5 short radio messages for you!

For more than 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of producing radio programs for WJTL. Check out 5 short radio programs. “Why do you go to Church?” “Attitude check for Church members.”


To help you experience true transformation in your local Church, check out the five 90 second radio features:  

  1. Take delight in honoring each other
  2. Watching out for each other not watching each other
  3. The case for Christ among us
  4. Why do you go to Church?
  5. Attitude check for Church members

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How did your upbringing affect you?

Have you ever thought about how your upbringing affected you? Did you come from a healthy and stable home? Most people don’t reflect deeply on the way they’ve been affected by what I call the 18-year factor.


treat-thumbYour 18-year factor is a way of referring to your upbringing — the first 18 years of life. These are the most formative years of our lives. They shape the way we view ourselves. These years also affect the way we relate to those around us.

In my counseling experience, I’ve found that many people have not done well resolving the damage done to them during these years. The pain from the past lingers like a bad dream that won’t go away.


Homes where children grow up under the loving nurture and guidance of good parents quickly are becoming exceptions. Families with significantly dysfunctional characteristics are a new norm, and these dysfunctional homes are not limited to any particular culture or group of people.

Fathers and mothers are the primary people who affect us during our 18-year factor. But it’s not just parents. Other people and sometimes difficult and challenging circumstances have defining influence on these years. Sometimes relatives or friends are the ones who hurt us.

Perhaps circumstances played a big role in your 18-year factor. Our family moved a lot and we struggled with unrelenting financial difficulties. Circumstances like these affected my sense of identity, security and how I related to others.


Sometimes a physical characteristic deeply affects a person’s 18-year factor. When a physical trait or limitation makes you feel different from others and becomes a source for ridicule, it likely will have lasting effects on your sense of identity, security and future relationships.


A close boyhood friend of mine had a father who repeatedly degraded him. His favorite label for his son was “dummy.” In fact, I never heard his dad use his proper name without attaching the label “dummy.” We laughed it off and even mimicked his dad’s label. But years later I realized that there was nothing funny about his father’s verbal abuse.


Think about what it does to a boy when his dad (perhaps the most important person in his life) continually degrades him. Should we expect it to profoundly alter his life? When a boy is raised without his father’s affirmation and approval, should he be able to move on without carrying damage into his adult life?


Perhaps we should tell him to let the past be the past.


What should he do when he battles thoughts and feelings associated with his father’s mistreatment? What do those who are close to him do when he seems to be a bottomless pit of need for affirmation?


This father not only deprived his son of the vital affirmation a boy needs, he also beat him down with cruel words. Should we expect such abuse to damage a boy’s identity, security and future relationships? Maybe he will spend years trying to prove to everyone that he is no dummy. This father’s verbal abuse sent his son on a life-mission to prove to the world that he was no dummy.


How different would my friend’s life be if his father had been a strong and loving person who raised his son with healthy discipline and affirmation?


Is it really worth it to look back on the effects of your upbringing? Rehearsing old experiences and hurts seems like a sure way to feed feelings of resentment and bitterness. Doesn’t it make more sense to just let the past be the past? Since you can’t change what happened, just forget it and move on, right? If only it were always that easy.


While it might sound sensible to just forget the past, for many people, the past has caused too much damage to just forget it. Suppressing and denying only lead to more problems. The effects of a bad 18-year factor can continuously reappear in a person’s thoughts, feelings and relationships. Looking back is essential to a healthy future.


Yet we need to be cautious about the way we talk about the past. It’s easy (and might even feel good) to just vent and lament. While it is helpful to talk about the influences that shaped our lives during our 18-year factor, revisiting the past without guidance can easily becomes an occasion for emotional drugs of choice. These are emotions that we choose as reactions to the mistreatment or neglect of others.

Emotions like anger, resentment, self-pity and hatred feel good and even justifiable, but they only give extended life to the damage and pain of our past. They also become the most common means for spreading the damage to others.

Our 18-year factor sets much of the course for how we do life; how we see the world and how we relate to others. Our 18-year factor shapes the overall person we’ve become. Although this might seem obvious, I am amazed by the number of people who don’t connect their current behavior, attitudes and emotions with their past.


Sometimes we need to look back to move ahead. So I am inviting you to be honest about the influences that have shaped your life. Remember that the only thing we can change about the past is how we let it affect our future. Thank God that we can change this with his help.


