I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

These Ashes

This post comes from Daniel Eichelberger.
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I’m like a man poking through the cold ashes of a long-dead fire—bent, intently combing, sifting, and looking for remnants of a childhood untouched by pain, and where innocence is unshattered by the knowledge of forbidden things. I’ve been poking for a long time and coming up with nothing.

What kind of treasures can I really find in the leftovers of an inferno, the heat of which reduces everything to a substance nearly as light as air? If sifting through them is futile, why don’t I just give up the search? Why can’t I just leave them alone?

Some of my true friends probably silently ask the same question as they observe my persistent behavior. What power is there in the remains of experiences long past? They never ask those questions in my presence. A few of them even poke around with me in this gray-and-black mess. Although I appreciate their support, they really don’t know what they’re looking for or understand the attraction such a fruitless task holds for me.

Neither do I.

Maybe the remnants of a childhood aren’t what I seek. Perhaps it’s redemption.

Roger Mann's Response to "Excess Baggage"

The following is Roger Mann's response to last week's post.
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There has been so much hurt and confusion in my life, and all of it has left its mark. Or maybe I should I say scar. Admittedly, I have not handled it well. To be honest, much of it was in response to my thrashing about trying to find a way to live with the confusion and sadness I carried from childhood disappointments that I never resolved. I hurt those I loved, and when you do that, it leaves a mark on you too.

So I guess I have a lot of baggage—a lot of excess weight that keeps me earthbound. I have walled off my heart from people, and God seems to be the only one I trust enough to allow His love to touch me. I don't want to hurt. That's a fact. But I don't want to hurt anyone else by allowing them to get close and then disappointing them. I overheard my wife ask our counselor, "Why am I not enough?" and I honestly could not tell her. I just didn't know.

Why do I get so sad some days? Why do I get so angry over such little slights? Why am I so insecure with her and so self-assured with strangers? People who don't know me well seem to love me. Those who get close discover a different person entirely. It's a lot of weight to carry around. It's a lot of balls to juggle and keep in the air. And it's similar to the personality of my father. Everyone loved Dad and loved to come and visit. Those of us who lived with him often wondered why he was so different with us.

I suspect there is a root belief somewhere deep that keeps this cycle going. I just don't seem to be able to find where it's located in that bag of mine and what form it takes.

Excess Baggage

The following article is from my April newsletter. I've had such good feedback from it that I decided to post it here. Next week I'll share Roger Mann's response. If you're interested in receiving my monthly newsletter, send me an email request at cec.murp@comcast.net. (Cec)

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As I stood in line at Delta’s baggage check-in, the agent said to the woman in front of me, “You’re nineteen pounds overweight. You’ll have to pay for the excess weight or take out some of the goods.”

The woman dropped out of line to repack and stuff items into her large purse.

As I watched, I thought of the excess luggage most of us carry—hurts, slights, betrayals, and rejections. We haven’t let them go, even though they weigh us down. For example, whenever someone mentions a person we haven’t forgiven, we feel a heaviness inside. Even anger.

Those thoughts reminded me of Greek mythology and Atalanta, the fleet-footed goddess. Her father, King Schoeneus, wanted her to marry, but she refused. Finally, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could outrun her in a footrace. If the challengers lost, they would be put to death. Many young men tried, lost the race—and their lives.

Hippomenes became the next suitor and asked the goddess Aphrodite for help. She gave him three golden apples.

The race began and Atalanta was soon twenty yards ahead. Hippomenes rolled one apple in front of her, and she stooped to pick it up. A little later, he rolled out the second and she grabbed it. And the third.

By then, Atalanta was so weighted down, Hippomenes passed her and won the race.

The story teaches us that we self-sabotage by holding on to “golden apples” of anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. They hinder by weighing us down in successfully running life’s race.

We know they’re there, and we know they hold us back. Even so, it’s not easy to cast off those hurt feelings and rejection. With God’s help and opening ourselves to individuals we trust, we can dispose of the things that weigh us down.

I'm running a race of life.

I rid myself of every kind of excess baggage. 

Wounded Healers

(This post comes from Mark Cooper.)

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Cec has written about those he calls the wounded healers—men broken by their pain who are healing and at the same time encouraging others who face similar battles. A scene in the recently released movie I Can Only Imagine illustrates the principle of the wounded healer.

The movie is based on the true story of singer Bart Millard. Bart grew up being severely abused by his father—physically, verbally, emotionally. During one of his concerts we see Bart sharing a bit of his abuse story and the healing he is experiencing as an adult.

As Bart speaks, the camera keeps cutting away to a young boy in the audience. He’s around 12 years old. Those around him appear oblivious to his presence. He looks small and alone. He might as well be invisible.

We’re never introduced to the boy; we never learn his name; we never hear his story. But his face tells us that his pain is a pain we who were abused recognize. He is intently listening to Bart’s story, hungry for hope. The scene ends leaving us with no idea what happens next for this boy.

We were once that little boy, alone and invisible. But somewhere along the line we heard a story of hope, or watched someone living with courage, or just knew within ourselves that there had to be a way to escape the pain we were living in.

Because we’re healing, even if ever so slowly, we may be the ones who give hope to that boy. We may never talk to him, and we may never know his story. But he’s watching. And he sees something about us that is genuine and real. Something that speaks hope to his heart.

One day he will become one of us, a man who though broken by his pain is courageously healing and offering hope to the next abused boy feeling invisible in the crowd.

