Stop Emotional Abuse With Awareness and Apology

During a service commemorating the 15 year anniversary of 911, a woman spoke truth about emotional abuse. She publicly apologized to her eight-year-old daughter for being violent toward her. It wasn’t a matter of hitting or yelling at her child. She said, “I’m sorry for being distracted by social media. I’m sorry for ignoring you.” Her daughter felt invisible and unloved. The mother took responsibility. The issue was subtle emotional abuse. 

Violence defined.

We don’t normally think of our disregard as violent behavior.

Later on my heart sunk as I looked at the diagram from the google search. As a therapist I should know this stuff. This “Power-Control Wheel triggered a gut reaction in me.

We can identify physical abuse more clearly than emotional abuse. Verbal violence and mind manipulation seems even more insidious than physical assaults. Emotional abuse proceeds physical abuse. It’s confusing when the victim believes the made-up story about her partner’s rage. 

“If only I did this or that, then he wouldn’t have gotten so angry. It’s my own fault.”  

“That’s not the way he really is.”

She soaks up the blame in her isolation, shame, and guilt. She believes his accusations as if they were gospel truth about her. 

She believes his accusations as if they were gospel truth about her. Click To Tweet Her self-esteem hangs on the partner’s manipulation. 

Emotional abuse is real.

Some say there’s no such thing as emotional, mental, or verbal abuse. The law protects against physical abuse, but it gives full permission to verbal violence.  The law protects against physical abuse, but it gives full permission to verbal violence. Click To Tweet 

It’s how the Nazi’s broke down the Jews during Hitler’s regime. They used name calling and intimidation before murdering them. What we clearly identify as evil is showing up in our own homes that are meant to be places of safety.

Emotional AbusePower and Control is at the hub of all abuse.The spokes show symptoms from economic abuse to isolation. Other diagrams include categories of social media and spiritual abuse. Entitlement attitudes in perpetrators prey on the low self-esteem of their partners. He regards himself as claiming to know the heart and motives of his victim. 

Please read this wheel thoroughly and open your heart as this mother did for us. Highlight what you’re allowing as “normal.” Choose to call it violence. The enemy is power/control. It’s also our ignorance and silence. 

Our minimizing and secrecy keep the power/control wheel trampling over the hearts of our spouses, our children and our grandchildren.

This is not about vilanizing another human being. Everyone is designed by God to honor the dignity, worth, and lovability of others and themselves. Even labeling a person as “abuser” is name-calling beyond the purpose of identifying the issue of abuse.

Emotional abuse is the enemy.

Those who power over others are shame-driven. Victims and perpetrators devalue themselves and others.  They embrace what’s “normal” in their families and our society.

My gut reaction is the conviction over my own silence, secrecy, ignorance, and minimizing.

We must stand for truth with a capital “T” with what we know. For those of us whose children are grown, let’s apologize. We can’t go back and undo the damage we’ve done to their eight-year-old souls.

Let’s ask each of them now, “Please forgive me for my distractions and disregard for how valuable you really are.  Please forgive me for my distractions and disregard for how valuable you really are. Click To Tweet 

Together, let’s be determined to change our normal. Be aware of emotional abuse and say, “I’m sorry.”

Questions to Ponder

What area on the power/control wheel is normal for you?

Who in your family do you need to apologize to?

How will you change “normal” patterns in your life?


Christian author, Leslie Vernick’s blogs on Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse Information

Brene Brown addresses parenting and emotional abuse

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse


Request a free consultation


Lessons of Grief From A Clay Cup

Loss can be mysterious and unexpected. In this case, I learned lessons of grief from a clay cup. Click here for audio version. 

It wasn’t just any cup. My 23-year old son who moved out to Seattle two years before gave me this treasured gift. The unglazed belly of the clay cup made my coffee vibrant with flavor. The handle fit my hand perfectly along with indention for my thumb at just the right angle. 

The artisan-crafted clay cup held depth of meaning in ways I didn’t realize.

It was a daily ritual to write in my prayer journal drinking from my clay cup with a lighted candle by my side. While on my front porch rocking chair these tangible items helped me meditate and pray. My heavenly Father and my long-distance son were invisible, yet present. I felt close to both.

