What If Jesus Was Born In An Abusive Family? Did Jesus really understand how difficult it is to love if one has never been loved

I grew up believing in Jesus and how he came to the world to save us from our sins.  I still remember hearing the Parable of the Good Samaritan’, I was seven years. The priest was an extremely good orator. And I was blown away by the parable – Love your fellow humans if you want to go to heaven.

Jesus family abuse love
Image Source: Pixabay

That’s easy I thought.  So single-mindedly I strove to be kind and loving to everyone.

Feeling Loving When You Are Loved

It was effortless because my mother was alive and she loved me deeply. Loving others came to me naturally.

Then she died and the abuse began, it was covert and insidious but nevertheless, its pervasive stink colored my subconscious and consciousness. Gradually, the first stirrings of hate, rage, and anger bubbled within me. Forget love for my fellow-beings. I couldn’t feel real love for my own son. Though I managed to act the part quite well.

So, the question that really gnaws me is ‘Would Jesus have come into His spiritual self if His parents were abusive? Or He had grown up an orphan? What if His mother had been neglectful when he was young? Or His father had been a drunk?

Simply Unfair

Oh, yes God did go through a very stringent selection process of choosing a very pious and good woman to be the mother, likewise with the choice of His father Joseph.

However, I feel that was just not fair to the rest of mankind. So many people have to deal with unloving parents and live with hostile families? How can they be expected to be loving when they don’t know what love is.

Enough of studies have shown that childhood development is impacted by how we are treated by our primary caregivers, namely our parents. When our parents treat us with love and kindness we feel loving. We are born longing for love and care but have to experience loving care to imbibe it.

And if one experiences abuse, neglect, violence or loss it detrimentally impacts your brain and shapes how you respond to life

So, what if

Jesus’ mother Mary was neglectful.

A child needs loving attunement. He needs to experience responsive caregiving – having his needs met in a timely and loving manner. If he gets love only then he can love. Empathy and nurturing can never be taught, they have to be experienced.

So, probably, Jesus would have not known how to love and probably He would have relationship issues.

Or both Jesus’ parents were rejecting

He definitely would have been negatively affected.  He’d suffer from low self-esteem. It would have impacted how He relates to others – He definitely would not know how to be loving.

Being rejected, especially by one’s parents in childhood feels the same for everyone. No matter what gender, race or culture. It is devastating. Parental rejection activates the same part of the brain which is activated by the experience of physical pain

Suppose Jesus’ father Joseph was an alcoholic

Here again, Jesus’ self-esteem and interpersonal relationships would have been impacted. He would be confused about what is normal, He would be ashamed and depressed. He would struggle to find meaning in life.

However,  I don’t think Jesus would accept his fate. He knew He had to fulfill his destiny. But He’d have struggled like the rest of us trauma survivors struggle. Nonetheless, He’d have taken the leap into the unknown, albeit much earlier in life.

Hero’s journey – Call To Adventure

The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure. The hero must face the beginning of change. This call must be accepted, this can happen willingly, reluctantly, consciously or accidentally.

So, instead of leaving home at the age of 30, Jesus would have probably left home even before He turned 18 and would have searched for meaning to the senselessness of His existence.

Instead of just 40 days in the desert,  Jesus would have experienced years of struggle and pain. Nevertheless,  He would have survived His time in the whale’s belly. On emerging He would be transformed from the person He became because of his trauma to who He was meant to be.


Jesus Would Understand Human Psychology

Yes, Jesus would have become who He was meant to be but it would have definitely made him much wiser about human psychology.

He definitely wouldn’t have extolled people to forgive and turn the other cheek to serial abusers. (Come on not 7 times, 70 x7 times is enough rope to give a personality-disordered person to hang you many times.)

Most importantly, he’d have commanded parents to love their children and attend to their needs first. He would have made being mean to children one of the biggest sins. Yes, he did mention that anyone who causes these innocent little ones to sin should have a big stone tied to his neck and drowned. But there He was not really referring to parents rather to some unknown strangers. He did not know that most child abuse happens at home.

Most definitely, He would have had very clear directives about child sexual abusers. Particularly, the ones in sheep’s clothing – those evil pedophile priests.

Lack of Understanding

I truly believe Jesus did not really understand how parental abuse, neglect mess a human being.

Because He really had it easy, He never knew what it was to struggle when your family does not love you and would rather have you dead.  He had a family who cared for him so He never for a moment thought families could be different from His.

