The Unspoken Rules of Inequality within Family, Tradition and Religion

For most of my life I have been scared to speak out. Yet there is nothing more I wish to do than to express. I know expression is all there is.

Most of my growing up was spent in silence. I felt I could not say the things I wished to, for no-one would understand. As a little girl, I spoke with myself all the time in English (Cantonese is my mother tongue). When I ran into situations where I needed guidance, I would ask the questions out loud, and the answers would come from within.

My entire family, for generations, have been Christians, but since I was young, I felt there were too many discrepancies in what was preached and in how they lived – something just did not add up. Why would I repeatedly feel their judgement when I was not living perfectly within their ideal, when they advocated ‘no judgement lest you wish to be judged’?

I could not speak about these things, not even to my blood family – and especially not to my blood family, because they always had the comfort and support of their bigger family, the church. I felt like the (very lonely) prodigal daughter. According to my family, there was always something wrong with me, and when I finally decided to leave the church when I turned 20, I had to live up to the identity of the black sheep – which is ironic, as throughout my growing up, my parents prided me for being the ‘good’ daughter, who listened and was ‘easy’ to discipline.

I hung onto the belief that my family didn’t accept me for who I was, and because I didn’t ‘belong’ to their faith, I felt not worthy enough of their love. I felt very confused for not being understood, for it felt hypocritical to ‘believe’ in something that did not feel right. I chose to be true to my heart, and realised that meant losing my family emotionally. This stark and hurtful discovery led me to react against Christianity, and my family then had to play out the role and confirm that I was the rebellious daughter who has fallen from grace. I bought into the belief that this meant I was all alone in the world, rejected even by family, when in-truth, it was a reflection of the emptiness and rejection I already had within myself.  I could not accept them for not accepting me: I felt orphaned and I was seeking my true family everywhere else. I felt for most of my growing up, I was running around in this circle, like a mouse on a wheel – I was not going anywhere, and the anxiety grew bigger because something was seriously not right.

What was not right was I was not myself whenever I saw my parents, I always had to put on a mask of protection. What grieved me most was that they never got to know the true me. There was no true communication or intimacy between us – they would send me a text or an email even if we were living in the same house. When my son refused to buy into what was considered being ‘good’ (which meant being subservient just because he was told to), I was blamed for creating my son to be disobedient to them, and the rift between me and my parents grew.

As I look back now, what my growing up gifted me was the opportunity to be me. But time and time again, I failed to take the opportunity. I did not speak out, truthfully, to my parents, because whenever I honored my heart, I ended up feeling ‘small’ by buying into what the world judged me to be. In turn, I swallowed all the feelings and kept contracting even more.

It came to a point where it just could not go on anymore. I refused to continue the lovelessness in my life. I started to heal. I began discovering the true love that I already am, that which was not dependent on the actions of others. I began to smile much more, despite the drama that was happening around me. The more I smiled and lived to be me, it was initially shocking to witness how those around me really stepped up to attack and judge. Well, I continued to smile even more – not to instigate – but because I truly felt my joy.

I began to communicate with my parents, with no expectation, but simply expressing the truth in my heart. From the responses that I received, it felt like I was speaking in an unknown language to them. Many times it was a very doubtful silence or, when there was a response from my parents, it would be an emotional reaction because they have no idea what to make of their daughter speaking out for herself. I continued speaking as such, not knowing how to do otherwise. I had to repeat myself, numerous times, to even have one message conveyed… but mostly, I was just repeating myself. I was met with a lot of resistance when I repeated myself. I continued to repeat myself as much as possible with love. I am not perfect and there are moments when I fall back into reaction, but now I will not judge myself with harshness or guilt as I did before– I simply return to my heart again.

Eventually, my father wrote to me (we were still not communicating face-to-face), baring his heart with courage, to tell me how much he loves me by all the sacrifices he has made for me and my sisters. He also told me he is a sensitive man (another revelation!), and because he could feel so much going on around him, often times he would choose to withhold communication. I thanked him and pondered on whether to tell him the truth, or not. I decided not to withhold the truth of my love for him and my family anymore, so I spoke exactly what my heart was telling me, rather than like all the other times since little, when I would hear my heart but would choose to withhold telling my parents how I felt for fear it would make them feel uncomfortable. So I told my father I know he ‘loves’ me, yet love is not about doing, and it is not necessary ever for him to prove his love for me. My father voiced his denial, but to me it felt again like words which were sent back and forth without registering.

Yet, the change that happened afterwards was nothing short of a miracle. My father began putting “Love, Dad” at the bottom of his emails that he sent to me, which was something that does not happen very much in Asian families, or within my family. And for the very first time, I truly felt the freedom of my own love, which was not dependent on how my family treated me. Because I was no longer attached to how I was expected to give or return my love, I even spontaneously threw my father a birthday surprise within our immediate family, and that night I saw my father’s genuine joy.

