Tag Archives: depression

Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Woman with a broken heart, Author Nevit Dilmen, Source Sunset 02459.jpg and Broken Heart symbol.svg (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have.  Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars.  Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues.  The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart.  Nor is it for the self-righteous.  Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims.  That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip.  Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

Originally posted 3/15/15

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

 

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/7462740970/, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now. Continue reading

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 2 – Guilt and Shame

Crying child, Author Asad Amjad ChangEzi (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’ ” (Matt. 18: 6).

It is easier for children to believe they “deserve” the evil done to them, than to take in the fact an adult who should care for them actually has little or no regard for their well-being.

The Statute of Limitations and other obstacles can make it difficult to hold child abusers and molesters accountable legally.  Even with a conviction, however, the feeling of “sinfulness” may rebound from an abuser to his victims.

This in no way implies that they were at fault.  Victims, however, relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. They are often left with a vague sense of unworthiness that can permeate their lives, and undermine subsequent relationships.

Though this feeling of their own “sinfulness” can be overwhelming to abuse victims, the conclusions they draw from it are not accurate.  Victims did not warrant or invite the abuse.  They remain deserving of love.

The feeling of “sinfulness” is just one of the scars left in the wake of abuse.  Other symptoms can include anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction.  These behaviors either stem from the pain or are attempts to numb it.  All of them “punish” the victim, who was never at fault in the first place!

The symptoms of abuse may, themselves, become a cause of shame to victims.  Self-destructive behaviors shift the focus away from the abuse, while silently declaring it to the world.  Imperfect as coping mechanisms, these behaviors can have dire consequences but are, in effect, a cry for help.

Originally posted 7/7/13

Of NoteA Vatican tribunal has found Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam guilty of abusing minors and removed him from office.  Apuron was suspended in June 2016 following accusations that he sexually abused altar boys as a parish priest during the 1970s.

Thus far, the Archdiocese of Guam has been named in 159 sex abuse lawsuits involving Apuron and others.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT:  https://alawyersprayers.com

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Long Term

“Sad Boy”, Author Sascha Grosser (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

A new study by the University of Utah confirms that abuse before the age of 5 can continue to have negative consequences decades later [1].

This is no surprise to abuse victims.  We know we cannot simply “snap out” of depression, anxiety, and PTSD despite the well-meaning advice of friends, family, physicians, and strangers alike.  That fact only adds to our sense of isolation.

Researchers found that:

“…those who experienced abuse or neglect early in life consistently were less successful in their social relationships and academic performance during childhood, adolescence and even during adulthood.  The effects of maltreatment did not weaken as the participants got older [2].”

The sad little boy or girl becomes the sad, lonely and/or angry man or woman.  Unfortunately, that anger is often turned inward, becoming another destructive force against which we must battle.

This has nothing to do with will power or self-control, and everything to do with who we were taught to believe we are.  Damaged, deficient, unloved and unlovable — our needs unimportant, our dreams unattainable.  Directly and indirectly, those lessons were driven home until they became part of us.

But the human spirit is amazing.  We somehow survived the onslaught, the dark rain of blows and insults.   Many of us succeeded in the work place.  Some found the internal resources to become artists, writers, and advocates.  Still more became the parents our own parents could not be.

That we continue to wrestle with our demons is no shame.  It is simply part of our reality.

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40: 29).

[1 and 2]  Science Daily, “Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect – Study led by university researcher shows negative effects may persist into adulthood”, 1/16/18, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116222327.htm.

With thanks to Louise Callen

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Fighting Demons

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots (2005) (CC BY-SA 3.0 Gen)

Pittsburgh Steelers v. New England Patriots at Heinz Field (2005), Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Fighting the demons of anxiety, depression, and PTSD is a little like playing football [1][2].  We make headway then lose ground.  But the fight never really ends, not the way a game of football does.  There is no score.

We win by surviving another day.

Across Decades

It can be enormously discouraging to wrestle with the scars of abuse, decade in and decade out.  Surely, we must after all this time have made progress.

But progress is not linear.  Despite the passage of time, and an extensive list of medications – not to mention therapy – familiar demons can resurface.

Factors Impacting Our Success

So, are anxiety, depression, and PTSD ever really “conquered”?  Can they, at least, be fought to a standstill?  The answer depends.

The factors include the length and severity of the trauma we sustained; our particular genetics; the quality and extent of our medical treatment; our psychological and spiritual resources; the emotional support we have available; and the other stressors to which we are subjected.

