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.

Rewriting Life

The speaker referred to "strategies for protection from painful memories." He said many of us, unable to face the reality of horrible childhoods, unconsciously rewrote our family history and called that period of life by many terms, such as happy, conventional, nearly perfect.

Yes, I thought, I was one of them. In seminary, we had to take courses in pastoral counseling. In a personal interview, the lead professor asked me about my childhood.

"My mother was warm and accepting; my dad was quiet. I had a conventional, happy childhood." I said more than that—and thought I was telling the truth.

Years later, I was showering and realized I had not seen my family the way they truly were. "My mother was hard-hearted and unloving!" I yelled at my wife. "My dad was mean and brutal!"

Shirley hugged me and said, "Several times I heard you talk to others about your warm, loving family. I thought your mother was one of the coldest individuals I've ever met."

That opened me up. I had deceived myself (or I could call it lived in denial) and used words like conventional or happy to express my childhood. From that day onward, I began to accept my real family history. A year later, I could admit that I had been physically, verbally, and sexual assaulted as a child and that neither of my parents expressed affection.

God, help me not to rewrite my childhood history.
Instead, help me to accept the real one.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's book More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel, 2018).

Abuse and Intimacy

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

For those of us who have been abused and exposed to some of the sordid sex practices, it’s difficult to be intimate with the woman we love. In our heads, sex has become something shameful and full of guilt. Sometimes the idea of intimate contact can bring up shameful memories and really ruin the moment.

Many times, I have spent the day at work thinking about coming home to the lady of my life and being passionate and affectionate. Then I’m driving home and, as I’m thinking about initiating intimacy, memories begin to creep back into my head. By the time I pull into the driveway, I’m a mess again. The spirit is willing, as they say, but the flesh is weak and difficult to respond.

In my teenage years and beyond, I became obsessed with sex. Discovering porn inflamed it even worse, until I realized one day that my wife and I had not been intimate in a long time. That’s when I began to look for help. I found help, but damage was done to the relationship and that marriage ended.

I swore I wouldn’t marry again, but eventually I did. I thought I was okay by then. However, during the first week of our honeymoon, I began to pull away and became irritable and angry and didn’t understand why.

Later, during a conversation, I looked at her and realized I really cared for her a lot. She was attracted physically to me and I was shutting her down. She became confused and hurt.

We’re doing better now, but there are still times when the memories intrude, and I have to push through them to stay with her in the moment. I do that by consciously focusing on just my immediate sensations.

My therapist suggested that I needed to re-sexualize myself. I think he's right, but it's difficult to do and talk about with my wife whom I love and respect. We get there, but we both have to be in the right mood at the right time. I suspect the only way to overcome this is talking it out together.

Looking Back on Relationships

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while now is how my abuse affected me in the area of relationships and how I chose relationships.

The abuse left me feeling worthless. Without really articulating it as such, I had the feeling that my only worth to another person was as a sexual object. Hence, when I met someone I was interested in, or who seemed to like me, I assumed it was for sex.

That left me feeling shameful and guilty, so I gravitated toward people I felt were worse off than I was. If someone was attracted to me and they seemed too nice, I’d discourage any further interests. If someone who was a mess was drawn to me, I cultivated the friendship. I felt in some cases I could benefit them, but with others I had the advantage or power in the relationship and it would feel safe for me.

Even though the situation might have been less than ideal, I felt that it was more than I deserved. Those relationships didn’t last long and ended badly.

It’s taken me years to sort this all out. Now I understand why I did what I did. And that helps. But as I look around at the people in my circle of friends, I notice others doing the same thing. They see someone they’re attracted to but won’t go after them. When questioned, they usually look down and shrug.

I know that look and that shrug. They belong to a person who doesn’t feel worthy, who doesn’t think they deserve that kind of happiness. They won’t say it, and may not even understand what’s going on, but I can see it in their faces. I’ve seen that same face in my mirror.

