Arrested Emotional Development
The Great Generational Disconnect
The Child is the Father of the Man (Wikipedia)
Marriage Vows (Wikipedia)
Sworn Testimony (Wikipedia)
His Web Site
Sometimes we make a vow to ourselves in childhood that follows us into our adult years. Usually, the vow happens around a time in your childhood that was very painful. To avoid feeling that kind of pain again, you make a vow to yourself, such as “I’m never going to [fill in the blank]” or “I will always [fill in the blank].”
The childhood vow is powerful because it worked at the time to protect yourself or get your needs met. Because the vow works, it is reinforced and becomes a habit. Over time, the habit gets reinforced and becomes part of your personality.
The problem is when you grow up, sometimes the habit that grew out of the childhood vow doesn’t work anymore. I’ll give you an example from my own life. For some reason, when I was little, I would get really upset if I got into trouble. Even if it was a little thing, I would feel super-guilty, start crying, and basically lose it. To avoid that pain, I made a childhood vow: “I will never do anything bad.” The vow worked as a child, because I usually did the right thing and didn’t get in trouble much growing up. So, I was able to avoid feeling that pain.
But as I grew up, this childhood vow didn’t serve me very well. For one thing, I’m not perfect, so when I would mess up or do something I considered “bad,” I would get very upset and judgmental of myself, which led to me experiencing a high level of distress over relatively minor things. Also, I tended to play it safe and not take risks, because I didn’t want to get in a situation where I might get into trouble or make a mistake. In my work, I tend to shy away from conflict, even if it is something I should confront, because I don’t want to experience that old feeling of being in trouble. The childhood vow that worked for me growing up was now a problem.
How can you discover your childhood vow? Be on the lookout for times when you find yourself doing something different than what you really want to do, or something that is different from your best interests. This might be a signal that a childhood vow is lurking under the surface. Also, if you find yourself doing something automatically, and then afterward wondering “why did I do that?,” it might be a signal that there is a childhood vow operating.
When you have discovered one of your childhood vows, what do you do about it? Try to create a new vow that can replace the childhood vow, that would move you more in the direction of where you want to go. For example, in my life, a new vow I came up with was to “engage with courage and integrity.” When my natural tendency to shy away or retreat comes up, I remember my new vow and try to do something different.
What is one childhood vow you have made? How did that childhood vow protect you or meet your needs as a child? What is one way your childhood
BREAKING THE CHILDHOOD VOWS
Without notice, you have been bound by the words of your mouth, taken as vows in your childhood. My dear friend, this has caused you woundings which are so deep, even you do not know from whence they came. When you fail to measure up to such things, it brings upon you guilt, condemnation, shame, a sense of failure, and ultimately self rejection. Some of these vows you accepted to become responsible for another, when you were much too young to take such a responsibility! You were destined to fail simply because this was much too much for any human being to carry, let alone a child. Other vows were spoken that for as long as you lived, you would never … Yes, that is a common vow spoken in deep emotion, with life long cords. Other vows were self imposed labels of failure and calling yourself names. Loose yourself from such words, confess them to Me and to another and break their hold upon yourself.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-5 NKJV Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
Some Personal Comments
I am now 90 years old as of this writing in 2023. I was born-again in October 1962 at the age of 30. When I turned 30, I thought, life would be all downhill and devoid of meaning from then on!
So much has changed in the ensuing years! But two childhood events had a lasting, unconscious, influence on my life. My dad was a successful as high school coach and outdoors man who loved hunting pheasants and geese. Somehow as a boy developed a feeling that I was a sissy and not worthy of my father's approval. (See my article on Sissies.) Back then the culture of out nation was as different from was night and day! The opposite of Sissy was Tomboy, when referring to an over-confident girl. "Stud" back then referred to a self-confident guy, kinda like our word "macho" now.