None of these can be quantified.  Most can and do vary over the course of a lifetime.

The Struggle

Why not just throw in the towel (to mix sports metaphors)?  After all, the struggle is exhausting.  The struggle, however, is life. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sports, Violence Against Women

Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Fairy Tales

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Author Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, Photographer Jessie Willcox Smith, Source http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34339 (PD)

“Once upon a time…”  When we were children those were magical words.  They called up a world of fairy godmothers, princes slaying dragons, and wishes come true.  A fairy tale promised excitement and adventure.  Best of all, we were guaranteed a happy ending.

Andrew Lang compiled hundreds of fairy tales into The Fairy Books of Many Colors.  I devoured these as a child, one color after another – The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, etc. – as fast as I could lay hands on them.  I simply could not get my fill.  Yet I could not have said at the time what the fascination was for me.

Psychologists have long argued over the meaning and usefulness of fairy tales.  These universally loved stories can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The explanation that comes closest to my own experience is that fairy tales allow children to confront and deal with their fears and concerns – whether of abandonment (Hansel and Gretel), death (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), rejection (Cinderella), etc. – in symbolic terms, so that those fears and concerns are reduced to manageable size.

Children get the satisfaction of slaying their own dragons…from a safe distance. Continue reading

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Jellyfish

Cyanea jellyfish, North Sea, Author Ole Kils olekils@web.de (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, GNU Free Documentation License)

Jellyfish are equipped with stinging tentacles used to paralyze, capture, and kill their prey.  The largest known specimen, the lion’s mane or giant jelly, has tentacles which can reach 120 feet in length.  That is longer than a blue whale.

The sting of a jellyfish can be agony.  In humans, that sting can cause burning and blistering of the skin, difficulty breathing, changes in heart rate, chest pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness, and collapse.

The tentacles can sting, even after a jellyfish has died.

The Tentacles of Abuse

Like jellyfish, abuse has long tentacles.  Rather than extending into deep water, those tentacles extend across the years.  But their sting can still be agony.  Like the tentacles of jellyfish, the tentacles of abuse can paralyze, capture, and in some cases kill.

Real Wounds

Whether we suffer with physical ailments and visible scars or with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the wounds stemming from our abuse are severe and real.  We are not weak.  We are not malingering.

It is, in some ways, easier when our wounds can be seen by the naked eye.  Burns are recognizable as such.  By contrast, the wounds of many abuse victims cannot be bandaged or sutured.  Invisible, those wounds can yet be deadly.

Long-Term Damage

Because it was inflicted early in our lives, while we were most vulnerable, the damage done by abuse is long-lasting and multi-faceted.  Victims must endure it for decades, across the full range of life activities.  This can be exhausting.

Eventually, we may feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, as if we were drowning; may feel trapped by our past, despite our best efforts; may feel wrongly that ending our lives is the only way out. Continue reading

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Tears in Heaven

Street art by Nitzan Mintz, Jerusalem, Israel, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeevveez/8765164478/, Author zeevveez https://www.flickr.com/people/29001414@N00 (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

I curled up on the couch a few nights ago, expecting to watch a good old-fashioned whodunit on television.

Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the corpse in the story belonged to a child molester. A woman sexually abused as a girl had killed him, in her effort to protect another child from abuse.

Suddenly the program was deadly serious — raising all too familiar issues of credibility, deception, violence, guilt, and justification.

The Lens of Abuse

Though this blog regularly deals with the topic of abuse, victims must strive not to view the world through that lens only.

There are countless good things — and good people — in the world. Victims deserve better than to be robbed of those, in addition to having been battered and violated.

A Happy Face

There is a deep and pervasive sadness associated with abuse.  Our childhoods were stolen from us, our lives shattered.  We cannot pretend our abuse never occurred; cannot just wish our depression or PTSD away, and put on a happy face.

The Apostle Paul encouraged believers this way:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Php. 4: 8).

So  we have every right to incorporate good people and good things into our lives. They are a reflection of God’s own love.

The problem is that we cannot do this by act of will alone. The victims of sexual abuse  cannot simply choose to “think less about sex” [1]. If our abuse was sexual, everything has become sexualized, whether we want it to be or not [2].

Tears in Heaven

“Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?”

Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

How will heaven handle these issues?

Will we forget all the painful events in our lives, and the people who caused us that pain?  What if those events were formative, shaped our character and aspirations?  What if the very people who caused our pain were, also, our loved ones? Continue reading

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Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4]. Continue reading

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