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.

Redeeming the Pain

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

A Zen aphorism says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I’m not Buddhist and I can’t vouch for the ultimate truth of the aphorism. People die from horrible diseases like cancer or AIDS. People lose loved ones or endure separation and divorce. Our entire society feels the pain of financial crises, violence, terrorism, and corruption. And those of us who have been sexually abused have suffered emotional torment for years, even decades, all the while trying to find a way to stop the misery we feel.

While many religions throughout the ages have sought to solve the problem of pain, it’s still with us. Affliction is the lot of the human race no matter how we try to explain it, conquer it, or ignore it.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve tried to explain my exploitation, but there’s no reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to conquer the hurt, but the hurt never surrenders. I’ve even tried to ignore the awful memories I own, but they resurface in my mind at the worst times and in the worst ways. The only way I find to deal with the wounds of my abuse is to make them work for me, to redeem them in some meaningful way.

To redeem something so dreadfully unthinkable as child abuse is a tall order. The snatching away of childhood innocence by being lured into unspeakable sex acts with an adult seems beyond our capacity to turn into anything redeemable.

There are two options here. I can let the overwhelming effects of abuse kill me or I can choose to let the scars teach me how to be a better person.

When I take a few moments each day to recognize that my abusers no longer have any power over me, I redeem the abuse a little more. When I realize that I am no longer a helpless child victimized by someone older and stronger, I take back the power I lost to them. When I recognize the irrational nature of my fear and anxiety, I rob the memories of their hold on me. When I look myself in the mirror and reclaim my dignity, I take a bold step to end my suffering.

Maybe the Zen aphorism is right, after all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Redeem is a transitive verb that has various meanings.
1. To buy back. You can't buy back innocence lost!
2. To free from what distresses or harms. The effects of innocence lost distress the soul continually!
3. To change for the better. What is better than innocence?
4. Repair, restore. What does innocence lost look like repaired?