Of Ogres and Onions, Part 2

“Still Life in White” by Antonio Sicurezza (1972), (PD)

Self-hatred is not productive in the pursuit of change.  Self-forgiveness (as hard for abuse victims to accept as moderation) actually shortens the recovery time from what we may view as “failures” and backsliding.

But self-forgiveness is not a skill abuse victims are taught as children.  We must acquire it on our own.

Here are a few suggestions [1][2][3]:

  1.  Define the infraction, and identify the injured party.

In the context of attempts to move beyond our abusive past, victims are, for the most part, the injured parties [4].  We fail ourselves, and experience overwhelming shame.

The inner dialog goes something like this:

“How stupid of me not to speak up.  That saleswoman must have thought I was an idiot.  I’m sure she could tell I didn’t want the sweater.  I already have a nice sweater.   Besides, the new one is hideous.  If I wasn’t able to speak up in a department store, how am I ever going to speak up in class?  It’s too late for me anyhow.  It was ridiculous to think I could go back to school at my age.”

  2.  Put things in perspective.

Have you started World War III?  No.  Have you abused any children?  Again, the answer is no.  You have bought a sweater which can be returned, given as a gift, worn to an “ugly sweater” party, donated, or discarded outright.

  3.  Tease out the negative feelings.

You have, in a single instance, been less assertive than desired.  That can be remedied the next time.  You can visualize returning the sweater; can even memorize and practice a script.  You can buy sweaters to your heart’s content, and return them all.

And if a saleswoman is unimpressed with your taste, your demeanor, or your credit, what on earth does it matter?  The episode has nothing do with your school performance.  You simply projected your fears forward.

  4.  Be kind to yourself.

Ask yourself whether you would hold anyone else to the high standards you hold yourself, or criticize anyone else as harshly.  Chances are you are kinder to others than to yourself.

If you don’t feel “deserving” of kindness, try it anyway.  Encouragement produces far better results with abuse victims than rebuke.

  5.  Decide what it is you want, and make a plan.

You will generally have a range of options.

  • Do you want your money back?  For that, you’ll have to return the sweater.  Be sure to adhere to store policy governing returns.
  • Do you want to give the store negative feedback?  Complete a survey and express your dissatisfaction with the quality of merchandise, and pressure tactics of staff.  Many surveys are anonymous, making confrontation unnecessary.
  • Do you want an apology from the store?  Consider registering a complaint against the saleswoman who strong-armed you.

If you do need to make amends to someone, come up with a plan for that.  Again, you will likely have a range of options.  Hara-kiri should not be among them.

  6.  Let go of the past.

This is far more demanding than it sounds.  For abuse victims and others suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the past keeps intruding on the present.  But we can only operate in the present.  Insofar as possible, stop beating yourself up for past mistakes.

  7.  Change the narrative.

Focus on the things that you do right.  For someone struggling with depression, just getting out of bed may be an accomplishment.  Showering, getting dressed, and taking out the garbage are worthy of applause.

Don’t overlook your qualities as a human being.  Those count, too.  Are you honest?  Loyal?  A good listener?  A good friend?

Does your dog or cat love you?  You get extra points for that.


Scripture, also, speaks to the difficulties of change.  The Apostle Paul, you may remember, asked the Lord for relief from a weakness or “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12: 7-9).

Whatever that thorn may have been, Paul never did get the relief.  Instead, the Lord’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

His power is made perfect in our weakness.  That is not a taunt or a bad joke.  God heals some abuse victims fully.  Others He sustains despite our pain, despite our scars.

To have survived abuse at all is an enormous achievement.  To have retained the capacity to love, yet more so.  That is success by any definition…even if we do have as many layers as onions.

[1]  Psychology Today, “How to Forgive Yourself and Move on From the Past” by Matt James PhD, 10/22/14, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/focus-forgiveness/201410/how-forgive-yourself-and-move-the-past.

