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1/28/07                                                                                       View Comments

I finally got my self-respect

Sent in by A. Ford

When I was a child, we were always taken to a Free Will Baptist church by my mother. However, my dad never attended. The church was across the street from where we lived (my parents moved here for that very reason), so we had no excuse for being absent.

At the age of 2, my life seemed to be one of constant failure psychologically. It was then that I was bitten by my uncle's dog under one eye. The bite left a scar when it healed, and I became very self-concious, even though it didn't show up that bad. A few years later, I had to have surgery on my eyes (7 years old). I had to wear glasses after the surgery for at least 3 or 4 years.

My family were the only people I thought I could trust amongst all the doctors, dentists, etc. However, my dad constantly belittled everything I did to the point that I had no self-esteem. My brother and I fought a lot, and when I was 13, he became an alcoholic, so when we got in fights, he became very violent (he tried to kill me a couple of times, and I suffered a concussion during one of his rages). On top of all this, my older sister had Down's syndrome, and most of my mother's time went to dealing with her so that I was neglected.

As if this were not bad enough, I had no friends. Ever since kindergarten, my teachers had separated me from the one person I knew because they thought he (and others) was a bad influence on me. I was poor, and I wore hand-me downs because my parents had no money to buy us clothes; this just made kids laugh at me. There were a few kids at church, but they were foreign to me since I only saw them once a week, and they lived pretty far from where I lived.

When I became a teenager, my problems worsened. I did not get a driver's license at 16 because my dad wanted to "lord" over me. It didn't matter, because I only knew a couple of other people who tried to get me into trouble anyway. My dad and brother fought a lot, and I had no way of escaping the violence, because I had no license. This was probably the worst point in my life. I started reading the Bible heavily, and church was about the only place I could go during the week. God was the only one I could "trust", but of course, he really did nothing.

I graduated high school and went to my local college. While there, I was a very good student (nearly all A's), and I eventually got my Master's degree in chemistry. I went away and got a PhD in Chemistry in 2005. I remained faithful to my religion through the whole time, even though I knew of several problems with the scriptures. I always went to church and believed that someday someone would answer all the questions. Even so, I knew I was getting older, and the problems with the scriptures were building instead of lessening.

I came back to my home town to do a post doc at my alma matter. At this point, I still had a little kid mentality because of all the psychological abuse from my dad (i.e. I just couldn't trust anyone). I had almost no friends because our denomination, which discouraged alcohol use and sale, was small (e.g. there were only two people in my Sunday school class), and I felt like I should avoid ubiquitous situations where alcohol was present.

While at home, I had a few health problems. Prayer did not seem to be working, even though I prayed earnestly at least 30 minutes daily, and I began to wonder if I should just accept my fate. I went to the doctor several times during this period, only to be given antibiotics and steroids repeatedly. Then, something I had prayed about for 13 years finally failed to actualize (how's that for faith), and I just flat out gave up on God. I had read the Bible at least 15 times, and I just couldn't ignore all the errors and mistakes I had found all those years.

This was a terrible period of time for me. I had given everything to God. After 20 years of being "saved", my life had no direction now, since I didn't exactly know what the purpose of life was. However, I did have a PhD and a promising career. I thought to myself, if God was not there when I accomplished my PhD, I could make it through life without him anyway. Now, I not only had courage to go on, but all the years of psychological abuse started to roll away. I didn't have to "honor my father and mother" or "submit to others" because I was afraid of a wrathful God or because I wanted to set a godly example . I could do whatever I wanted and everyone else could just screw themselves for all I cared. I finally got back a part of me that my parents, peers, and teachers had stolen from me all those years. I finally got my self-respect.