In my childhood, our family moved from Shoshone, Idaho, where I was born, to Idaho Falls, and then to Boise. There I had a paper route, and attended the Sixth Grade on the outskirts of town. Then came a cascade of life-changing events. First, our mother (Audrey) told my sister Susanne and me that she was pregnant, but had high blood pressure and failing kidneys. She chose to get an abortion (Abortion was shocking back then, even scandalous.) Next she said that our dad had been unfaithful and had been sleeping with his second cousin. My sister and I were incredulous, but our mother announced she was taking us to live with her parents in their tiny house just south of San Diego.
We arrived in San Diego in the summer of 1944--I was 12 years old. To make ends meet, our mom got a job as a receptionist at North Island Naval Air Station. There she met a married enlisted man, named John. I liked him a lot and wished he were my dad. When he was discharged from the Navy and heading home to his wife and kids, my mother said she wished they had met sooner. What good was it to see the true meaning of love and then die? Right away I saw how miserable my mom had been married to my dad.
Mom's health continued to deteriorate, and on November 15, 1946, we drove her to Mercy Hospital in San Diego where she died two weeks later. She was only 39. I cried myself to sleep for nearly year, vowing to honor her memory and to live out the missing years of her life. This proves to have been a very strong Childhood Vow.
Like most of my peers I discovered masturbation at the age of 13, early in puberty. A friend showed me how, and at the time I thought we had discovered the secret of the universe. My ongoing, follow-up early sex education took place in my Junior High boy’s locker room. There was little porn available back then, but we boys always wanted to see "dirty pictures."
I liked all my Junior High teachers except for one. I was too insecure to develop friendships with the other kids so as a default I became teachers' pet. (I and was actually voted "most likely to succeed" by high school graduation time, though I had no clue what that award meant at all. My self-esteem was in the gutter).
My English teacher, fifteen years older than I, was gay. Though he was married and supporting a wife and son, he obsessed over me for four long years--certain he would win me over with extra spending money. I came to loathe the poor, wretched man, and his sexual obsessions and proclivities. I had enough locker room knowledge to know what was going on and finally I told my Uncle Fred about the four-year double life I was living. Uncle Fred quietly went to the school Principal and had the guy fired and run out of town. When that happened I was greatly relieved, but since my dad was away in the Navy and my mom was terminally ill from Bright's Disease, I was a very confused adolescent. All sorts of identity issues raged beneath the surface. I felt certain science and a psychologist would show me my real identity. Jesus was the last thing on my mind for the next fifteen years. I was searching, but "looking for love in all the wrong places." I was not seeking God--but He was actually pursuing me, like the hound from heaven.
In the ensuing years I read all I could find on M and on sex in general at various libraries. I was in college when the Kinsey Report came out. The college library had one copy which could not be checked out, so I read it at a reading desk. My learning curve concerning sexuality continued during a season in my life when I “checked out” San Francisco with the help of a friend . (See The Seamy Side of Life written in 2018 to address questions from a friend).
I have never married and of course know now that genital sexual expression is off limits for us unmarried guys, and girls. But single men and women who walk closely with Jesus are, I later discovered, actually promised an inheritance "greater than sons and daughters." (Isaiah 56).
The other trauma back then was that wretched gay junior high school teacher who had "plans" for my life. I detested his sexual proclivity, but my double life continued until my uncle stepped in and had the teacher fired. What a relief. But was I gay? I wrested with that issue later in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis--a path that led to my conversion to Christ 15 years later. In Christ, my guilt, shame, and anxiety have been healed in the ensuing 60 years.
The main reason for all this detail is that I identify with wounded kids. I had great parents, considering. I had supportive grandparents, aunts and uncles. What about kids raised by a single mom, or abusive parents, kids raised by two gay parents, or out-and-out orphans? Kids raised by "Christian" parents are just as vulnerable, perhaps more so.
The Holy City
On Jordan's Stormy Banks
Fifty Miles of Elbow Room
Marching to Zion
Lambert's Music Library
April 19, 2023.