[2]  Prevention, “12 Ways to Forgive Yourself No Matter What You’ve Done” by Ellen Michaud, 8/31/15, http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/how-to-forgive-yourself-no-matter-what.

[3]  WebMD, “Learning to Forgive Yourself” by Jean Lawrence, http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself#1.

[4]  It is true that the choices victims make, as the result of an abusive past, may impact their children.  A psychologist can be helpful, in this regard.

The difficulties of change, unrealistic expectations, and moderation were discussed last week in Part 1




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

16 responses to “Of Ogres and Onions, Part 2

  1. My compliments to the chef! This huge ‘bowl of chicken soup’ post flavoured with those onions is food for the soul. How many ways can I say what a brilliant and authoritative writer you are Anna? I’ll definitely be coming back for more. It cannot be easy to write about abuse, week after week and come up with all the different perspectives, all the different angles, all the different healing solutions – but you make it look effortless, which anyone who has been abused knows is not the case. Those ‘7’ ingredients along with the pinch of ‘grace’ administered in just the right quantity are so nourishing!

  2. I agree with you.seriously. it really is hard to forgive yourself. you just cant.

    • I cannot imagine that you have done anything so terrible it cannot be forgiven. Many times young people hold themselves responsible for things that really were the responsibility of the adults around them. Sometimes, too, we do what we believe is right, but someone gets hurt in the process. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven. He even forgave Peter who betrayed Him three times. Try to look at it that way. ❤

  3. Thank you so much for these practical examples…too many dictate and insist that people “move on”, “let it go”–but, they don’t offer possible baby-step approaches…thank you for shining a light on a few possible pathways 🙂

  4. Anna I do not accept Sin but I do accept my weaknesses and shortcomings and other peoples too, we all have them and I’m sure that I have more than most people.

    But I have found that God does indeed compensate for our weaknesses by making us stronger in other ways. I cannot write fluently with being Dyslectic except when I Post or Comment, it’s like God has the pen but I’m still a cracked vessel, I can’t spell and punctuation etc is a Mystery to me and so is Maths but God is the Super Glue so I no longer get upset with my mistakes although I have been ridiculed for them in the past and gave up trying until a Teacher encouraged me not to give up and so I kept trying and achieved well.

    So why don’t I accept it as OK if I Sin ? because it gives Satan a foothold in our lives and we are than deceived, controlled and manipulated by him and it is not Love to allow this to happen to ourselves or anyone else and this is why God tells us to also rebuke others who Sin but we do so in Love and for Love and in humility knowing it is only by God’s Mercy and Grace that we have been forgiven of our Sins and for me that is much more than once.

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

    P.S I will be back tomorrow Anna, it’s very late in Aussie Land.

    • It is good hear from you again, Anne. ❤ I did not mean to suggest that we should tolerate sin. Thank you for the clarification. Given all that you've had to endure, it is amazing you can write at all. Yet you write poignantly of your life, and convey the gospel in a way that is always biblically sound. Those who could not see the potential in you had serious shortcomings, themselves. They overlooked a jewel.

      With love,

      Your friend Anna

  5. “Let go of the past”

    I find this is where so many of us get tripped up. Condemnation and shame have often kept me stuck in my mindset or at best, compromised in my ability to truly heal and move forward.
    I am reminded of just how much my Lord loves His children… and I chose to accept that reality over the conflicting memories I have where others shamed me so badly when I was young.

    Thank you very much for this Anna. A refreshing reminder on all points for me… during a very challenging time in my life right now.

    Your brother

    • I know exactly what you mean, David. As abuse victims, we feel all too acutely our unworthiness before God. But unworthiness and worthlessness are not synonymous…whatever we may have been taught in childhood. The God who died for our sakes sees us as infinitely precious.

      Whatever the challenges, God walks with us.

      Your sister,


  6. You nailed it. Thanks as always, sister.

  7. Good post sincere Anna ❤️❤️. You did justice with the topic and very carefully you suggested for thier wellness.

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