And that’s what is majorly wrong with Jesus’ teachings, it does not take into account the impact of dysfunctional parental behavior on child development.

Yes, if Jesus had grown up in an abusive family, He’d have told people to first love and care for their children before telling them to go love their neighbor. He’d have realized that all the sickness and depravity in this world stems from lack of love – lack of real, authentic parental love.

How a child’s brain develops through early experiences

Survivors – The New Messiahs

Thankfully, as more and more survivors heal we become the change-creators, they are the messiahs of the new world. Where raising kids with love and kindness is the new religion. Being good, caring parents is the only daily observance one needs practice.

We are responsible for our children’s existence and we are responsible not just for their physical growth but also for their spiritual development. A child’s view of God is shaped by how his parents treat him. Abusive parents translates into an evil God.

It is up to us survivors to re-frame and change the current paradigm. We can help create a loving and caring world by ending the cycle of abuse and being loving parents.

Further Reading:

Nature, Nurture and the Power of Love by Bruce Lipton

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie

In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter Levine

The Emotionally Absent Mother: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jasmin Lee Cori 

Transforming Fate Into Destiny: A New Dialogue with Your Soul by  Robert Ohotto

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3 years ago

Here is the follow-up comment about turning the other cheek, taken from “The Powers that Be” by Walter Wink, p. 101-103:

“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt. 5:39b). You are probably imagining a blow with the right fist. But such a blow would fall on the left cheek. To hit the right cheek with a fist would require the left hand. But the left hand could be used only for unclean tasks; at Qumran, a Jewish religious community of Jesus’ day, to gesture with the left hand meant exclusion from the meeting and penance for ten days. To grasp this you must physically try it: how would you hit the other’s right cheek with your right hand? If you have tried it, you will know: the only feasible blow is a backhand.

The backhand was not a blow to injure, but to insult, humiliate, degrade. It was not administered to an equal, but to an inferior. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; Romans, Jews. The whole point of the blow was to force someone who was out of line back into place.

Notice Jesus’ audience: “If anyone strikes you.” These are people used to being thus degraded. He is saying to them, “Refuse to accept this kind of treatment anymore. If they backhand you, turn the other cheek.” (Now you really need to physically enact this to see the problem.) By turning the cheek, the servant makes it impossible for the master to use the backhand again: his nose is in the way…The left cheek now offers a perfect target for a blow with the left fist; but only equals fought with fists, as we know from Jewish sources, and the last thing a master wishes to do is to establish this underling’s equality. This act of defiance renders the master incapable of asserting his dominance in this relationship. He can have the slave beaten, but he can no longer cow him.

By turning the other cheek, then, the “inferior” is saying: “I’m a human being, just like you. I refuse to be humiliated any longer. I am your equal. I am a child of God. I won’t take it anymore.”

How different is this from the usual view that this passage teaches us to turn the other cheek so our batterer can simply clobber us again! How often that interpretation has been fed to battered wives and children. And it was never what Jesus intended in the least. To such victims He advises, “Stand up for yourselves, defy your masters, assert your humanity; but don’t answer the oppressor in kind. Find a new, third way that is neither cowardly submission nor violent reprisal.”

3 years ago

In gratitude for your insightful site, I want you to know that Jesus is aware of all of our struggles! When He told people to forgive, He did not mean “condone” wrong actions. You should condemn a wrong action and seek to distance/protect yourself from it and its perpetrator without allowing resentment to form against the perpetrator (where forgiveness comes in). Note that forgiving the perpetrator (an inner attitude) is different from reconciling with them (resuming/maintaining the relationship).

When Jesus said “turn the other cheek,” there is a compelling case that can be made that He was actually encouraging resistance! I’ll post the evidence in a follow-up comment.

Jesus possesses all wisdom. Though He had a loving family, the saints who imitate Him did not always. They give witness by their lives that Jesus did not have to experience all problems and suffering to still understand what experiencing them was like, nor to be able to offer good counsel. I have many struggles from my childhood, yet His wisdom and compassion always help me.

I pray that you can find a good book, Church, and priest to aid you in deeper understanding if you continue to seek it! Jesus always helps those who seek Him to find Him! The culture certainly, or even members of the Church as you noted above (very sad!), do not represent Him in His fullness, but if you seek the truth, I trust Him that you will be able to find it! He is the perfect man.