

I dropped from around one hundred pounds down to seventy-nine; my body began to shut down. My hair and nails suffered, and my period stopped.  When I look at pictures from that time, I’m shocked — my body is gaunt, my bones protrude out, my face is ghostly. I was twelve and yet I could have passed for nine or ten years old.

Those are the biological details.

Once I began eating normally again (as in, being able to eat a bag of skittles without freaking completely out), the next six years were all about recovering mentally: shifting through feelings, engaging my family, etc. I was constantly depressed and unable to participate normally in social situations. My mind was upheaval—until I was twenty, I spent many, many days in a guilt-and-shame induced nausea.

I had no formal counseling. In fact, when I wrote a speech about my battle with anorexia for an NCFCA speech season, my mom read it and asked, “but did you ever struggled with anorexia?”

It was at that point that I realized I was on my own to sort through the mess in my mind.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about cause. While finding the origin of anything is tricky and often impossible, a significant factor has emerged in the past twelve years that I believe contributed my anorexia and concurrent mental issues: my religious background. In hindsight, my family’s constant emphasis on the Bible, for me, lead to drastic jumps in logic that reinforced my depression, shame and guilt.

Here are few logical fallacies (what I now realize are fallacies) that I’ve mulled over these past fifteen years:

1. If my body was my temple, I had intentionally ruined it by starving myself. I was therefore disrespecting God as the creator of my body. This all equaled shame and guilt—and fear.

2. I had always been a very strong-willed child—my mother commented that she had read James Dobson’s Strong Willed Child and she had a few chapters to add. Furthermore, my mother did not often deal with my passionate, argumentative nature well. Often, in the heat of frustration, she would lob Bible verses at me to convince me to change my behavior. Common ones include the following:

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

She never quoted the following verse at me, but I had read the obscure (and more interesting parts!) of the Old Testament, so I remembered this one that terrified me:

Deuteronomy 21:18, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:  Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

As a result of these verses, I began to believe that my anorexia was a punishment from God intended to turn me toward him and my parents.

It was my “pride” and “haughtiness” and my “lack of honor” that caused me to come into such problems. Thus, if I listened to what God was trying to teach me, the hardships and pain of anorexia would be instrumental in my walk with God— and my depression and guilt and shame would go away.

3. Once I saw the cause of my anorexia (namely, my sin and pride), I would be better. I tried to repent.

I would go forward at church, confessing my sins…..and I’d still feel crippling guilt.

I would read the Bible with discipline and focus…..yet I would still feel horrible depression that made it nearly impossible to get out of bed.

I would simply assume there was a hidden sin somewhere in my life causing me shame—something I hadn’t confessed yet. I searched my soul— wracked my brain. Prayed and prayed, and yet I still felt the urge to work nearly 50-60 per hours a week one summer because I simply could not handle being in a room alone with my racing mind.

I felt I could never repent enough to make the depression go away permanently.

Plus, with all the talk in Christianity about the benefits of “being broken” and how one must be broken in order to be used by God, etc, etc, etc—- I began to feel an impasse with my faith.

Hell, I didn’t want to be broken; I wanted to be whole.

It was at that point that I realized that Christianity and my religious background were not helping me overcome anything— instead, it provided the framework, the worldview to perpetuate these overwhelming waves of depression.

Thus, for me, I left Christianity behind. I believe in God, and yet I find the organized interpretations and literal approach to the Bible not only shallow, but dangerous. My depression and feelings and of guilt and shame have been helped with actual counseling, new “worldly” friends, and a fuller awareness of myself resulting from exposure to ideas in undergraduate and graduate studies.

The very places and people my church tried to save me from instead became my mental health salvation.