Perfect Life

Background story on this entry: in Friday’s counseling session, my counselor had me speak to my cousin as though he were in the room and tell him what it was like for me growing up and what it was like living in the situation I was living in upon entering high school. At some point, I also went into who I am rather than what the family has labeled me as. And it hit me that no one else is living in reality. This was the first step in returning shame that didn’t belong to me back to the people who put it on my shoulders. This song shuffled on as I was driving to work, and everything that it said was more or less what I saw in this relationship with my relatives. And after work, this entry was born.

You pretend what you say you feel 
You pretend that you’re something special
All the lies that you hide behind
I see right through you, see right through you 
Paint it on, cover every inch 
Any flaw will expose your weakness 
I’m immune to your fantasy 
I won’t become you, won’t become you…

I never deserved how you treated me.

I never volunteered to be the family scapegoat.

I never asked to carry your shame and guilt.

So why did you make me?

The more I think about it, the more strategic I’ve realized this was: in order to protect a grown man’s damaged image and honor when he threw it away by his own decision, you targeted the most vulnerable person you had access to – the only one without the protection of a father. When did this decision take place, and why wasn’t I invited to be a part of making it?

We all got along fine the first few years of my life. We played together. The adults treated me like we were family. Because we were. We were.

Weren’t we?

So what changed?

When we moved to the West Coast, I still hadn’t started elementary school. And I was blindsided with that change.

You all treated me so terribly all of a sudden. And I didn’t understand why. Can you imagine how confusing that is for a child? I still don’t understand. But considering how loyal the kids in this “family” are to the parents – to a fault – I don’t doubt the parents were involved in this decision.

Guys… all of you.

I was three. Maybe four at the most.

How did grown men and women decide that the four-year-old was going to be shamed for no reason but to save your own faces? How did you even think it was okay to get your children to agree to it – to be the ones who treated me the worst while you passively observed? How did you justify this to yourself? “She’s not one of us.” “Her surname belongs to someone outside the family.” “We’re not harming our family, we’re protecting it.”

Did it go something like that?

That’s just… pathetic.

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is a perfect lie
I don’t want your perfect life

I don’t deserve this shame. So you can have it back.

I am not defined by what I lack. I am not defined by what kind of man my father was. I’m not defined by his sins. I’m not defined by who my mom is. I’m not defined by who I’m not.

I’m defined by a whole lot more.

You think I’m hateful. You think I’m disrespectful. You think I’m selfish. You think I ruined your lives because I stood up for myself against you.

No. I think you’re looking at the wrong person when you say those things. Maybe you should walk into your bathroom and stand in front of your mirror. And then say those things. Because that’s who deserves to hear it. And that’s who still needs to stand up for him or herself.

I refuse to be defined by your fantasy, no matter how much you’ve convinced yourselves it’s reality. I refuse to carry the burden of your sin against me any longer.

I refuse your shame. It was never mine. It was never about me. It was always about all of you.

So, keep your dream with no consequence
You’d damage me just to feed your senses
All you fake for reality
I see right through you, see right through you
Take your pride, take your vanity
Can’t you see that your ego’s empty?
I will turn, I will walk away
I won’t become you, won’t become you…

If you’re tall because you’ve forced me to kneel, you’re not tall at all. You just rob me of what belongs to me. You clothe yourself with my innocence and stand tall, and clothe me with your shame and force me to my knees with this burden.

How was it okay to have done that to a four-year-old?

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is a perfect lie
I don’t want your perfect life

I’m still living the repercussions of your decisions. I’m still learning to shed your shame. Why should my relationships be damaged just because you damaged ours? Why should I be damaged just because you tried to make me damaged?

It’s clear now.

You’re afraid. You’ve always been afraid. You’re not afraid of me – or if you are, you’d never admit it.

You’re afraid of yourselves.

You’re afraid of what you’ve all done. You’re afraid that your fantasy can never become a reality.

And so you’ve convinced yourselves that I was the cancer, that I was what kept your perfect image of yourselves from being true.

And you tried to destroy me.

But isn’t it ironic? Can’t you see?

Those actions are exactly what prove that your fantasy is fantasy. Those actions prove who you really are: small people who have to make other people be small in order to be big; broken people who have to break other people in order to be unbroken; selfish people who have to pass their guilt onto other people in order to be gracious.

