Periodically throughout my lifetime, I’d recall that moment of shame. I would see in my
minds eye…that tiny little girl walking down the sidewalk toward home with wet pants and the
weight of guilt and shame on her shoulders.
I was six, and in the first grade when it happened. The teacher hadn’t allowed me to be
excused to go to the bathroom and I’d wet myself. I was mortified beyond belief, having to sit
there knowing everyone knew.When finally I was dismissed I remember seeing Mom and Dad coming to meet me and how I ran and hid behind the bush on the corner to keep them from seeing me. It wasn’t until much much later I would realize the significance of that moment and the mighty part it played in my entire life.
My father was a heavy drinker. We weren’t allowed to call him an alcoholic, though. I’ve heard the statement “A family is only as healthy as its secrets” and now I know what that means. As a child, however, I didn’t. Even though we didn’t admit to this secret we all knew it was there.
We all lived with this crippling pain.
My mother was an emotional person, and had several nervous breakdowns throughout my
growing up years. She screamed and cried a lot and I always felt it was my fault and grew up
under this shadow of guilt. She did take us to Sunday school every week, though, and I learned to
love the Lord. I believe He was the only stable thing in my entire childhood. But due to the fact I
lived in such a strained environment, I never “really” trusted Him either. I always felt I was
playing a game, nobody knew about but God and me. The very fact He knew, too, caused much
stress in my life.
When I became an adult, my faith was there, but it was never strong enough to cause me to
trust God 100%. I never talked about my feelings of inadequacy, because I actually believed if you loved God the way you were supposed to, you would be happy all the time. I was once more just pretending as I’d always done. What was wrong with me?
I had a rough time in marriage as well. It never fulfilled my aching desire for love and I ran
away from them as well. After two failed marriages, I’d given up on ever finding a life’s mate. I
wanted no part of love or marriage. My two teen-aged daughters and I lived alone for seven years.
Then I met Bob. At last I could be happy…but only six months into the marriage I
awakened to the same old feelings of failure. At this point I was having anxiety attacks… at times
hardly able to breath. Hearing the word divorce caused me to want to vomit. How could I possibly call myself a Christian? I wanted to run so fast and so far no one would ever find me. I knew of course, this wasn’t the answer, but I was so tired of playing a silly game and not having any idea what the rules were. I didn’t even want to live if this was the way the rest of my life was going to be.
My sister, who of course, had grown up in the same environment I had, began to go to
A.C.O.A. (Adult children of alcoholics). I was almost mad because I, then, had to face something
I’d never faced before. My father, who’d passed away six years prior, had been an alcoholic.
I watched as she became a whole person, I watched as she began admitting things and
allowing the anger she’d hidden for so long, come out. I began to envy her, and wanted what she
had for myself. Maybe, just maybe, I could find out what was wrong with me. I never went to
A.C.O.A. myself, because I felt it was just a bunch of people who blamed their parents for their
own mistakes. I was wrong. It is a wonderful support group allowing people to finally talk about
their pasts they had lived with in fear and shame their entire lives.
At this point, I began realizing that maybe I wasn’t to blame for everything. Finally I began
realizing I was only a product of my environment and was seeking the love and stability I’d never
found as a child, or through marriage. I couldn’t function as an adult, when I was still a child in a
I started searching my past for the beginning of my shame. When had it begun? What had
caused me to go through an entire lifetime of guilt? Why would that one tiny insignificant
happening in the first grade cause me to still feel such pain when remembered? So many questions I’d never given credence to before.I then began to remember my childhood. It had been a blur except for that one incident of shame I remembered to well. Why did I have to be so perfect? Why was I so very very ashamed of wetting my pants. It wasn’t the end of the world?
My sister began learning about co-dependency and living in a dysfunctional home. I had a
lot more to admit to than my father being an alcoholic. As I studied books on this subject, I began
to see things differently. It wasn’t me alone that caused Dad to drink and mom to have emotional
problems. They’d had those problems long before I was ever born. I then became aware that I was trying to be perfect so they wouldn’t have a reason to drink or scream. That was why I felt such shame in the first grade. Not only shame, but fear; fear dad would be angry, and this would cause him to drink. Fear mom would be embarrassed and she would start to scream. This was the reason I’d hidden behind the bush when I saw them coming.
Now I understood. But there was more to it than that; much more.
One day, Mom and I were talking and I brought up the incident at school. How I’d run and
hid behind the bush to keep them from seeing me.
“But, Marcia,” she said in a strained voice. “There was no bush. You ran to us and cried.”
My heart stood still. What did she mean no bush? Why that bush was as real as the
whole experience itself. I thought I had things kind of straightened out in my mind until I heard
that. I actually became numb. Suddenly I knew the truth! There WAS no bush. I had invented it in my mind to keep everyone from knowing my pain. I was forty-five years old and still behind
that bush. My child-within had never grown beyond that day of shame and fear. Every time I was forced to face anything that was a challenge I had run and hid behind my safer… my place where no one could see me, and my failures. I knew them, though, and they were killing me. No wonder I could not find forgiveness, I was hiding from life, from reality, and God. I was searching for the perfect love that man cannot give and unable to trust God enough to realize He was the only one who could.
For the first time in my life it all made sense. I knew I needed to go back to the beginning,
back to my imaginary bush.
I sat alone in my living room and prayed for My Lord to guide me. Closing my eyes, I
could see myself as I was that very day so long ago. Alone, tiny, frightened, with straggly hair,
crying softly. Tears stung my eyes, as my heart went out to this child…. myself. I called my name and assured this fragile six-year old it was alright to come out. “It’s Okay, I forgive you, I love you.” I whispered. At that moment I became painfully aware of the fact that I’d never loved
myself before. I wrapped my arms around myself and wept unashamedly as I knew I’d left the
After forty-five years of unnecessary guilt and shame, I was free!
I then knew, I could handle this marriage, because I was no longer seeking a little girls
dream. Man is not capable of the kind of love I desired. Only our God in heaven can fill the
emptiness left behind from a dysfunctional childhood.
I can now forgive myself, knowing there was a reason for my behavior. Even though
dysfunctional living had played a large part in the way I was; I could no longer blame that. Nor
was my past something I needed to hide from.
God says in His word He forgives sin. I believe that! No longer will I allow a past riddled
with shame keep me a shelf below the blessings my Lord has for me. At last I can face up to life
without shame and guilt clouding the view.
Marcia Leaser is a freelance Christian author with over nine hundred things published to date.A children’s book Frizzeldee’s Catastrophe was published in 2009 and a women’s devotional – “Every Step of the Way” will be released in 2012. www.forhismercyandgrace.com