At the time, my younger son was getting married and my daughter and granddaughter had just moved across the country.

Adult children moving or getting married is not an easy transition for any mom. Click To Tweet

And then, while in the kitchen, the unexpected happened. I was totally caught off guard. It was like a slow motion movie clip when each frame passed by in focused terror! My beloved cup fell off the crowded countertop and shattered onto the wood floor; gone in an instant. The shock made time stand still.

A nauseous pit in my stomach screamed out. An uncontrollable floodgate poured out of my red splotchy face. My husband picked up the pieces to assess it’s fixability.

Nothing could be done.

My tears wouldn’t stop.

I woke the next morning missing my cup. The uncontrollable tears and gut-wrenching feelings came in waves like an ocean tide. It lingered for several days.

This is crazy, I thought. It was just a clay cup. Why am I reacting like this? What is wrong?

I scheduled a counseling appointment with my therapist.

She encouraged me to make a mosaic out of the shattered pieces. Although I’d never be able to drink out of it, I could make it a piece of art; something new and beautiful. 

My therapist helped me identify the meanings I attached to that clay cup. She helped me gain focus to my loss. I became more aware of what I was really grieving.   

Here’s what I’m learning about grief.

  1. Grief is universal and unique. We all experience loss and we are all affected by it. Loss is not only the death of a loved one. It’s the death of a relationship, a season of life, a dream, or an attachment.
  2. Grief is meant to be felt. Willingness to feel the sadness and cry the tears makes us more whole as human beings. Feeling depth of loss gives us capacity to live and feel fullness of joy. Click To Tweet
  3. Grief is necessary. It tunes us into the value of our relationships. It gives us clarity. It helps us let go and make something beautiful where sorrow existed.
  4. Grief has meaning. When we take time to face our loss and pain, we gain clarity. We appreciate others more. We’re able to hold the preciousness of “now”.

It’s been three years since the initial sting of my shattered cup. Waves of grief settled and joy came back. I can live in the “now” and embrace the emerging adulthood of my children. I enjoy this “empty nest” stage of life with my husband. It feels free and full.

My husband and I make our trips across the country visiting my long-distance children, cherishing the time we have. Tears still flow with our “good-byes.”

I now drink from another clay cup with more awareness. Whether it’s loved ones, relationships, seasons, or dreams; all are meant to transition and grow. Be thankful for now.

Questions to Ponder

What are you learning about grief?

What are things that hold meaning for you?

How has a loss become something new and beautiful?


Father's Day

Father’s Day–5 Things Dad Should Know

I cried when I read the words my uncle Ken recently wrote as the foreword to my soon to be published e-book, Relationship Dignity Manifesto. It seemed the message became deeper as I read his account of my dad who died at the young age of 28. Many Father’s Days have come and gone since my early childhood grief. I dedicate this post in memory of William C. Welch, my dad.

Baby Boomers Remember

Many of us Baby Boomers can still sing the words to Harry Chapin’s song, The Cats in the Cradle. A Nissan commercial debuted during Super Bowl in 2015 combined the 1974 classic with a series of short video images resurrecting deep emotions for those of us tuned in.

Attention grabbing images show the joyful birth of a newborn son growing through stages of childhood and adolescence. Moody teenager, absent dad, worried mom, and dad’s accident on the racetrack fit the lyrics. The little boy is left wondering when his dad is coming home. Dad kept promising later.

All ends well in ninety seconds with the connection of a loving dad and understanding son smiling at each other driving off in a new Nissan.

The messages portrayed are: Life is valuable. Relationships are resilient. Teenagers understand. New Nissans satisfy and are safe. Yes, we can connect with those messages. . . or can we?

Generational Patterns

Chapin’s lyrics express regret of an older dad who missed out on the seasons of his young son’s life. Business trips and career-building were stronger messages than the ten year-old’s voice, who thanked his dad for the ball and asked him to play. Dad responded again, with another excuse. He had other things to do.

Dads who parent well, take the time to tune into the lives and emotions of their sons and daughters. They are able to put their smaller agendas aside. They are able to see a larger perspective. They are not only raising small children and moody teenagers; they are raising future husbands and wives; dads and moms.

Five things every dad needs to know.

Here are factors that give perspective for wise fathering.