Steve Cornell

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Verbal abuse and appearance bullying

  • Were you verbally abused as a child?
  • Were you the object of appearance bullying?
  • Do you know anyone who had these experiences?

Consider ways that these abuses cast a long shadow over adult life and disrupt relationships. Don’t miss the solution. It is widely overlooked and entirely unexpected.

Those who were verbally abused or subjected to appearance bullying as children often become adults who deflect constructive criticism.

They don’t like to admit to wrongs. They find it difficult to apologize and rarely ask for forgiveness.

Sadly, to help them feel better about themselves, they often tend to have clear eyes for the flaws of others.

There might be a story behind the story when people are comfortable talking about the wrongs of others but become defensive toward those who suggest they’re wrong (no matter how nicely suggested).

A form of resentment is often behind these issues, as well as a feeling of self-justification because of the damage they endured.

This result of childhood abuse is difficult to dislodge from a person’s life. It’s cemented to a reactionary and wrongful kind of pride used to coverup deep-seated insecurities. It serves as a deflective mechanism to avoid the unbearable thought of flaws.

A reason that the logical connection between childhood abuse and this kind of adult behavior is difficult to conquer is that it involves the acceptance of a negative assessment.

Painful surgery is necessary to remove this damage and, as I say in my book, “the first cut is the deepest.” The solution is found in an unexpected place.

Learn more about this “first cut” solution in chapter 12 of my book. Purchase a copy here


The 18-year Factor is a way of referring to the first 18 years of life. We can all benefit from looking more closely at them – no matter what kind of upbringing we experienced. This book is an invitation to look back and understand how your upbringing affects your life and relationships. The capt…
Posted in 18 Year factor, Appearance bullying, Broken Relationships, Child Abuse, Dysfunctional, Pride, Relationships, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Four kinds of children from dysfunctional homes

time-to-learnWhy do siblings respond differently to a dysfunctional home?
While dysfunctional homes cause many similar effects for children, not all respond/react the same way to those effects. My experience has led me to identify four main kinds of reactions to dysfunctional homes.
Although children from a troubled upbringing will likely identify with elements from each, it’s not uncommon for them to display one in a more emphasized way. Differences in a child’s personality and temperament usually play a role in shaping his or her reaction to a painful upbringing.
Let me introduce you to the four kinds of children in relation to differences in reaction. The additional description (or nickname) in brackets would be from the dysfunctional parent’s perspective.
1. The angry rebel (aka “our black sheep”)
2. The peacemaking mediator (aka “our good girl”)
3. The fleeing perfectionist (aka “our trophy”)
4. The depressed defeatist (aka “our emotional one”)
Let’s look closely at these four reactions and consider the potential long-term effects of each.
See chapter 9 of my book. Purchase a copy here 
Steve Cornell
Posted in 18 Year factor, Abuse, Child Abuse, Dysfunctional, Parenting, Wisdom | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Being a victim but rejecting a victim’s mentality

Care-Ministry-Logo-FOR-WEBChildren growing up in dysfunctional homes sometimes accept responsibility for the hurtful actions of parents and other adults. They place themselves at fault for being victimized.
They misread what happens to them as an indication of something wrong with them.
A woman in her early forties acknowledged that she finally began to overcome the effects of growing up in a violent home when she realized that what happened to her as a child was not her fault.
It’s essential to help these children (or the adults who had this experience) distinguish between being a victim and accepting a victim’s mentality. I outline the difference carefully in my book.
Whether this has been your experience, or you know someone affected by it, my book will provide helpful guidance and conversational points. I’ve written the 18_Year Factor partly for equipping people to be discerning helpers of those who struggle.
  • Download a free copy of the discussion questions from my website for more accessible note taking here 
  • A free supplemental for Church groups will soon be available (since the book is intentionally written as non-religious).
Steve Cornell
Posted in 18 Year factor, Abuse, Child Abuse, Christian Counselor, Counseling, Psychology, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Eight truths for all people

Are there truths about us and God that apply to all people in all places at all times?


  1. We are all sinners who receive the penalty of death (Romans 3:10235:12).
  2. God demonstrated His love for all (John 3:16;Romans 5:8).
  3. God desires salvation for all (I Timothy 2:3-4;II Peter 3:9).
  4. God made provision for salvation for all (I Timothy 2:5-6;4:9-10Titus 2:11I John 2:2).
  5. God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30).
  6. God holds all accountable for their response to His provision (Romans 2:4-11;14:11;Acts 17:31).
  7. God takes no pleasure in rejection of His provision (Ezekiel 18:23,32).
  8. God saves all who place faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16;11:26Romans 10:13).

