Of Ogres and Onions, Part 1

DreamWorks character “Shrek” Copyright © DreamWorks LLC,
Author Santi 20006 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers.  Ogres have layers.”

Shrek, DreamWorks

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, too.  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) [1].  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.

[1]  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




Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

23 responses to “Of Ogres and Onions, Part 1

  1. mia_haider

    i agree with you. great post!

  2. “We are not merely removing weeds. We are uprooting oaks.” And even the weeds constantly reappear over and over again by the seeds of the ones removed. An inherent problem you’ve so ably explained. Thank you, Anna.

  3. The quote at the beginning is excellent… Layers (diversity, flexibility, ability to change) could be a good thing… Even more, if a traumatic event comes shows up… Resilience is an attribute of change in that sense.

    But you are right that that necessary transformation is not something that occurs easily… It could take years to overcome the aftermaths of abuse.

    That´s why I guess that a good Psychologist or Psychiatrist could really help . Great post, dear Anna… Sending love & best wishes! 😉

    • You are always an inspiration, Aquileana. As for psychiatrists and psychologists, I hold them in high esteem. It is always better to shed light on a problem than struggle with it alone in darkness. Love and best wishes to you, too. ❤

  4. “What we should aim for is improved functionality, and relief from constant emotional pain. Those are much more achievable than “perfect” behavior.”

    I think this is the heart of the matter Anna. All of us set ourselves up for certain failure if the target is perfection. There is only one who has ever achieved such status.

    Digging a bit deeper into this, why do we even think we must be perfect? I believe it all goes back to the greatest lie ever told. In Genesis 3:5, the serpent told Eve that if she were to eat of the forbidden fruit she would be like God,knowing good and evil.

    This one statement altered the course of humanity from that moment forward. It set in motion the thought process that we could be something we were never intended to be: like God, or perfect.

    Man has been chasing that fallacy ever since, even though there is no such expectation from our Father. His expectations are simply that we do our best and trust Him to do what we cannot.

    Great post!

    • You are so right, Ron. For abuse victims, the form that lie takes is the belief we must be “perfect” to merit love. Since we know ourselves to be fallible human beings, we conclude that we will never be deserving of love…that our abusers were right. But those mistaken beliefs could not be further from the truth.

      God loves us as His children. We do not forfeit that status by our mistakes. We are never “damaged goods” in God’s eyes, never worthless. He is ready to reach out His hand to us, at any time and place we are willing to take it.

  5. One of the very real problems that victims of abuse face is not only having to grapple with the trauma and outcomes of abuse, but additionally they feel the need to put themselves right in order to be or feel accepted by others who they assume to be perfectly normal unlike themselves. No-one is perfect, and this is something that abuse victims sadly struggle with. If you always aim for perfection then you have already lost the battle, I have found. I think that once victims of abuse realise that it is fine to be flawed, and that is actually a good and acceptable thing to be, then trying to sort out all the other behaviours that we deem to be ‘imperfect’ will not take on the magnitude they nearly always do. This is not to say that life suddenly becomes easier, because it doesn’t, but what it does do, is give you permission to deal with the hurts from a position of love. When you feel loved, it is amazing how this strengthens your inner self, giving you courage and hope.

    Anna, you write with such authority and knowledge – I truly admire you and the work you do which I know you will say is down to God and His unfailing love.

  6. Thank you so much dear for sharing great post, I agree with you

  7. This compassionate offering is such a blessing…you are a light so needed….thank you for continuing to find room to include us in your hard-won revelations, Anna 🙂

  8. With all due respect, Ms. Humility, every word I wrote comes from my heart–my truth 🙂

  9. Very True Anna, we can never achieve worldly perfection it keeps changing and is all about the flesh and we all have weaknesses and shortcomings which we don’t judge critically in others or in ourselves. But as we can see in the Scriptures we are to Aim to be Perfected in Love by putting our Carnal flesh to death which Paul tells us to do in Romans8 and other Scriptures after recognizing his weaknesses in Romans7 which you shared all about with us.

    Is God’s Perfection impossible to achieve, He would not ask us to Aim for it if it was not possible.

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore Perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is Perfect.

    We remember we are not only covered by Jesus Righteousness we also walk as He walks when we are Perfected in Love, as we also see confirmed in the Scriptures below. God tells us and Paul too that Perfection is what we are to Aim for and it does take time as we see it did with Paul (Philippians3:12-14) but he was Perfected in Love and no longer Sinned (1John 3:1-11( 9 ) and not just when he died but while living on this earth the same as some other Christians. (2Timothy 4:7-8)

    1 John 4:17-19 Herein is our Love made Perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in Love but Perfect Love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love. We Love Him because He first Loved us.

    Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ let us go on unto Perfection not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of Faith towards God.

    Philippians 3:14-16 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as be Perfect be thus minded and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless where to we have already attained let us walk by the same rule let us mind the same thing.

    2 Corinthians7:1 Having therefore these promises dearly beloved let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit Perfecting Holiness in the fear of God.

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in Righteousness: That the man of God may be Perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    2Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren farewell, be Perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in Peace and the God of Love and Peace shall be with you.

    Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.

    • I’m glad you brought this up, Anne. Perfection is a highly charged concept for abuse survivors. Not all readers have the same knowledge or understanding of Scripture that you do. I’m going to try and explain a few things for them.

      The term “perfect” is used in many different ways. Its meaning can vary even in the Bible, depending on translation and context.

      Perfection, as the world uses the term, generally refers to a physical standard so high and difficult to reach that few achieve it. And worldly standards of perfection change. The women Peter Paul Rubens painted in the 1600s had ample amounts of flesh, and were greatly admired for it. A slim silhouette was thought at the time to suggest poverty. By the 1960’s, the model Twiggy was 5’6″ and weighed no more than 112 lbs. Cyndy Crawford, who modeled in the 1980’s, stood 5’9″ and weighed 141 lbs. The emaciated look returned in the 1990’s with “heroin chic”. And so it goes.

      Seeking after elusive worldly standards can be deeply discouraging. Spiritual perfection is different. Spiritual perfection is reflected by a strong desire to do right from the motive of love for God. We cannot achieve this on our own. But God’s love for us draws us toward Him. We grow in love for Him as we come to know Him better, and our character is changed (sanctified) in the process.

      In fact, God assures believers of this. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless” (1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24). “…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1: 2). “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5: 5).

      We are undeniably encouraged to obey the law of God. Christ said He came not to destroy the law, but fulfill it (Matt. 5: 17-20). However, the law was given to demonstrate how far mankind falls short of the august standard of God’s holiness. Being human, we will sin despite our best intentions.

      Abuse survivors must not lose hope, at that point. We have not forfeited our Salvation. We can go to God, and ask forgiveness. The inner critical voice that castigates us so mercilessly for our failings and shortcomings is not God’s.


      A. ❤

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