Tag Archives: shame

Punishing Ourselves, Part 2 – Emotional Hunger

“Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors Brought to Jacob after Joseph Is Sold into Slavery” by Diego Velazquez (1630), El Escorial (PD-Art l Old-100)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3: 21).

Human beings inherently crave connection.  When our basic need for relationship is denied, abuse victims can develop an intense emotional hunger.  Some of us attempt to satiate that hunger with food, others with possessions, still others with sex.

But these will not satisfy us.  So the emotional hunger returns, and the cycle begins all over again – each time destined to fail.

Punishment and Reward

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age.  Also he made him a tunic of many colors.  But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him…” (Gen. 37: 3-4).

The reward – whether of food, material things, or sex – becomes punishment.  Each stop gap measure has negative consequences.  Each leaves us feeling empty.  Our sense of worthlessness resurfaces with renewed force.

Then the reward used to stem our emotional hunger becomes, itself, a source of shame.  It takes more and more food/things/sex to bring us even temporary relief.  Our desperation increases.

Punishment and Self-Forgiveness

“ ‘…inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25: 45-46).

Consciously or not, we ache for forgiveness, someone to take the guilt away.  And there is Someone who can do that.  In fact, He longs to do that.  He died on a cross to do that.

But we did nothing to “deserve” abuse.  We do not, therefore, need forgiveness for our abuse.  What Jesus Christ does to relieve us of the false guilt for which we have been punishing ourselves is reveal a truth it would have been too painful for us to accept as children, i.e. that our parents and caregivers were the ones at fault.

Where their love failed us, His will not.  And the life He offers us is everlasting.

This series began last week with “Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation”

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

Advertisements

5 Comments

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

Negotiation – Bargaining with the Devil

Maryland Car Dealership (courtesy of Chrysler/Jeep), Author Christopher Ziemnowciz a/k/a CZmarlin (PD)

Few people enjoy negotiation.  Most find it unpleasant, if necessary.  But, for abuse victims, negotiation can be immensely painful.

Why is this?  After all, most adults have been “bargaining” since they were children.  Just one more game.  Just one more story, Daddy.  Pleeze, Mommy, ple-e-e-eze.

Past Experience

Most people bargain with at least some expectation of obtaining what it is they are after.  That expectation is based on past experience, and a degree of prior success.  It pre-supposes an opponent can be persuaded to modify his/her position, perhaps even relent.

The experience of abuse victims is entirely different.  We were forced to bargain with the devil.

However else the abuser may have appeared to the world, however pleasant or sincere s/he may have seemed, however refined, relative to us s/he was evil incarnate:

  • unscrupulous;
  • manipulative;
  • single-minded;
  • more mature, intellectually;
  • erratic and confusing, with motivation outside our comprehension;
  • all powerful;
  • often brutal; and
  • wholly self-centered or, to put it another way, unmoved by compassion for us.

As children, we were powerless.  That point was made, again and again.

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws…” (Ps. 22: 15).

Negotiation was, by nature, a traumatic event for victims.  We may have pleaded with the abuser — quite literally — for our lives, certainly for our sanity.  That fact alone makes all subsequent negotiations highly charged.

And negotiation required abject submission on our part.  Anything else produced harsh punishment.  We could only lay our requests on the altar, hoping to withstand the resulting blast.

Negotiation and PTSD

As adults, we may find it difficult to ask for a raise or promotion; difficult even to contest a utility bill.

The very act of speaking during negotiation can be difficult for us.  Our mouths turn dry as cotton.  Our tongues stick to the palate.  We feel powerless, outmatched.

Buying a new car becomes an ordeal for us, topped off by shame, if we cannot manage to secure a reasonable price. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Spotlight

“Spotlight” won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. The highly acclaimed film details the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church sex scandal.

Does this matter to abuse victims? I think it does. Here’s why.

To begin with, the film and the attention it has received have heightened public awareness of abuse. Viewers come away with a better understanding that predators can lurk anywhere, even in plain sight and priestly garb.

More than that, “Spotlight” sheds light on a mindset and bureaucratic structure within the church that facilitated abuse.