Looking Backward

This post is excerpted from Cec’s new book, More Than Surviving, which will be published this week. It’s available through Amazon and many other retailers. 

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When I was living in Africa, early one morning I watched an African with his ox pulling a plow through his fields. The lines were straight, and for the twenty minutes or so I stared at him, his gaze never focused anywhere but straight ahead.

I thought of that after I read an inspirational message that urged us not to look backward. Looking backward means going backward, the person implied.

Sounds like good advice in farming, but I’m not sure it’s helpful with wounded people like us. We need to look backward. That’s where our problems began. Unless we go back to the source, we stay so busy moving forward—but our childhood injuries stay unhealed and keep pace with us.

Going back to that damaged childhood isn’t easy. And it takes courage—a lot of courage—to re-experience those wounds. But as one authority said, The only way out is through. He meant that if we want release—true healing—we have to push ourselves to revisit that pain. The big difference is that we can accept our pain and let it help us move forward as mature adults.

We can learn to say things to ourselves like this:
  • I didn’t ask for that. I didn’t want it. 
  • I was a kid with no way to defend myself. 
  • That bigger person overpowered me and stole my innocence. 
  • I felt unloved and unwanted and someone took advantage of me. 
Those statements aren’t cure-alls, but they can help us feel tenderness toward that isolated child. Here’s a statement I’ve said to myself many times when I’ve revisited my childhood: I did the best I could.

For me, that statement means that I took care of myself through innate-but-immature wisdom and survived. No self-blame or recriminations. Being a six-year-old kid with no one to help him, I remind myself that I handled myself the best I could.

Now I can walk—and run—along the healing path.

Lord, instead of condemning my childhood, 
teach me to say, “I did the best I could.”

The Shock

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

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I still remember the slow creeping shock that came over me when I first began to realize (or maybe I should say accept) what had happened to me as a boy. I had this fantasy of such a wonderful childhood that I clung to all my life. Clung to so desperately that it made my chest ache at times. Every time I heard about someone else’s wonderful childhood, I’d get angry and irritable and not know why. I should have been happy for them, but I was confused and angry and just wanted to go away.

I lost so much.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad and betrayed I felt. It took me awhile, going from weeping to rage and back to weeping for a week or so. I guess it was a grieving process, and I’m still not done. I’m almost 69 years old now, and it still stings. I’m tempted to list all of the might-have-beens that go through my mind still today, but I won’t.

It doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

Since the death of that denial somewhere back in early 2000, I have spent my life reluctantly but sincerely reaching out to others hurting from similar wounds and betrayal with sympathy and encouragement that I admit sometimes I didn’t feel myself. I share what was shared with me when I came looking for help with the pain. I share my experience as one who has traveled a well-worn part of this journey, pointing out pitfalls and traps that can keep one stuck in a particular sadness.

And I know those places well. I’ve had to learn how to recognize that I’m stuck and learn how to get unstuck and move on, even when I wanted so badly just to stay and wallow. And I’m not against a certain amount of wallowing. I earned it in spades.

But to heal, I have to crawl out of the pit and move on, which usually means climbing the ladder of forgiveness one more time. I sometimes hate that ladder, but it’s the only route for me to freedom and moving on.

Just my thoughts.


From a Wounded Man

This comes from Tommy, who gave me permission to post it on the blog. I think it would be wonderful if some of you would comment words of encouragement to him. (Cec)

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Through my wanderings searching for help, I found you on the internet and am about halfway through Not Quite Healed.

I am 58 years old, successful, married for 34 years to a terrific woman who I am crazy about, and absolutely devoted to my Boston Terrier who helps keep me sane because he loves unconditionally and is with me nearly all the time.

I have known for many years through a vague and foggy memory that I was severely physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. And yet every psychiatrist I saw asked the same question (paraphrasing): “Do you remember sexual abuse?” I didn’t. But when I read the characteristics of men who had been abused as boys, I met 17 or 18 of the 20 or so bullet points. And then my mom passed away, and as I was going through her things, I found a semi-pornographic picture (for the 1960s) of me. And I felt a flood of memories that were new but still the same fog and vagueness.

Since then, I can remember as clear as day never having privacy in the bathroom no matter what I was doing. I can remember my dad showing me his genitals. I remember “baths” with Dad. And I remember that picture. That picture haunts me. And I remember my mother forcing me to sleep in the bed with her until, at 18, I just said no and left.

I have nightmares. Awful nightmares. Snakes. Demons. Rickety high towers and ladders that make me feel like I’m falling. Rushing water that seems to overtake me. Sleep paralysis that has me neither sleep nor wakeful and yet I see the door to my bedroom opening. That’s all. Just an opening door.

I have inexplicable fits of rage. I have weeping that makes no sense, at a movie, for example. And I have sampled all the evil that this world has to offer, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I know God loves me, but I don’t know how to let God love me. I don’t blame God for what happened, but I do wonder why He let it happen. God help me!

I guess I would have to say that I am either on my first step or maybe a few steps into the realization that “my little boy” was really badly abused. My wife is a bit of a picture person, and there are pictures of me as a youth of various ages around the house. Sometimes I pick one up, with my wife present, and sob, asking, “How in the world could someone do that to that little boy?” My wife is completely supportive and yet clueless as to what to do, as am I.

I suppose I have many years of work to get through this horror that we have all felt and endured. But knowing that others have, helps me know that I can too.

I am seeing a therapist who has helped me get to the point that I am. We will slog on.

Thank you, and God bless you for your work with us.