Freedom by Sonship Identity
Our Sonship identity, our personhood, is developed in 4 phases.
Last week’s article on “Personhood” defined abuse as crossing spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical boundaries. It is violating someone’s right to think what they think, feel what they feel, and choose what they choose. The act of crossing someone’s boundaries is inherently shaming in nature. Respecting another’s boundaries is honoring and valuing in nature. Everyone has experienced shame at some level. So when we have lived in abuse, what does it look like to move into freedom?
Two Abuse Phases
Think of 4 phases of interaction. The 1st 2 phases represent shaming interaction. There is the “hot” or “active” side of abuse, including physical violations, emotional abuse, anger, and violence. Next is the “cool” or “quiet” side of abuse including threats to abandon, the silent treatment, relationship cutoffs, sarcasm and devaluing looks. Most abuse happens here with the occasional flare-ups into the hot side. Both active and quiet abuse can also include presumptions about someone’s thoughts or feelings, boundary invasions, and demeaning communication. Shaming interaction is failure to acknowledge another person.
Two Healthy Relationship Phases
Respectful interaction, the last two phases, is the opposite of shame; it involves engagement with one another as separate persons. It includes: expressing one’s thoughts and feelings, listening to each other, and acknowledging the interchange.
The 3rd phase represents behavior which is decent, orderly, careful and conscious of form. People are nice to each other here, they listen respectfully, they do not intrude upon one another. Yet many families coming out of abuse get stuck here.
Real freedom happens as people move into the final phase of “hot” intimate interaction. Here there is room for unpredictability and spontaneity in the interaction. For people coming out of abuse, a sense of losing control can be quite scary. In the past, this meant someone was about to get hurt. They do not really have a model yet of respectful, spontaneous contact. They have to learn how to play, and have conflict, and engage with each other in respectful spontaneity.
Here the family is intimate and nurturing, playful. People interact with one another often and freely with an underlying knowing that everyone is respected. They have a flow which is less self-conscious or contrived. No one expects perfection. Mistakes are made, people get hurt and angry, yet everyone is accountable for their behavior. There is always a way back. Repair is expected and available and is brought into the dialogue of relationships. Many old television shows were based on this like The Brady Bunch, 7th Heaven, and Little House on the Prairie.
In Bible school, another student once told me, “I don’t see anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus ever laughed.” I believe God has so much more for us than a careful, controlled life.
Fossum, Merle, Mason, Marilyn (1986). Facing Shame. Canada: Penguin Books