Things are different now. I have a wonderful wife, but when we met, I once again wrote her off as too good for me. Over time, though, it began to feel right. She’s terrific and exactly what I needed. I thank God for her every day. Some days she annoys the heck out of me, but I need that. I’m glad she does. She’s been the engine of change that I think God has used to make me the man I need to be.

"I Could Never . . ." (Part 7 of 7)

All of us have harmed others, and we’ll do it again. We probably find it easier to forgive ourselves for those simple, thoughtless deeds. We tell ourselves, “I was having a bad day.” Or, “I received a bill for a huge amount and couldn’t find the cash to pay it.” Or, “Our son got in trouble with the police last night.” Our self-excusing goes on endlessly. We provide the rationale behind our foolish actions.

That’s not to equate what was done to us as minor. Our tendency is to condemn our abusers by focusing on the horror of what they did to us. “I would never . . . ,” we say. Or, “I could never . . .”

I think of a Bible verse I memorized many years ago: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

We’ve all made mistakes and harmed others; we will again. We may rightly call them minor, but it’s only a matter of degree.

We find it easier to practice forgiveness when we can imagine that the roles could have been reversed. Each of us could have been the perpetrator rather than the victim. Each of us has the capacity to commit the wrongs that were done to us. Although I might say, “I would never . . . ,” genuine humility answers, “I hope that, given the same circumstances, I wouldn’t . . .”

But can we ever really know? “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Because I’ve learned to forgive the simple things I’ve done to others, 
I can learn to forgive the serious things others did to me.

Forgiving Unconditionally (Part 6 of 7)

Forgiving unconditionally is different from forgiving with conditions. True forgiveness is a grace—a gift not deserved.

Forgiveness on our part frees the perpetrator who inflicted the pain. That’s where some falter, unable to let go. I understand that, but by letting them go, we also give up all claims to waiting for them to change or to confess they’ve hurt us.

By the simple act of wiping away their evil deeds from our hearts, we also free ourselves. We no longer feel a gnawing ache when the other person is mentioned. The tension leaves our body. It becomes like an old toothache—we may remember the experience, but we’re free from the agony.

I’ve learned that I need to have experienced undeserved pardon before I can pass it on. For me, as a Christian, that’s at the core of my faith. I didn’t deserve divine forgiveness, but I joyfully accept it.

Only as I understand unconditional forgiveness for myself 
am I able to offer it to someone else.

It's Not Up to Them (Part 5 of 7)

“When he admits what he’s done, then I’ll forgive.”

“I’m willing to forgive him for molesting me, after he admits what he did to me.”

We’ve all heard people say those words. What they can’t seem to accept is that forgiveness isn’t dependent on actions of others.

Of course, it’s easier to forgive when the perpetrator expresses remorse. Then we can feel as if we’ve been paid back in some way.

For many, forgiveness is the understanding that we offer to someone—a gift—but it has strings attached. The if-you-will condition is implied.

By adding conditions, they become the chains that bind us to the person who harmed us. We may set the conditions for granting forgiveness, but the person who harmed us decides whether the conditions are too costly.

If we wait for those who harmed us to repent, 
we may never be healed.

More Results from Forgiving (Part 4 of 7)

As more and more studies document the healing power of forgiveness, they also look at the mentally and physically corrosive effects of not forgetting.

Hanging on to anger and resentment—which makes us live in a state of stress—can damage the heart as well as the soul.

Modern research indicates that failure to forgive may be a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, and a score of other chronic stress-related illnesses.

Medical and psychological studies have also shown that a person holding on to anger and resentment is at increased risks for anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, ulcers, migraines, backaches, heart attacks, and even cancer.

The reverse is also true. Genuine forgiveness can transform those ailments, thus stress, anxiety, and depression are reduced, as well as the physical disorders.

But then, we’ve known this for millennia, even if we don’t admit it.

For example, Psalm 32 is about someone who refused to receive forgiveness (and I think the other side is also true). “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long” (verse 3).

Health benefits are only the beginning. To forgive is also to release ourselves from whatever trauma and hardship we have experienced and begin to reclaim our lives as our own.

