Exorcising the Demons of Abuse

BOOK PICK: ‘All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family’

Detail of ‘All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family’ cover
Detail of ‘All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family’ cover (photo: OSV)

All Things New 

Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family 

By Erin McCole Cupp

Our Sunday Visitor, 2021

208 pages, $18.95

To order: https://bit.ly/41Ltd5m


“Truth outlasts moments. Truth showed me that when I stood up to that one moment of abuse, I was setting a boundary that I, as a unique and precious child of God, had every right to set.” — Erin McCole Cupp

One of the most challenging circumstances that people face, as they grow up to be parents themselves, is dealing with the demons associated with being raised in a culture of abuse and violence as kids. While all family life is challenging, millions of people are faced with the serious trial of what to do when the way they were raised does not honor the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God.

Erin McCole Cupp’s book All Things New provides a raw, courageous road map of how one parent, armed with scriptural ammunition and sacramental grace, took on this unenviable task. From the beginning of the book, she speaks to parents faced with similar circumstances and unapologetically goes about the task of how to create a new life from the one that was raised in ruins. 

Based in the beatitudes, her particular theological insights combined with psychological reflections create a gritty, powerful picture of one woman’s plight to undo, or rather redo, the sins committed by her parents. Repeatedly throughout the text, she empowers other parents to consider that no matter how they were raised, each person has a choice, based in deep moral authority, to create a new life for his or her children and the family as a whole.

Cupp combines this passion with an honest, at times humorous, appraisal of her own failings, as she even notes in her dedication, addressed to her children, “who will gleefully tell you how often I fail to take my own advice.” 

In a moving conclusion to her book, she recounts a conversation with a fellow abused-child-now-parent, whose mother had experienced a young life filled with rage and alcoholism but strove to break this cycle. By the end of the conversation, awareness ensues that, in the process of overcoming these challenges, it isn’t often about a transformation, but rather that “each generation gets a little better than the last. Sometimes it’s just a little.”

As Cupp noted, any growth is grounded in the idea that we all must first see our sins clearly before we can see others’ sins in a whole new light. Repeatedly, Cupp unveils the experiences she had as a youth and how these challenges have persisted into adulthood, even as she has tried to reconcile with her own parents. And yet, in the same light, in recognizing her own imperfect humanity and weaknesses, she also begins to recognize the uphill battle that all parents, even her own, have in confronting their own moral imperfections. 

To do so, she repeatedly turns to Jesus’ teachings in the beatitudes and blessings that are bestowed by those who harness his truth. We all are blessed people, but those who commit themselves to the humble practices he prescribes will not only find greater peace, but also greater clarity grounded in truth and reason.

Caveat: Cupp, not being a Scripture scholar, does take some liberty in interpreting the Scriptures; in addition, her psychological descriptions were definitely her own interpretations at times.

For all those now-parents raising children shackled by their abusive past, Cupp provides an audacious, faith-filled approach to considering how family life can be created anew. Although each person will undoubtedly find themselves in a unique place as they navigate this journey, All Things New reminds us that, with undying faith, we find that we are not alone and that new hope can be found in an otherwise-dark place. As a child psychologist and parent myself, I applaud Cupp for unveiling an authentic testament of how this can occur in everyday life.  

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Cupp offers hope to those who have walked a similar path as she has.

“God did not want these things to happen to us,” she assures readers, adding, “My future can be different because I am perfectly loved by God ...”