My eyes are wide open
I see the enemy, the hypocrisy
Your cover is fading
Secrets pouring out, castles falling down
There’s nothing to hide behind
I know who I am inside

I’m perfectly broken

I’m not without fault. Why else would I need a Savior?

But I don’t own your faults.

And you can’t make me.

No more.

I’ve got enough of my own, thanks.

I don’t have resolution to this yet. I wish I did. I wish I can be past this and moving onto greener pastures.

But this is my first step toward those.

This is me. Handing your shame back to you.

And if you refuse it, one day I’ll learn to drop it at your feet. As well as Someone else’s.

I don’t want this burden anymore. Carrying it for over two decades is too long – I will not carry it any further. This lie will no longer damage the good and true things in my life.

I see that I’m not perfect, that life is not perfect, that people in my life aren’t perfect.

And the imperfections are what make my life so beautiful.

You want a perfect, PERFECT LIFE
Nothing wrong, nothing real inside
All I see is an empty lie
I don’t want your PERFECT LIFE

I am not the abuse you dealt me.

I am perfectly broken.

And adopted into one heckuva family with the only perfect Father.

Lyrics from “Perfect Life” by Red on their album Release the Panic © 2013 Provident Label Group LLC, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment. Find them at


i am not my abuse

Side note: I took the photo on a tripod with a timer cuz no one else was home at the time. >.<” At first I was a little unhappy with the focus being on my eye and the part of me behind the hand, but then I realized that that’s how it should be. The focus should be on me, not on the things that happened to me. My life isn’t about my past. It’s about my redemption. *end fluke philosophical soapbox moment*

I struggled with calling it abuse for a long time. First of all, it came from those I knew as family. We’re supposed to be loyal to each other, right? So everything said and done should be beneficial even if it shames us in the moment. Right? Secondly, it wasn’t physical. That’s what abuse is, right? Thirdly, when it was, it only happened once. So it can’t be abuse… right?


Emotional abuse is abuse.

And abuse is abuse no matter where it comes from, no matter how many times it’s done.

No matter from whom it comes from.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience. I don’t pretend to know the magnitude of your suffering. But please, let me empathize. And let me give you the truth that I need just as much as you.

You are dearly loved.

Not only by warmhearted friends that have become family, but by the God who created you. He knew you before you were born, knit you together in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He loves you enough to settle the debt you owe Him—the debt I owed Him: when we were rebelling against Him and breaking His heart, He died for us (Romans 5:8). He loves you enough to create you with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11). He loves you enough that He will be found by you if you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Do not doubt that you are loved. Do not doubt that you deserve love. No matter how much has been denied you, know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and wonderful are His works (Psalm 139:14).

I had difficulty naming it.

But I name it now.

I was abused.

I was dehumanized. I was made one-dimensional.

Because they needed me to be for their sake. Because if I were human, it would be abuse.

But no matter how much someone tries to take your humanity away, they can never do so. It is not for them to take but for God to give. He made you in His image—no matter what gender or ethnicity you are, you bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

You bear the image of God, Beloved!

And He has an adventure in store for you.

Please, do not allow your abuse to become your identity. It is not. It only has as much power as you’re willing to give it. There may be a small sense of control in making it your identity, but it is not real. Owning the shame will only tear you apart.

Trust me.

Letting go of that identity will not be easy. It will probably be the most terrifying and powerfully freeing moment of your life. And it will hurt. Very badly. But He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). The battle will not overcome you because He is with you to rescue you (Jeremiah 1:19). And He will redeem your past for the glory of His Name.

As He did with mine.

I once heard at church a woman quoted saying, “My past explains me, but it does not define me.”

You are not your abuse.

Your identity is only given by the one who created you, who died for you to live (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

I am not my abuse.

No matter what I’ve been told, no matter what’s been done to me, I am not my abuse.

My identity is in Christ. By His wounds I am healed (1 Peter 2:24). I am His daughter, made in His image. It’s an identity I’m still trying to grasp. But it is an identity with a foundation and a promise.

I am not my abuse.

I am redeemed. I am loved. I am spoken for. I am bought with the blood of an innocent Man.

I am not my abuse.

I am a child of God.

featured in WitnessLA May 2013