By forgiving, we benefit with improved health.

Self-interest of Forgiving (Part 3 of 7)

Not long ago, I read research about the results of forgiving. In report after report, statistics pointed out that those who forgive had fewer health and mental issues, physical problems, and felt less stress.

If we think of forgiving our perpetrators as doing something for ourselves—to promote our healing—we’re on the right path.

This solidifies the idea that forgiving is a loving act of compassion for me—a benefit for myself.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So why is it difficult for some?

Because I care about myself, 
I release my anger toward my perpetrator.

The Old Forgiveness Road (Again)

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Forgiveness? Seriously? Still?

It seems that lately every time I talk to someone about my dad’s abuse of me, which gratefully isn’t often, this subject comes up. I don’t know if I’m coming across angry, resentful, or what. I believe I’ve forgiven him and my mom, and even my sis for the small role she had. Although, honestly, I have other reasons for not feeling warm and fuzzy with her that have nothing to do with the abuse.

I’ve honestly tried to forgive, forget, and let go of any bad feelings about it all. I know it just hurts me and no one else. There are times, however, when I seem to feel angry for no reason. It could be that I’m a jerk at times due to some genetic propensity for such. I really don’t know.

Anyway, I’d like if next time the subject comes up I didn’t have to go over the old forgiveness road again. I realize it’s an obvious place to go when first dealing with someone who has been abused, and it should be a vital part of the healing process somewhere down the road when one is ready. But after ten or more years, do I still need to visit this again?

I suppose it’s possible that I just don’t understand how the process works and/or maybe I’ve done it wrong and it didn’t take or something, but it sure keeps coming up. I think that may be what prompted the previous post about moving on.

If anyone has tips or positive experiences with this issue, I’d love to hear about it. The whole thing makes my stomach hurt.

Just my thoughts.

Moving On?

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Sometimes I think my entire life has revolved around sex. I understand it’s a big part of a guy’s life. Someone once said, “From the time we exit the exit, we spend the rest of our lives trying to get back in.” Much of art and literature—and now the media—is devoted to it in one way or another, especially these days. I get that.

Still, for me it’s been an ongoing theme. Being a sex object as a child was a large part of my confusion over my identity and worth. The teens, normally a tumultuous time for a boy, were even more confusing. When I should have been discovering girls, I was already being discovered by males.

I married thinking that would solve and solidify my ambivalence about the whole thing. It didn’t. I gave up for a while and listened to those telling me to accept who and what I was. But that’s not who I came to realize I was after all.

So, years of therapy later, and many books, counseling sessions, and so forth, I still find my mind haunted by what happened to me so long ago. Today I find myself asking this question. Do I want this issue to continue being the main theme my life seems to revolve around? Or is it time to put it on the back burner to simmer, and try and enjoy what life has led me to in the present?

I’m not giving up on trying to heal, but I’m not going to spend the rest of my life looking back. I have a good life. Yet I think that at times I miss some of the goodness while trying to deal with scars from my past. Although there’s no question I’m scarred, I’m still alive, and I suspect I’m still missing much because of trying to lick my wounds.

Moving on is not denial. It can also be a part of the healing process.

Hurting Back (Part 2 of 7)

As I continue to learn about forgiving, I’m able to say that people who hurt often hurt others. That may not be obvious to us who were molested. Perhaps not every perp was first victimized, but something caused deep pain or need in their lives, and finding temporary sexual satisfaction was their form of self-medication.

Even knowing that, for some of us it’s still hard to forgive. The anguish is too deep. The traumas of our childhood remain stuck in our memories.

Hurting back doesn’t satisfy. We may think it will, but it doesn’t. If I sock you after you struck me, it doesn’t lessen the sting I felt. Nor does it diminish my sadness that you hit me. At best, retaliation gives a momentary respite from pain. The only way to experience healing and peace is to release the pain—that is, to forgive.

Until we can forgive, we’re in a prison, padlocked in our heartache and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom. In short, we’re unable to experience peace because we’re still bolted to the past.

