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Generational curses – The Johnson case

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A man named Bennie Frank Johnson was sentenced to two life terms plus five years earlier this year. The 66-year-old grandfather was found guilty of molesting three generations of the same family.   

Though heinous, the crime committed by Johnson is not at all unique. There have been many reported child molestation cases where the parents and grandparents also suffered the same abuse as a child. This is known as a generational (family or hereditary) curse.

What is a generational curse?

A generational curse is a vicious cycle plaguing a family unit and perpetuated by shame. A generational curse can be any negative circumstance that manifests in every generation. It can be:

  • Absent parent(s) – when fathers and or mothers are not active in the lives of the children
  • Drug abuse – when members of the family always fall prey to drug addiction
  • Sexual, physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse
  • Never getting married – when members of the family never get married or have successful marriages
  • Life threatening diseases or illnesses – when members of the family pass away from a specific disease such as cancer or contact a particular illness at a certain age
  • Poverty mindset – when members of the family are comfortable with poverty 

For a generational curse to exist and persist there must be a feedback loop (or a reciprocal cause and effect). This article will examine circumstances where the cause is a perpetrator and the effect is the shame felt by the victim, as was with the Johnson case.  

What causes a generational curse?

Generational curses are the result of immoral actions – actions that defies divine laws. Every system that exists and persists is governed by laws that must be obeyed in order to obtain the desired results. Planes are able to fly because they obey the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Countries with the lowest crime rates and best living conditions have the majority of its citizen and leaders in governance obeying the constitution.  

Defying the laws of any system can have detrimental consequences. When a perpetrator of an immoral act is not dealt the consequences of their action, they continue wreaking havoc until they are brought to justice. Bennie Johnson molested children for many years and would have continued doing so because there were no life altering consequences for his acts.

Understanding a generational curse from the perspective of a perpetrator

Human beings have an intuition, a basic instinct of what is right and wrong. When a child steals for the first time, even when they have never been taught that stealing is wrong, they feel the need to hide what they have done. This is because every human being is born with an innate knowledge of right and wrong, this is the divine in all of us. Not obeying the laws of a man-made system, such as the constitution, can land one in jail. Not obeying fundamental laws of engineering can lead to chemical, mechanical, aeronautical, structural disasters. Not obeying divine laws is going against yourself (a divine being), and a house that is divided cannot stand.

Continuously doing something that you know is wrong, even if nobody knows about it, the fact that you know it is wrong and you keep doing, erodes self-trust, a firm reliance on one’s integrity. When a person cannot rely on themself, they lose self-esteem and self-confidence, self-respect, self-compassion, self-value, etc. Nothing can come out of an empty cup. When a person lacks trust, reliance, esteem, respect, love, and value for oneself, they cannot have it for another. Such a person is extremely miserable. Misery loves company and will seek to inflict the same misery on another person, so they are not alone in their misery. The temporary satisfaction that a perpetrator gets from inflicting misery on another reinforces the heinous act.   

Understanding a generational curse from the perspective of a victim

Under ideal circumstances, the perpetrator of a horrific crime is brought to justice. However, in most cases victims are shamed into silence. Shame is often weaponized by perpetrators in order to perpetuate their crimes. Shame is an emotion (intuitive feeling) caused by perceived or imaged guilt that causes one to hide and or deny wrongdoing. To understand the crippling effects of shame, let’s examine the first recorded instance of shame in the garden of Eden. 

When Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, their eyes were opened. Realising they were naked they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When they heard God walking into the garden they hid. God called the man, “where are you?”. The man answered, “I heard you coming in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 

Genesis 3:6 – 10 

Adam and Eve disobeyed a divine law. Their eyes were opened, and they became aware of their sin. This awareness brought shame, they tried to hide the shame with leaves but when that didn’t work, they hid themselves. When God questions them about what they have done, they deny the wrongdoing by putting the blame on another (i.e., the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent).  

In most cases, shame is felt by the perpetrator and projected (or passed) on to the victim. There are instances where the family unit will shame the victim, this is usually a trauma-based response to trauma. For example, when the girl child is born to a family where the women were molested and shamed, when the child is molested, they will be shamed by the women in the family. When the child grows up, if they do not heal this generational trauma, the family tradition of molestation will continue undisturbed with the next generation.   

Breaking generational curses

The only way to heal a generational curse is by removing the shame. Repression and suppression are the result of shame and revealing the shame begins healing. There are many ways of healing, for example, therapy or counselling allows you to reveal the act. If the act is criminal in nature, reporting the crime to authorities can be healing. Starting a social media account, page, or website where you tell people about what happened, anonymously or not, can also be healing. The most important thing is to remove the shame as this strip the power from the act. Taking away the power, breaks the curse. 

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