“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”
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