And so, to me, being love is more important than upholding an Asian family’s decorum or even an Asian daughter’s role of filial piety; it is far more important than ‘belonging’ to a man-made institution that backed me up – in fact, there is no comparison between them. I do not know if my family will ever understand this, but I will respect and continue to learn to not react to their choices.

As I continued to relate to my family, I began to say ‘no’ – not just with words, but with my beingness – to all that was not truth, to the unspoken rules of inequality within family, tradition and religion, to the abuse that is so subtle within what is referred to as love. I began speaking out, instead of taking it all in and boiling up or being mute in sadness. I will continue to remind myself to speak with love and gentleness and not in reaction, because this is the love I hold for myself and for the whole of humanity. I have bought into the corruption that if parents do not side with their children emotionally, we will grow up lacking somewhat in love. This illusion has imprisoned me most of my life. But now, I take back my responsibility and hence my power. My love has always been and will always be within me.

For the first time in my life I am not afraid anymore, because now I am not only speaking, but also living the words.

Published with permission of my parents.

by Adele Leung, Hong Kong

608 thoughts on “The Unspoken Rules of Inequality within Family, Tradition and Religion

  1. ‘According to my family, there was always something wrong with me’
    How many of us have heard these words to describe us as we were growing up? An equally crushing put down was to let you know in no uncertain terms that you were the ‘Black’ sheep of the family. And so we take on these labels losing sight of who we are and becoming instead what family and society want and expect us to be. So is it any wonder that when we are adults we struggle with life and feel discontented with ourselves and the world because our true selves have been crushed and so we exist in the unsettlement of our bodies that knows there is so much more than we show to the world. We have effectively been kneecapped as children to lead lesser lives. Why?

  2. The assumption that family and emotions or emotional exchanges and contracts are required for love to be present simply isn’t true. Love isn’t an emotion it’s a presence from within ourselves. Like newborns, they simply radiate it naturally so.

  3. Who needs computer and video games when there’s so much games playing in the family arena. We enter as babes, innocent, open, accepting, little knowing everything has been pre-calculated to imprison us through norms, ideals and beliefs. It usually takes years, often beginning in our teenage years or much later, before we catch on (most never do). Only the very aware and self loving are able to extricate themselves from the maze and set themselves free.

    1. We enter innocent and all-knowing and from day one we are molded and eventually imprisoned and as you say the only way out of the imprisonment is to let go of all the false conditions, ideals and beliefs we are saturated with and return to that sense we were born with the inner knowing that we are love, that we come from love.

  4. The most loving way to be in family is through self honouring and acceptance. With these two, it is possible to overcome previous discord and disharmony and bring light, where non existed before.

  5. Expression is all there is – I agree. And when that is somehow interrupted, our next expression can be of reaction, but it does not have to be, yet again, there’s no ‘right’ response to be expected, and when one vehicle of expression chooses to deepen, another gets presented an opportunity to do the same in its response, or not. It’s a process for every unit of expression to choose its next movement. It is for every one. Whatever we do.

  6. Adele, an absolutely stunning blog that really breaks down so simply how we can all learn to express and let out all those unsaid things that really need to be said – for us and for everyone else. There are many ideals, beliefs and pictures that attempt to conform and control our expression, but once aware of them we then have the choice to express our hearts and our truth so that we may learn in our own way and time to live the Truth that we all deserve to live.

  7. Thank you Adele for writing this I can feel the honesty of your words, that you are not blaming anyone just expressing the truth of how you felt growing up.
    These words had a deeper meaning for me
    “My love has always been and will always be within me.”
    When we reject ourselves we are rejecting our own love and this is an illusion that many of us get caught up in. Which is a game our spirit plays out to keep us from this core of our being the very essence of who we are.

  8. There is an image regarding the world of beliefs. Beliefs are taken to be a good thing. That is why we tend to navigate this world sticking to them or simply adopting new ones when the ones we adhere to get exposed as false.

  9. There is so much imposed on us from expectations of culture, religion, and even family without us being aware of it. When we do start to observe the inconsistencies we start to see that there is much more to these expectations and that we are much more than a set of beliefs or ideals that need to be lived up to. I was also brought up in the Catholic Church and left as a teenager because I also saw the inconsistencies in what was said and what was lived. These inconsistencies were also never allowed to be discussed either. Admittedly I was in reaction to this and in reaction for some time. Now that this reaction has settled and I blame no-one (including myself) I can see much more clearly my own expectations and my own inconsistencies, which leads to greater understanding.

      1. Adele You have hit the nail on the head humanity doesn’t want to ‘get it’ and I find this difficult to accept but this is because I don’t accept myself first so how can I reflect something different if I have not accepted the all that I am. It’s as though I am asking humanity to change first then I’ll accept them and me. So in effect I’m holding the world to ransom.