Steve Cornell

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How childhood experiences become enemies of true love

ImageA needed warning for parents is found in the story of a mother whose negative influence controlled her daughter’s thinking and habits well past childhood years. Cindy had to overcome the effects of her mother’s extreme resentment toward her father before she could trust a man enough to marry him. Cindy’s parents divorced when she was about twelve years old. Though her father was a good man, her mother’s bitterness toward him profoundly shaped Cindy’s heart regarding all men. When Cindy and her siblings spent weekends with their father, her mother programmed them, even required them, to send a nonverbal message to him by getting out of his car quickly when he dropped them off.

Large-scale generalizations

When Cindy was twenty-five years old, she met Bill, a good man who became her husband five years later. It took Bill five years of patient love to overcome Cindy’s damaged view of men. Bill recounted to me that when he and Cindy were first dating, he had to ask her to allow him to stop his car completely before she got out of it. At twenty-five years of age, Cindy was unaware of how and why she got out of the car quickly. Bill simply understood her action as unsafe. He didn’t know the history behind it until later.

It’s hard to imagine parents using children as tools for expressing their bitterness, but it happens more often than most realize. Parents must understand the power they have to set templates for their children—damaging templates that usually stay with them for years.

Painful childhood experiences (and protective mechanisms used to survive them) tend to cause children to adopt irrational large-scale generalizations about all of life and all people. Although their suffering occurs in a specific context involving a small number of people, the magnitude of the pain at this vulnerable time of life is more significant than most understand. Specific adverse childhood experiences form a template that shapes a child’s expectations of other people and circumstances. A young girl’s withdrawn or violent father leads her to believe that all men are like him. Her mother’s resentment toward her father further supports a large-scale generalization about “all” men. Though such large-scale generalizations are irrational, we can understand how the rational part of life is damaged by past experiences.

Fear and control

Fear and control also play a significant role in the adult lives of those who suffered childhood abuses. Significantly disrupted and severely dysfunctional homes are unsafe and unstable places that make children feel insecure or afraid. It’s not uncommon for those with a painful past to use the protective mechanism of control to minimize the fears in their troubled upbringing. These children often become adults who continue to try to control life and people to afford them a feeling of safety and security—to keep fear at bay.

Fear and control function as a kind of glue that cements past and present with a strong potential of ruining the future. Fear of what happened in the past ignites unnecessary and excessive efforts to control the present. One woman recalls how her verbally abusive mother caused her to form a habit of running from situations she could not control.

Like most protective mechanisms, fear and control especially hurt adult relationships. Fear of damage caused by someone from the past becomes redirected at someone in the present, who is then placed (unfairly) under control lest he or she does similar things. The use of control becomes a payment that a person must pay for the pain caused by others. The tendency to control other adults conveys distrust and disrupts otherwise positive relationships. It also exposes an unhealthy attachment to a painful past.

Contractual relationships

A person who allows fear and control to dominate his life places unnecessary and suffocating demands on others. Those who are held hostage by fear of the past approach relationships with self-serving expectations. They fight off fear by approaching relationships on a kind of contractual arrangement. “I need you to____________. I expect you to_____________. I demand you to__________. If you fail, I will punish you by exploding or withdrawing.”

A mate dealing with fear and control in a spouse often finds himself saying:

  • “I am not your father,” or “I am not your mother.”
  • “Please stop projecting onto me what they did to you.”
  • “I understand that your father rejected you, but I won’t reject you.”
  • “You don’t need to hedge around me, I won’t lash out the way your father did.”

Large-scale generalizations partner with fear and control as enemies of true love because such love flourishes only in a relationship of trust and freedom. A couple can build a healthier future free from bondage to the past when the dynamics of fear and control are understood and responded to with patience and mercy.

Protective and suspicious dispositions

Traumatized children learn to withdraw into protective and suspicious dispositions because the risks of vulnerability, transparency, and trust are too frightening. Highly protective and suspicious adults must look back to ask if there is a story behind their approach to life and to people. My new book, “The 18-Year Factor: How our upbringing affects our lives and relationships,” offers a guided tour back to understand and resolve the ways our past invades and hurts the future. Purchase a copy here 

Steve Cornell

Posted in 18 Year factor, Child Abuse, Dysfunctional, Family life, Parenting, Parenting Groups, Parenting teens, Wisdom | Tagged , , | 1 Comment