Reading and Reflecting on Hillary's Book

I finished reading Quivering Daughters this morning. I learned many things about a particular lifestyle I have not lived. And, once again, through a book, I felt a deep connection to someone I have never met in person (but would like to).

One of the reasons I love to read the true stories of other people's lives is that it is a comfort to me to know how similar we all are as human beings in our need for love, affirmation, approval, and acceptance. I would presume all of us want our parents to love and be proud of us for who we are (rather than how well we reflect them to others). And yet, in every story I read, from the least visible (a quivering daughter) to the most historical (Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincon); there are childhood wounds and/or difficulties in family relationships that extend well into adulthood. I guess this reassures me that I'm not so unusual after all; I'm just another normal (or abnormal, you might say) human being.

I couldn't imagine some of the experiences Hillary shared. (For instance, I did not have a lot of responsibility around the house growing up and lived a very comfortable life as far as having my physical needs met.) But I so related to her emotionally, as a woman trying to be good enough and trying to be loved; in spite of the feeling of being different.

I thought of this C.S. Lewis quote after reading Hillary's book:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

I love this quote from the book (and Hillary's blog):

"It is a grave disservice to the heart, soul, body and spirit of a woman when she is given the subtle message that the truth of her own pain is not as important as the reputation of the ones who inflict it."

This quote sums up what I was trying to say on behalf of victims in my book (both female and male). However, when I read it specifically applied to women, it resonated with me on a much more personal level.

Hillary had a patriocentric upbringing and I had an ecclesiocentric upbringing. I didn't realize my experience had such a definition until I read the book and then it was obvious how I was relating to her in spite of the obvious differences in our families. Hillary quotes Karen Campbell...

"There's a parallel between ecclesiocentricity and patriocentricity. Ecclesiocentricity teaches that the church leadership--a pastor or an elder--represents the congregants to God, and God to the congregants. Patriocentricity teaches that the father represents his wife and children to God, and God to his wife and children. We are examining a religious teaching, a new theology, a modern view that has no historic roots in true New Testament Christianity..."

All through the book, I simply replaced father with pastor and the spiritual messages were the same. My feelings of inadequacy, the inability to measure up to expectations or be good enough, feeling like a continual disappointment to my family; all the same. The only real difference was the degree of despair. For some reason, I have not been prone to depression. But I did experience it once following two full years of intense emotional stress. And I recognize that depression was all around me. (I do not view it as a weakness; spiritually or emotionally.)

I really do feel that I have healed from most of my spiritual wounds. And I'm on the road to healing when it comes to family wounds. But I had some flashbacks to subtle and overt messages I received about being female as I read this book. One book cannot encompass every aspect of a person's life. And there are questions I would like to ask Hillary if I ever had the opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee. For instance, I would love to know more about her relationships with her siblings and her brothers in particular. How were they treated differently in a partiocentric family?

I was the oldest and the only daughter in my family. I've read that no two children, even within the same family, have identically the same parents. That is because the personality and gender of each child brings out different things in the same parents. I know that I brought out something different in my parents than either of my brothers. I always looked at myself as disappointing (just as Hillary did). I talked about it in my book; that I felt difficult to love. I felt defective.

In my forties, I spent four years in Christian counseling (with a counselor outside my church walls). And my counselor's professional opinion was that I had less value in my family simply by virtue of being female in an environment that devalued women.

So many examples of this have flooded my mind recently. Last week, while watching "The Book of Eli" I had an unexpected flashback to something my dad said to me as a young girl. It was during a scene of attempted rape. The scene was violent and it took me back to a discussion I'd had with my dad about rape and God's expectations of us as women. I will never forget him telling me that he believed it would honor and please God for a woman to choose death (die fighting her attacker) rather than to submit to being raped to save her life. He added that he didn't think God would demand that, but He would be pleased.

I remember interpreting my dad's comments this way: "If someone ever tries to rape me, my dad will be more disappointed if I live through it than if I die fighting. He will think I didn't fight hard enough." But I couldn't attribute my dad's thinking to God. I had a hard time imagining God being "pleased" by such a scenario no matter what the outcome. Looking back, I'm amazed I had the ability to discern that my dad did not speak for God. My dad was speaking for my dad.

My dad urged my younger brother to stand up to bullies, but he told me to turn the other cheek in some pretty extreme situations. I remember wanting so badly for him to protect me. And not understanding why he didn't. I think I understand it better now in hindsight. It was easier for him to tell a girl not to fight than it was to say that to his son. It is just one of many instances where I can now recognize the gender issues that existed. It's actually a relief to recognize this because there is nothing I could have done differently to change this.

This post could go on forever if I got into more specifics. I guess I'll save that for coffee with Hillary one day!

For now, I just want to say how much I appreciate Hillary's courage in sharing her journey in this book and her desire to help others process the wounds of their spiritually abusive pasts. The book was very thought provoking and I literally could not put it down.


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