1. Know your own history well. Admit and grieve your childhood gaps.

Take time to remember and make sense of your past. Be courageous to face the loss and pain of childhood. Unclaimed resentment, anger, and bitterness may have settled in your soul like a clogged up drain. Feel what needs to be felt. Forgive what needs to be forgiven. Move past the residue of the past. Put it in it’s proper meaning and place.

2. Be aware of generational patterns in your family tree.

Rather than criticizing extended family members, take time to hear their stories. Examine the positive and negative traits passed down from your relatives. Be willing to own both your strengths and weaknesses. Be intentional about growing your character beyond what was passed onto you

3. Look for dads whose parenting you admire. 

We find what we look for. Be intentional about looking for role models; those who have raised their sons and daughters well. Look for those who have close connection and understanding with their teenagers or adult children. Spend time with these dads. Ask questions. Be vulnerable with them.

4. Respect the opinions of your children’s mother.

Keep in mind that mothers know and feel connections with their children. Many are natural at tuning into their needs. Talk through differences. Partner with your children’s mother. Seek outside counseling rather than settle into chronic disagreements. Protect your children from the insecurity of troubled parenting.

5. Respect the otherness of your children.

Children are are separate people, worthy of love, respect, and belonging. They are not objects to be controlled. They are not little versions of their parents. Tune into their hearts and their needs.

I thank Nissan for getting our attention. Perhaps they’ve sold many cars through their commercial. They have sold me on the opportunity to encourage dads to parent their sons and daughters well.

Questions to ponder

How aware are you of your personal history?

What generational traits have been passed down to you?

Who are your role models?

How has this post touched you?

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day Highs and Lows

As we all celebrate Mother’s Day, let us pay attention to the high’s and low’s we experience as moms. May we be compassionate toward those who have unknown stories.

It can be a difficult day or just another day.

Regret, sadness, and secrecy hidden among the smiles and pleasantries. The stress of single parenting or the long-term resentful marriage make Mother’s Day a challenge for some. It shows up as an aching heart that seems as physical as a stopped up drain in the throat.

All we see is the outward appearance. We turn away from those who don’t smile back and totally misinterpret another’s stern face.

We don’t know the journey of another.

  • Mothers who lost their babies through abortion, miscarriage, still birth, or sudden infant death.
  • Mothers who’ve placed their newborns for adoption.
  • Mothers who experience rejection, unforgiveness, and estrangement from adult children.
  • Mothers whose child has an addiction, or whose children are torn from divorce.
  • Mothers whose children died through accident, suicide, or sickness.
  • Daughters whose mothers have passed on leaving a void no one else can fill.
  • Grandmothers who aren’t allowed relationship with grandchildren.

We see and relate or avoid and judge.

There’s a unknown story. Or there’s made up stories in our heads about others and ourselves.

We judge by our own limited understanding.

I recently re-read “Carry On Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton who’s become my hero and role model on several levels. She writes about the power of embracing your messy, beautiful life. Her term, brutiful  describes how our lives can be both brutal and beautiful.

I resonate with her as a writer, a mother, a wife, and a courageous woman speaking truth in love. She’s one of the most authentic authors I’ve read. Even a second reading (audio listening) of her book brought tears to my eyes. She encourages me to listen to my soul and recognize God’s spirit in others.

How her story makes sense to me. 

  1. We’re all beloved by God and our substance is divine.
  2. Some of her stories shed light on my own judgmental attitudes. I’ve had to repent of my boldness at confronting others and unknowingingly wounding them.
  3. I’m still working on listening and being open. It’s a life-long journey for me.

Whether joyful or dreadful on this day of celebration, let’s honor the untold stories of all mothers. Their lives matter. They’re life-givers, nurturers, and lovers. They’re wounded, guilt-ridden, and downtrodden. They’re worthy and lovable no matter what category they’re in.

Here’s my message to all mothers

You are a woman of dignity
You’re worthy to be loved and celebrated
You’re an overcomer
Your story matters

Carry On Warrior. Life is brutal and beautiful – as Glennon would say, brutiful.

Questions to Ponder

Who in your life honors your story?

What is one brave thing you can do to affirm your dignity?

Your Next Step: Get “Beyond Messy Relationships”