The Butterfly Lie

Do you often feel like a caterpillar in a world full of butterflies?

Meal times were always stressful in our home growing up. We never knew if it was going to be a peaceful mealtime or a time filled with stress. The mood of my uncle was our barometer. If he was in a good mood, then we were all in a good mood, laughing and joking. Yet we knew that atmosphere could change in an instant. So we learned to eat quickly and behave, never wanting to be the “one” to cause a sudden change in his mood.

One very vivid memory stands out in my mind. I believe this is where the lie of perfectionism took root for me. Or at least it ingrained it in my mind that day.

This particular mealtime was a happy one, peaceful even. We were enjoying our food and were somewhat relaxed that evening. I innocently asked for more milk. My uncle suggested that I pour my own glass.

In those few moments everyone waited to see what I would do. We all new this could be one of those times when we were being set up. If I refused to pour my own milk he could get angry, the mood broken. And if I chose to pour it myself and spilt the milk then there would be hell to pay.

 I made a decision and took my chance. I cautiously and with great care lifted the milk jug and poured milk into my glass, careful not to spill a drop. I, even at age 8, meticulously accomplished the task. I was quite proud of myself. But I should have known it wasn’t good enough.

Too late I realized my mistake. It mattered not that I’d poured the milk into the glass not spilling a drop, what mattered is that I didn’t hold the jug and pour it the way “he” thought I should….the façade of peace around the supper table exploded. My uncle, in an instant rage, began yelling in my face, spit flying from his mouth, eyes dark with anger and the next thing I knew the perfectly poured glass of milk was thrown in my face.

The rest of the family sat in stunned silence, too afraid to even breathe. I quietly and obediently sat still in my chair with milk dripping down my hair and face. All the while tears pouring from my eyes, silent tears as I uttered not a sound. I was too frightened to move, to speak, to breathe, because I knew if I did I would then feel the end of his cowboy boot as he sent me to bed without any supper.

And so we all finished our supper in silence. The jovial mood broken and it was my fault. Why could I do never do anything right? Why couldn’t I be perfect?

I was terrified of making choices. No matter what I did I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. That night as a little girl I learned that it was more important to be perfect than to be real. If only I had done it perfectly I would not have been hurt, and somewhere the lie took root that if I could live a perfect life then the pain would go away and I could avoid future pain.

…to be continued……

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4 thoughts on “The Butterfly Lie

  1. I’d like to quote John Eldredge here and say that the only thing worse than our wounds is what we’ve done with them.

    It’s just horrible to think about a beautiful young girl being treated the way you were. The way you write allows me to picture it so vividly that I can almost feel the cold milk dripping down off my own face and hair. But to make that experience into a message that you don’t measure up is just… so much worse! That tape playing over and over in your head simply must be destroyed and replaced with the truth!

    I also fall often into the trap of perfectionism and holding myself to unattainable standards. A simple example is one time I remember driving around with my mother-in-law and missing my exit. Instantly I said to myself, ‘now she will NEVER love me!’.

    How must God feel to see us be so hard on the ones He loves and gave His Son for? He set us free only to see us voluntarily wrap ourselves once again in the fragmented chains. Our love for Him must motivate us to break our agreements with the past and treat ourselves with love and dignity. After all, we are His precious possessions and to live as anything less is a waste of grace.

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  2. Tearsinabottle said: “He set us free only to see us voluntarily wrap ourselves once again in the fragmented chains. Our love for Him must motivate us to break our agreements with the past and treat ourselves with love and dignity. After all, we are His precious possessions and to live as anything less is a waste of grace.”

    Isn’t that so true….I really like what you wrote.

    Surrender and trust are so difficult for the abuse victim…but really what other choices are we left with if we don’t choose to surrender our wills, our hurts and our pain to our Heavenly Father? The alternative is deadening of our soul….and yet, the grace of God renders us unable to utterly destroy our own sense of being….for we can never fully wipe out the pain. The only way to heal the pain is to commit our healing to the Master…the choice I, all of us, have left is to walk through the valley of pain, trusting God in the process, giving up our self-protective ways of relating in order to embrace life as it was meant to be. To move from victim to overcomer. Trading death for life and finding freedom.

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