by Danielle N. Hall
I don’t watch much television and I’ve missed many movies, but I’m not all the way green…I have seen a few. One that comes to mind is Madea’s Big Happy Family. As with any other Tyler Perry movie, there were many things going on once. However, there’s a particular scene that I recall. “Mr. Brown loses a lot of blood during his surgery and the doctor asks Cora to donate some. When she does, she finds out that she doesn’t have the same blood type as him, implying that he may not be her real, biological father. At dinner later on that night, Tammy and Kimberly have a vicious argument that leads to Tammy revealing that Kimberly is Byron’s birth mother, having had him when she was 13 years old. Byron storms out of the house, angry that this secret was kept from him.”
They say that art imitates life. The truth is that Mr. Brown and Kimberly aren’t the only ones with family secrets: the other silent killer. More often than is acknowledged, families perpetuate lies and deception: choking the life out of the truth in order to spare the image of one. How many children grew up thinking that someone was their older sister only for the actual truth to be that said “sister” was actually their biological mother and who they had been thinking was their mother was actually their grandmother? How many Mr. Brown scenarios are there where people have assigned someone the title of “Daddy” that has no trace of the man’s DNA? The truth is this saving of an image has done more harm than good.
When I had barely entered adulthood, I gave birth to my first child. I was 21 years old and her biological father was 22. We weren’t fresh out of high school, but we were young. Things did not work out and we went our separate ways when our daughter was still an infant. Time progressed and I later married my husband. Now, my daughter’s father has always been active in her life, so she has been blessed with two dads. When she was about 4 years old I explained the difference between her biological father and her stepfather. Some may argue that she was too young, but you’d have to know my children to understand my decision to divulge when I did. She understood and I was never posed with any questions about it because I was straightforward with her. One time, our household had gone to the movies and we saw my daughter’s biological dad outside. When she saw him, she excitedly said: “My other daddy!”. I must admit that was a bit embarrassing, but it was her truth: she has two dads.
Sometimes our truths can be embarrassing or humiliating, but hiding it can be devastating. Suppose one begins dating someone and things get serious and marriage becomes a goal…and then a reality. Then, you through some very unusual way discover that you two are actually blood relatives…close ones at that. Do you see how problematic and destructive perpetuating a lie can be: all for the sake of keeping secrets and saving images?
Let’s not ignore the other proverbial elephant in the room. How about the sexual violation by a family member? This is certainly not foreign or unusual. It’s a sad truth that I am unfortunately very familiar with…more familiar than I want to be. It is common for survivors to not speak of what has happened because they are often muzzled by fear of other’s opinions. In some cases when the survivor does come forward, the common response is “What happens in this house stays in this house.” If you have a perverted individual who obviously lacks self control, why would you not make it known to spare others enduring the same offense? Is it because he’s the bread winner or because he’s everyone’s “favorite uncle”? The image of the perpetrator is salvaged, but there is a wreck in the internal environment of the survivor: her/his voice is suffocated and identity is often lost.
Maybe the family secret doesn’t involve any offense. Maybe a mom or dad didn’t graduate from high school and yet they keep it a secret for fear of others labeling her/him as a failure. Now let me be clear, experience is a great teacher and we can learn a lot in life from experience. High school graduation does not mean that you have arrived. The point I’m making is that in many areas in our lives we fall short and then we play the pretend game because we worry about other’s opinions. When I drafted my father’s obituary in December last year, I was adamant about telling his truth. He spent a lot of years of his life concerned about what others thought, though he often said he didn’t. My dad graduated high school at the age of 21 and even MY existence is a result of one of dad’s unfavorable choices. However, it was his truth and he suffered silently being concerned about his image. In his last couple of months, a family member visited him in the hospital and essentially cursed him. I was livid and it was obvious that it affected how he felt about himself. I discerned what he wasn’t speaking, but was yet communicating. In a rare type of discussion I had with him while I was heading to work one day, I told him that unforgiveness was a sin even when don’t forgive ourselves. He said he never thought of it that way and his voice became more lively.
People can be so brutal sometimes. What I have come to love most about my life, is that I discovered the liberty that Jesus avails to us to walk in. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. So many are bound by the guilt and shame of life choices that they die a slow death inside. This is not the intent of God. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom].” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (AMP)
I implore you on today to be free and I pray that the spirit of liberty will reign in your family so that there will be no more death of the truth as lies are nurtured to save images!