Six-time Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Russ Taff opens up about his struggles and pains growing up. In this interview with 100 Huntley Show, he revealed how years of abuse from his family affected him and how God turned things around to restore him.
Russ was raised by abusive parents in a home with a volatile atmosphere. He recalled hearing words like, “You’ll never amount to anything, You’re not worth the salt that goes into your bread,” from his parents. He accepted these as truth after hearing them say it constantly. His worth and confidence went down the drain at such a young age. He said, “If it’s said to you often enough, you start believing it.”
Aside from being verbally abused, he was also physically abused. He said he got the “worst beating of his life” when he was nine years old. He told his friend that his parents argued. His older brother heard it and told their mom. When he got home, he faced his worst fear. She screamed, “You don’t tell anybody what goes on in this family.” Then, his outraged mom threw her shoes at him. She shouted at him and hit him several times. This frightened child “balled up in a fetal position” in an attempt to protect himself while he was being kicked.
Russ had bruises and had to skip his classes for two weeks to wait for the bruises to heal. He also had to carry his mom’s emotional burdens. His mom poured her heart out and told him their family’s problems, especially her problems linked to his alcoholic dad. He said, “She would dump all of these on me and then go to bed feeling better. And I’m eleven years old, what do you do with that?”
On the other hand, his dad spent his time on alcohol, went to church, preached, and did the exact opposite of what he preached. Thankfully, despite the hardship and abuse he experienced growing up, Russ still believed in God. He shared, “So, you grew up with these negative mentions of who God is, but you love Him with all of your heart.”
This talented singer was given a breakthrough with the “Imperials.” He enjoyed singing in the band and became successful. However, his success as a singer was not enough to restore him. He brought with him this baggage growing up. Russ thought that he could just ignore them and pretend that they did not happen, but he was wrong. “It did not leave me alone. It reached up and grabbed me,” he recalled.
“I was totally insecure. I was terrified of everything,” he said. People told him that he was wonderful, but he simply didn’t believe it. He tried to drown the pain away by turning to alcohol. “You hate yourself more because you turned into what you hate about your dad, now you’re that way.” To make things worse, this Christian felt like a “hypocrite” when he stood on stage because he was struggling with alcohol addiction. All of these happened when he was at the height of his career and sadly, he could not tell anyone what he was going through. Russ tried to attend “Alcoholics Anonymous” meetings and got sober for a while. But he knew that he needed to face the trauma of his childhood.
This desperate man went to therapy sessions to help him face and come to terms with his past. After going through those sessions for 65 days, he left “not hating his parents anymore.” However, the “greatest miracle of all” happened when he met this pastor who was also his fan. This pastor was dying because of cancer. His family asked Russ to come over just “to say hello.” “None of us knew how important and that the Holy Spirit set that day and time for the final healing I was going to experience,” he said.
However, he was not prepared for what was waiting for him. This dying man looked exactly like his alcoholic father. It “startled” him. “My first reaction was to flight,” he said. But, he decided to still come inside with his acoustic guitar. The pastor cried upon seeing him. He was so happy to meet him.
This hesitant performer sang his favorite songs and this “intimate mini-concert” lasted for 45 minutes. Pastor Jones got weary and needed to rest after his performance. Russ asked for prayer from this kind pastor before he left. He did not expect that something life-changing would happen.
He placed his hands on the celebrity’s shoulder and started praying for him. Russ was like seeing his dad in the flesh. They have the same color of eyes, built, hair color, big hands, etc. This pastor knew nothing about his life, but when he started praying, Russ dropped to his knees crying.
Pastor Jones pulled his head to his belly, and he began to stroke his hair. The pastor said, “Oh Russ! God is so pleased with what you’ve done to your life. God is so happy, you know, with the gift that you’re using for His kingdom. That you’re encouraging people.” He became like a child once again, after hearing those words, this celebrity cried even harder. The encounter lasted for 20 minutes. Pastor Jones became like a loving, good father to him during that brief, unforgettable moments. He kept on telling him how much God loves him.
Then, healing began to take place. “At that day in the hospital, Jesus healed my spirit,” Russ tearfully recalled. “I left there a different man.”
He also gave a piece of advice for anyone who is going through a lot. He said, “First, risk telling somebody.” It took him “forever” to tell someone what he was going through, but when he finally did, his healing started. Someone walked with him and helped him overcome his struggles. “He [God] brings help. He brings help through other people,” he said. God is always happy and willing to turn things around for anyone. He is patiently, lovingly waiting for anyone to come to Him for a much-needed rest and restoration.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17