“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers. Ogres have layers.”
Almost any American parent will recognize the quote (above). It is from a conversation between the main character and his donkey sidekick in the children’s film Shrek. The statement is meant to convey the complexity of ogres.
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Rom. 7: 15 NLT).
Change – especially change for the better – is difficult for human beings. Even the Apostle Paul complained of this.
The problem is not weakness of character. It is our flawed nature, and the very complexity with which God made us (Ps. 139: 14) . Nearly all our actions have multiple layers of causation and meaning (many of these unconscious).
What this implies for abuse victims is that a single psychological insight on our part is not likely to be support an overnight transformation.
That is not to say insights are insignificant. Even when painful, they give us better understanding of (and better control over) our lives. As important, insights are cumulative. If we are patient and persistent, change will come.
Our expectations for ourselves must, however, be realistic. Even those who were never abused encounter challenges in life, and problems achieving their goals. It is the human condition in a flawed world. Weight loss programs and gyms have made millions off that fact.
We must not measure ourselves against a behavioral ideal that may be impossible for anyone to attain, abused or not.
The scars of our abuse – the troubling behaviors and beliefs we are attempting to change – have been in place for decades. They are deeply entrenched. Little wonder that change can be exhausting. We are not merely attempting to remove weeds. We are uprooting oaks!
Unfortunately, moderation tends to be unsettling for abuse victims. The impossibly high standards we set for ourselves were the standards set for us as children. Extremes are “easier” than moderation; they feel more familiar to us.
What we should aim for is improved functionality, and relief from constant emotional pain. Those are much more achievable than “perfect” behavior.
That shift in attitude should not be mistaken for capitulation to abuse, or the abandonment of hope. Each day is another step forward, and another victory over darkness.
 Christians view mankind’s nature as inherently sinful and rebellious against God. Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”
Self-forgiveness will be discussed next week in Part 2
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