The idea of loyalty is entwined and a part of all of our lives. Devotion to sports teams, artists, a political party, universities, fashion & automotive brands, Mac or PC, spiritual beliefs – sometimes even grocery stores. Think about the people, organizations and things that you are willing to invest time, money, faith, and support. That could be a map to your attachments and allegiances. Our first introduction to loyalty typically takes place within our families
The mob drama “The Godfather” is about a powerful Italian-American crime family. It tells the story of love, betrayal and attempts for redemption that exists within a family. These fascinating characters are flawed, and believe their choices are rooted in family loyalty (no matter how outrageous). One-by-one Vito, Michael, Kay, Sonny, Connie, Fredo and eventually their children all suffered the consequences of misguided loyalty.
Loyalty: 1. the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations. 2. fealty, devotion, constancy. Duty or of devoted attachment to something or someone.
Growing up I was taught the importance of family
- No one will love you more than family
- Family will always have your back
- You never go against family
I accepted these ideas as truth and never questioned it. What happens when loyalty is misplaced OR actually isn’t loyalty but dysfunctional and dangerous? Private Family Business is a term I learned and it meant there were things I was never to discuss ever – especially to non family. The reality is this is just an attempt to hide the many lethal forms of a bleeding family – and it needs to STOP.
I know I wasn’t the first one in my family to experience sexual abuse (by family members) – it happened before me AND after me. Why doesn’t anyone talk about it? Why do so many in the family choose to look the other way? Why is the typical response to help the abuser and make excuses? I DON’T UNDERSTAND! I don’t believe my family is the only one who responds this way. This has to change – but how?
Who deserves our loyalty? A sick individual who continues this pattern of behavior (with no signs of wanting to change)? Or an innocent child who has been blindsided by the gross & despicable acts forced on them? Why are children disposable? Don’t they deserve loyalty and devotion too?
My aunt, uncle, cousin and grandfather felt completely comfortable attending family functions – no apparent remorse, guilt or signs of change. When I became a teenager I stopped attending family gathering (weddings, funerals, reunions etc). I couldn’t be in the same room with them because it was a reminder of the abuse – I felt unprotected and unsafe. My father couldn’t understand my decision and held it against me. It was the early days when the wall separating us was going up.
My innocence, feelings of safety, and a positive self-identity were stripped away from me. Then I missed out on over 30 years of family memories with relatives who I deeply love – only followed up by a dissolving and disconnected relationship with my father. Where was my loyalty? Is it only for a select few? It is so unfair, unjust and devastating to me.
The good news is that this isn’t how it ends for me.
I stumbled across the quote “We inherit the family we’re born into and create the family we need”. For me this is absolutely true. God has continually brought people into my life to fill the void that existed. It never ceases to amaze me how he continues to do this – and shows how much he loves me. There are family members too who I’ve reconnected with – and happy to say several months ago attended a quinceanera for the granddaughter of a cousin. The first in a very long time. I went knowing I could possibly see people who have hurt me (physically & emotionally). I didn’t care. I hoped (if they were there) my presence would make them feel uncomfortable in some way. Showing them I survived and they didn’t win. Surprisingly not one of them were there that night. It was a night where I laughed, danced and reconnected with my loved ones. Great medicine for my soul and I am thankful.
For things to change I think we should:
- Stop pledging our allegiances to unsafe and untrustworthy individuals.
- Stop misusing the word “loyal” when the actual words are “dysfunctional” and “co-dependent”.
- Start to put the safety & welfare of children (loyalty) ahead of your desire to “put your head in the sand” and stop the dangerous cycle of “private family business”.
Relatives and people close to our family might think this entire blog is a betrayal to my family. How can I discuss such a private topic in such a public setting? I can understand that thinking. My question is “How and when will this ever stop”? In my case I kept the secret of child molestation and physical abuse, the family members who perpetrated this abuse asked me to keep this secret, once my parents discovered the abuse continued to keep it hidden, while family molesters continued to abuse other children in our family. So again I ask – how and when will this ever stop? Do we all need to continue to suffer in silence? Keep secrets that should have never been kept? Believe me – I’ve kept my mouth shut for many years and lived in torment to the point that death looked better to me than life.
I let my parents know before and after I decided to write this blog, and they both gave me their blessing. I notified them out of respect and courtesy and was surprised and pleased with their response. It might be a small step in their loyalty towards me, but I’ll gladly take it. I believe change can happen. Let’s admit and talk about what is happening around us in our families. For our children and their children and their children. It’s never too late.