The highest levels of authority within the Catholic Church enabled abuse by systematically covering-up what may have been thousands of instances. In the vast majority of cases, the church did not defrock predator priests. Instead, it transferred them to new parishes, allowing them continued access to children without so much as warning the new parishes.

And the church failed to report these crimes against children to civil authorities, abandoning and betraying the children under its care.

For all such reasons, the church must be viewed as complicit in the abuse perpetrated.

This is not ancient history. The victims of clergy abuse continue to wrestle with the scars of that abuse today. Many will never obtain justice.

But change comes slowly. The Catholic Church’s Advisory Counsel for the Protection of Minors now teaches that church officials have a moral and ethical duty to report suspected abuse to civil authorities [1]. As recently as September of last year, however, Monsignor Tony Anatrella had argued that reporting was not required by church law.

Hopefully, what victims can take away from “Spotlight” is a recognition that any shame associated with abuse is the predator’s alone…not theirs. Other moviegoers should already know that.

[1] Crux, “Papal Commission: Bishops Must Report Sex Abuse Charges”, 2/15/16, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/02/15/papal-commission-bishops-must-report-sex-abuse-charges/.

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

6 Comments

Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Religion, Sexual Abuse

In the Wake of a Tiger

Facial markings on “Sultan” (T72), Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India, Author Dibyendhu Ash (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

“Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night…
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil, what the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”

The Tiger, William Blake

“How do you do? I’m an incest survivor.” You don’t hear that often. When should abuse victims first introduce the subject of abuse into conversation with friends and acquaintances [1]?

It is, of course, up to victims whether or not to disclose the fact of their abuse. We tend to err in one direction or the other – disclosing to strangers, before a sufficient degree of intimacy has been established to support discussion of such personal subject matter, while keeping the abuse entirely secret from friends (even spouses), sometimes for decades.

Victims can choose the setting, and establish parameters for this conversation. We can speak with one individual or several. “There’s something about me I’d like you to know.” “Let’s take a walk (or sit here for awhile, before the others get back).” “This is hard for me to talk about.” “It would be easier, if you asked specific questions (or didn’t ask questions, right now).”

But the topic of abuse makes people uncomfortable. No doubt about it. Few people unfamiliar with abuse – physical, emotional, sexual or neglect – will know how to respond to such information, at the outset.

Not that any sort of etiquette applies. Still, do they ask for more details? Or would questions be intrusive, insensitive? Should they hide their discomfort, move the conversation along to a less personal topic, as if abuse had not been mentioned? Or should they express shock, reach out to us – appalled that we would have suffered to such an extent?

Keeping silent allows some victims to ignore the painful reality of their abuse. A few will attempt to build a life on this fragile foundation. But the victims of a tiger attack will inevitably reveal their scars. We may as well enlist the aid of friends and relations in dealing with those scars…or, at any rate, attempt to do so. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

“Lust” by Dr. Dan Allender

Many men and women, molested as children, become sex addicts. This excerpt is from an article by Dr. Dan Allender dealing with the spiritual aspects of such addiction. Dr. Allender is the author of “The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse” (1990).

“…God made us with desire – desire for intimate relationship with Him and for meaningful service in His world. The Fall perverted those desires. The quest for intimacy was replaced by a desire for its quickest counterfeit: illicit sexual pleasure. Our God-given desire for meaningful service was twisted to a lust for power over others. The longing for impact became a lust for control.

These counterfeits appeal to us because they seek to replace God and His high standards with something that is familiar and undemanding. Paul says fallen man did not worship God but replaced him with the creature (Rom. 1: 18-23). The creature does not require repentance or gratitude. The creature does not demand brokenness or service. Creature worship only requires denying the true emptiness inside and hiding the shame that arises in turning our back on God and others.

…[Changing this form of lust] not only requires giving up something that has worked, to some extent, to fill our empty hearts, but it also necessitates embracing a God who invites us to experience what we deeply despise – brokenness, poverty, weakness, and dependency…Even if the lust is destructive and life-threatening it may be preferable to a God who calls us to love those who harm us…

[T]wo contemporary Christian routes for dealing with lust …at times make the problem worse. These two routes – self-denial and self-enhancement…often lead to even greater struggles with lust and addiction…

[The first can result in] self-hatred, shame, and contempt which lead to increased sexual struggles. After decades of failure many with this view either conclude they are oppressed by demons or doubt their salvation. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Idols

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen – a great speaker and profound Christian writer – said  of paganism that it created idols out of man’s burning desire to see the gods face to face, to “force” them into this broken world of ours and hold them accountable.

