Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

“Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes…”

– Elvis Presley, Blue Suede Shoes

Discouragement from those significant in our lives often accompanies abuse. Sadly, we may adopt the negative opinion others have of us based on their own shortcomings.

But bad advice is simply misdirection – not an infallible predictor of our future. The important thing is that it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • The author of a beloved 19th Century girls’ novel worked as a maid, seamstress, companion, and teacher. Thankfully, Louisa May Alcott found her true calling, and left us the classic Little Women.

Taught to Fear

  • Lucille Ball said that all acting school taught her was to be frightened. Ball, of course, became one of the most popular comediennes in America, starring in such sitcoms as I Love Lucy. She was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning four (along with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Abuse victims are taught to fear. Change is viewed as negative, and the new as dangerous.

This attitude passed on to us – if we remain bound by it – makes progress impossible, and success unattainable. Genuine opportunities are missed, since their negative consequences always appear to outweigh any benefit.

Meanwhile, real risk is not accurately assessed. Danger is not perceived, so we rush headlong into its arms – sometimes in the very effort to escape our past [1]. When harm follows (frequently in the form of further abuse), we question our judgment and become ever more fearful.

Trained not to trust our abilities, we cannot conceive of overcoming the obstacles in our path. Yet, it must be added, a remarkable number of us do overcome them. Ironically, our pain is sometimes the impetus for change.

Without guidance, support, or even much confidence, we ignore the odds against us, and persevere regardless.

Hidden Potential

  • Legend has it that Fred Astaire’s talents were summarized in fewer than 10 words, after his screen test for RKO Radio Pictures:  “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” Astaire’s stage and film career lasted over 75 years. He was a dance pioneer, influencing such greats as Rudolf Nureyev, and Sammy Davis Jr.
  • According to one story, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, told a hopeful applicant, “You’d better learn secretarial work or else get married.” If Norma Jean Baker did get that advice she disregarded it, going on to become the inimitable sexpot Marilyn Monroe.
  • In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of country music’s Grand Ole Opry, fired a young man after a single performance. Denny told Elvis Presley, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

The potential of many abuse victims goes unrecognized, as well. We do not know the names of the countless individuals who are overlooked. We only know the names of those who refuse the advice.

Who refuse to give up.

Off the Mark

In retrospect, we can see how far off the mark all this advice was. At the time, however, it must have seemed daunting. Had these celebrities taken the bad advice they received, the world would have lost out on a great deal.

The same applies to abuse victims. We have something to contribute. Despite our imperfections, despite our mistakes, despite our scars. Those who tell us otherwise are wrong. Whether we realize it or not, this screwed-up world needs us – scars, imperfections, mistakes, and all.

So refuse to give up. Together, we are an army [2]. Funny thing is, we outnumber the predators, narcissists, bloodsuckers, and users. Let them beware instead!

[1] For more on this, see Breached Defenses 7/6/14.

[2] Christians would put this even more forcefully: “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8: 31).

This series will conclude next week with Part 3 – A Fresh Perspective



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

4 responses to “Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

  1. Anna, just when I think you have nothing new to add to this subject, you surprise me wonderfully! (btw your book should be arriving tomorrow – guess what I’ll be doing all day? 🙂

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