In many cases, low self-image is the direct result of feeling abandoned. Almost without exception, someone given up for adoption or physically or emotionally abandoned by their parents, develops low self-image. They ask themselves the question, “What was wrong with me that my parents did not want me?” Emotional abandonment or feeling unloved is also a root of rebellion among teenagers. Consequently, abandonment, which affects the self-image, can pervade the entire person and become a complex problem.
We find our model for feelings of abandonment in the story of Ishmael beginning in Genesis Chapter 16:
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
1. Abandonment is almost never due solely to the fault of the one abandoned. Many times parental or other conflict leads to the abandonment. Sarai gave Hagar (flight) to Abram in order to have children by her and then became angry when Hagar conceived and despised her. Sarai mistreated Hagar and she fled.
Ge 16:1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name [was] Hagar. 2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. 4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong [be] upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. 6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid [is] in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
2. God cares about the abandoned person and wants the relationship to work. God told Hagar to go back and submit to Sarai and he would bless her. The angel found her in the wilderness of Shur which means “wall.” Abandonment or fleeing (Hagar means flight) is usually a defense.
Ge 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
3. God told Hagar to name the child Ishmael, which means “the Lord has heard your affliction.” God hears the affliction of those that are abandoned and promises to take care of them. Psalms 27:10 states, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” God promised that the descendents of Ishmael would be so numerous that they could not be counted. This truth has been manifested in two ways. The Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, have grown in great numbers and the numbers of abandoned children continue to increase to this day.
Ge 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou [art] with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
4. Abandonment by a father usually results in a life of rebellion against authority. This is because an abandoned child perceives that either the parent does not have his best interests in mind or that there must be something wrong with him. If someone in authority does not really care about us, we rebel against that authority and if there is something wrong with us we will not be open to discipline.
Ge 16:12 And he will be a wild man; his hand [will be] against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
5. What the abandoned person needs to realize is that God does see them and will look out for them. Beer-lahai-roi means "well of the Living One seeing me."
Ge 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between Kadesh and Bered.
6. The abandoned person has great potential in God but has a tendency to liveaccording to the flesh and not the spirit, due to his hurt of abandonment. Ge 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
7. The abandoned person needs to make a covenant to serve God and not the flesh. Circumcision symbolized the cutting away of the flesh.
Ge 17:25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
8. Abandonment leads to contempt and contempt to further abandonment. Most likely Ishmael realized that Isaac was the favored child and reacted out of anger and frustration.
Ge 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac.
9. The inheritance of a good father is lost. Even if the father really cares, time together is essential. Abraham did not want to abandon Ishmael but Sarah insisted.
Ge 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son. 12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
10. People that have been rejected still have the potential to have a full productive life.
Ge 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.
11. A child needs more than having his basic needs met to become a man. Bread stands for things that are profitable and useful and water stands for life. Even if a child is provided the physical needs of life and emotional support in the care of his mother, it is usually not enough. He may still find himself wandering in the wilderness of life without a male role model, wondering what it is really like to be a man. Hagar, the single mother, is the one who must now carry the burden on her shoulder as she is sent away to wither and die emotionally.
Ge 21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
12. There is nothing a mother can do to fully make up for the loss of a man in the lives of her children. Of course, mentoring can help to some degree. Here Hagar chose to abandon her son again rather than to see him die. Some mothers choose emotionally to abandon their teenagers when they realize that there is nothing more that they can do for them.
Ge 21:15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. 16 And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.
13. But God will not abandon those who have been abandoned. God will hear their voice if they will call to Him. Mothers are not to give up on their teens but lead them to the father that will “never leave them or forsake them.”
Ge 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].
14. God has a plan to make the abandoned great if they will turn to Him. She was told to lift up the lad (encourage him) and to hold him in thine hand (provide emotional support).
Ge 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
15. It is mother’s job to allow God to open her eyes (of faith), and take of the well of water that the angel showed her (the Word of God) and give the water (life) to the lad. Ge 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
Ge 21:19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
16. We must help the abandoned person to find this calling and place in life where he can thrive and find fulfillment even though he may still be struggling as God brings healing in his emotional wilderness.
17. Even though they may be relying on God, the abandoned person still has to go through all the normal struggles of life in order to build his faith. Paran means “a place of caverns” (a safe but dark dwelling place). This was the exact same wilderness that the children of Israel passed through on the way to the Promised Land.
Ge 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.
18. The abandoned person needs to be cautious of who he marries so that he does not again setup the abandonment issues in his family of origin. In the verse above, Hagar, who was an Egyptian, took a wife from Egypt for Ishmael. This was not wise since Egypt stands for the world and all it offers.
Even though the abandoned person now has God as a father, he still must deal with his feeling of abandonment by his natural father. Ishmael joined Isaac in burying Abraham in the cave of Machpelah (double portion) in the field of Ephron (fawn-like) the son of Zohar (Tawny) the Hittite (fear) which [is] before Mamre; (Strength or fatness). This verse suggests that by burying his father at Manre he also shared in the double portion of the life and strength that his father enjoyed.
Ge 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which [is] before Mamre;
20. The positive outcome from the emotional pain of abandonment takes time, but victory through God is possible. We see this healing develop slowly in the names of his children which in ancient times were chosen to describe life’s conditions. He progressed through a dark struggle to become someone to finally accepting himself as he was; an original, one of a kind, human being that is loved and will never be abandoned again by his true Father—God.
Ge 25:13 And these [are] the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth (heights); and Kedar (dark), and Adbeel (chastened of God), and Mibsam (sweet odor), 14 And Mishma (a hearing), and Dumah (silence), and Massa (burden), 15 Hadar (honor), and Tema (desert), Jetur (enclosed), Naphish (refreshment), and Kedemah (original):
21. The abandoned person can enjoy a full and long life similar to that found in the garden of Eden if he successfully works through the issues of his abandonment and makes God his true Father. Havilah is the area near of the original garden of Eden.
Ge 25:17 And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. 18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that [is] before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: [and] he died in the presence of all his brethren.
1. Physical or emotional abandonment most often results in low self-image, because we ask what was wrong with us, that the other persons, especially our parents, did not want a relationship with us.
2. If we have been abandoned by our fathers, we will usually rebel against the authority figures in our lives because we feel that we cannot trust anyone except ourselves.
3. Once we have experienced abandonment, we may expect that others might also abandon us since we feel unworthy of their love.
4. Because the emotional pain of feeling worthless is so great, we will many times abandon or show contempt for others that we are afraid will abandon us. This results in additional experiences of abandonment.
5. Establishing a close, intimate relationship with God is the answer for overcoming abandonment, because He alone can be trusted completely to look out for us and never leave or forsake us. We must make a covenant with Him.
6. If possible, we must work through our issues of low self-image and our feelings of abandonment with those who have abandoned us in order to be completely free from this fear.
7. If we will do this, we can be set free from this trap and go on to experience a long and full life.