That desire is something abuse victims can understand, on a visceral level. We have experienced the ugliness of the world, firsthand. Some of us use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain abuse has caused. Others use food or sex to fill the aching void left by an absence of love.

But these are meager substitutes for God.

Christians know that man’s desire to see God in the flesh was fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. We view sin as the result of human action, but believe the penalty for sin was paid by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus said that the righteous will ask at the Final Judgment:

Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” (Matt. 25: 37-39).

And He will reply “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me” (Matt. 25: 40).

This then is the crux:  We glorify God by serving others, for God is already here.

That this is a broken world is no indication we have been abandoned to it. Rather, we see Him in the eyes of every child left home alone by a working mother with no other recourse. We see His image in the face of an injured laborer, as well as that of an abused woman.

We see Him through anguish and tears. We see Him despite fear, embarrassment or shame.

We need no idols. Our God is here, among us, in this fallen world. No stench of sin is great enough to keep Him away. He extends His hand of mercy, as no lesser god could.

Original version posted 3/8/12

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

5 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Poverty, Prostitution, Religion, Violence Against Women

Intimacy and the Real Self

As abuse victims, the majority of us have trust issues.  Intimacy, in other words, is a challenge for us. Lovers are likely to be selected for their inability to permit intimacy (or might as well be). The closer they get to us, the greater the chance they will run.

In the agony of trying to hold onto someone unwilling to commit, we lose sight of one essential fact. The closer they get, the greater the chance we will run. The attraction evaporates.

Our trust issues may be such that we cannot even allow for friendships. If we have managed to form valued relationships, we may still keep friends at arm’s length. While we need not fear or distrust genuine friends, it can be difficult for us to believe friends would remain loyal, if they knew all our flaws.

Our “true” selves.

Safety Zone

Painful as it is, abuse victims often rely on distance – geographic and emotional. Intimacy can be so unfamiliar it makes us nervous. Distance provides us a “safety” zone within which our secret selves live.

There is no actual safety in such a zone. It is merely a no man’s land with which we surround ourselves. Isolation takes the place of barbed wire, keeping us in and others out.

The Secret Self

Secrets can flourish within that zone. We need not explain the myriad after-effects of abuse (after-effects for which we may have been rejected in the past, for which we may despise ourselves).

We need not explain our eating disorders or sexual difficulties.  We need not explain what has compelled us to sleep with “so many” – or “so few” – men (or women, for that matter). We need not explain our complex reasons for remaining in abusive relationships – reasons we may not fully understand ourselves.

The Hidden Self

None of these secret flaws – these “terrible” aspects of what we view as our true selves – is harmful to others [1].

Strangely, we take no notice of our many positive qualities. It is as if these qualities were invisible to us, hidden in the same way we hide the worst details of the abuse and its after-effects from others. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value. They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare. This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify. However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless. This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life. His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

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

6 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

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

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.

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: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

 

15 Comments

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

War Wounds

“I am blind to beauty for I have seen the ugliness of war,
My heart discard, my soul’s an open sore,
My spirit’s broken, and my body is not well,
For I have seen the smoke and fire
And passed through the gates of hell… ”

– Kevan Lyons, The Poet of Churchill Square

These are grave times.  Terrorism stalks the world, striking without warning or mercy.  I can think of no better analogy for abuse.

Abuse is a conflict in which children’s lives are the battlefield; a conflict in which children go unarmed, yet have war wounds inflicted; a conflict in which children will never be victors.

Under wartime conditions of deprivation and abandonment, the simplest word of encouragement is denied a young heart.  Under wartime conditions of violence and destruction, the most defenseless among us are battered and broken.  Under wartime conditions of rape and pillage, basic sexuality becomes an item of commerce, and a lifelong source of pain.

Little wonder that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — first identified in the combat setting centuries ago — is common among abuse victims, as well. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Sexual Abuse, Terrorism