  10. We impose on our children all the time, wanting them to turn out a certain way, the way our picture tells us they need to be. It is understandable as most of us were parented this way too, I wonder how it would look if we did not impose ideals and beliefs and instead honoured children for who they are.

  11. It has been said the first school we attend is family and parents and elders our first teachers. It is our responsibility to break down old codes of relationships defined by culture and religion and introduce true and more loving ones. We are all teachers,, whether child or adult, we learn from each other.

  12. It is easy for us to allow ourselves to be trampled over by more senior members of our family, because we accept the unequal code that exists.

  13. When in the presence of others whose ways and choices are different from ours, it’s revealing to shift attention to ourselves: our movements, responses, reactions and not the other person. To accept another as they are releases tension, the perception of us and them, that we are better (or less) and opens up the possibility for us to truly communicate and deepen the relationship. We lead the way in the quality we bring to relationships.

  14. The pressure to behave and do as you are told does not leave space to question and that leads us down a very dangerous world. If this was a dictatorship at least it would be out in the open. Something about the underhand way you are told you can think for yourself and yet are afraid to step out of those boundaries for fear of being vilified and or attacked seems worse because it is underhand and less obvious.

    1. If we have chosen to be born in a situation or culture where we are told, it is a choice to forgo responsibility. We want to remain helpless and powerless, it is our choice. But that is choosing to be contracted and much less than who we are. There is a long way to reconnection but the first point in reconnecting, it is not possible to go back to what was not Truth anymore.

    2. But isn’t this what we are currently experiencing Lucy in every country around the world? To me we seem to be sleep walking back to the ‘Dark ages’ when the religious few of the day ruled with an iron fist over the populace, that’s why it is called the ‘Dark Ages’ because of the crushing energy of the so called ‘intelligent’ over the peasants, we know that when people live in fear they are easily led.
      If we were to dispassionately read the energy coming through these Politian’s, scientists etc. it would be easy to understand that they are aligned to an unseen energy that is using them as puppets to re take control that they feel is slipping away from them because of the amount of light being shone in the world. This unseen energy hates the light as in the light it is exposed as having no power.

  15. The judgement that comes through some of the organised religions lacks the integrity that should be in that religion and is something that puts many children off. Yet it is equally important to live without that in ourselves through our livingness which brings a greater understanding and does not subscribe to a judgement model.

    1. This is equality. When we judge something as more superior and it doesn’t deliver, we have the excuse to be disappointed and withdraw. But what about if we know we are equal to everything and everyone? Then we would just speak up.

      1. “But what about if we know we are equal to everything and everyone? Then we would just speak up.” Knowing we are equal is liberating and dissolves any barrier to true and honest self expression.

      2. This is why I love reading these blogs because there is always something to read that I had no awareness of at the last reading. What you have expressed in your comment diningwithoneandwithlove rings true, how many of us use the excuse of disappointment to give up and withdraw from life because we have a projection of what life should be like? And if life doesn’t match the picture or projection we can say see I knew it would be like this which is the perfect reason to withdraw. Rather than being the change the world so desperately needs.

  16. Beautiful how you have been able to claim your true expression with your parents Adele. “For the first time in my life I am not afraid anymore, because now I am not only speaking, but also living the words.” It is the walking of our talk that truly inspires others as the reflection we then offer is undeniable, even if the choice is still not to see it.

    1. If we walk our talk there is a strength and trust that is palpable. We don’t need to open our mouths at all and it could be felt. I felt an enormous love with Serge Benhayon just standing beside him the first time we met, this love is who I am too, for it was from within me that was felt.

  17. We can never underestimate the power of expressing honestly how we feel. For years I allowed my mother to dominate me and my space, on her annual visits to the UK, she always stayed with me. I remember clearly the year I paused, said enough and told her she couldn’t stay at my home. This was the start of me taking back my power and she having greater respect of me because I did. From here we began the process of healing our relationship.

  18. I recently became aware a transformation had occurred in a once fractious relationship with a member of my family. Because I had stepped back, stopped judging and released all expectations, the relationship deepened without me realising it. The transformation feels miraculous because ‘I” had nothing to do with it: love and truth expressed themselves through me.

      1. To be without judgement allows space and in that space people can simply be themselves.

  19. It was a huge learning to discover perceived difficulties I had with my family, stemmed from my own insecurity and hurt. Now everything seems possible. If there is a difficulty, I don’t make it personal, or have expectations, I work with myself to understand what is happening within myself and the another.

      1. Adele Leung, discovering space is a beautiful return to something we all know when we reconnect to it. As you say with space comes more awareness that leads to more space which we can deepen into, it is a forever ongoing process that has no end. When we are in space then we also understand that there is no time. It’s as though time doesn’t exist.

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