Someone wisely said, “Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We’re bound by chains of bitterness and vengeance. Until we can forgive the one who harmed us, we’re unable to grab hold the key that frees us from our prison. Our perpetrators are still inflicting agony and despair. That person is our jailer.”

When we forgive, we take control of our lives and feelings. We become our own liberators.

Above all, we don’t forgive to help our perpetrators. We forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness is the best form of self-interest.

The best way to win over our oppressor is to forgive him 
and not allow him to continue the torment.

Deserving Forgiveness (Part 1 of 7)

“He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven,” my friend Neal said years ago. He added, “For a long time, I held in the anger and unforgiveness toward the perp who stole my innocence.”

My friend hadn’t been very open, but I remember saying one sentence: “There’s no one who can’t be forgiven.”

Nearly five years later, Neal and I were talking about his abuse. He reminded me of the words I had spoken. “You’re right. It’s more than just forgiving him, but it also means I can move on from my pain.”

Although glad for where he was, I wish I had also said, “When you’re ready to forgive or to release the hurt, you’ll see it differently.”

He smiled and nodded. “I felt that by not forgiving I was withholding something from him—giving him pain for his evil deeds. Perhaps that seems incredulous, but I wanted him to suffer.”

It’s sad, but that’s the confused reasoning of many. We want them to hurt; we want them to feel the agony they caused us.

Life just doesn’t work that way. We forgive for our own sake. As long as we hold on to the hurt they caused, healing doesn’t take place.

I need to forgive those who hurt me, 
and when I’ve hurt enough, I will.

"It's Not You, It's Me."

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

​"It’s not you, it’s me."

I know, it’s an old break-up line. That said, it’s one that has gone through my mind over the years in one form or another concerning my childhood abuse. The form it usually takes is, "Was there something about me?"

In my early years as a kid, I didn’t really articulate it like that. There was a feeling inside me that something about me screamed, "Play with me. I’m okay with it." I thought maybe it was the way I looked, or maybe the way I acted or looked at other people. I remember even as a young kid always looking at faces to see how they were looking at me. And every once in a while, there was someone with "the look" that silently signaled something that made me uncomfortable.

I can’t really explain it. It was just a look, along with a feeling I would get that either made me want to hide or later on look back knowingly. It’s said that abusers and victims sometimes seem drawn to each other unconsciously. That may be true. It’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

Is there something in the face or the eyes that somehow notifies those who know how and where to look that you’re a victim? Even at my age, I find myself going out of my way to project self-assurance and anything else that would not identify me as weak, needy, or victimized. Maybe I overcompensate at times, and that too could be a signal if I’m not careful. It’s an armor I need to wear because it’s not just sexual predators that look for it. I’ve come to realize it’s also people who are selling things.

I know because I have a house full of stuff because my armor slipped and someone saw "prey" written all over me. I really hate that. Another legacy, in my opinion, of childhood victimization.

The Issue of Grooming

Since the early days of this blog, I’ve limited the word count to 400 words. Sometimes I’ve cut pieces into 2 or even 3 entries. In the words below, Lee Boyd had such a good request that I decided to violate my own rule. It runs about 700 words. (Cec)

* * * * *

I have been a follower of your blog for a while and have read your books Not Quite Healed and More Than Surviving. I’ve benefited from all and have recommended them to others. However, there is one issue that has arisen several times as I was reading, and I would like to bring it to your attention. 

The stumbling block I have encountered is the issue of grooming. I realize from reading your story that grooming was a part of your experience. But the impression I get from reading your work is that grooming is an element of most, if not all, abuse scenarios. I am sure that you do not mean to alienate anyone, but this implication tends to make me feel excluded from the community of survivors you are addressing.

You see, I was never groomed.

I was abused by a stepdad from soon after he married my mom when I was 5½ until I left home at 18. From 5½ to 13, it was physical abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. From 13 to 18, the verbal abuse continued, but the violence and physically sexual aspects stopped.

Additionally, at school and in scouts, from age 11 to 13, I was bullied and sexually harassed and assaulted under the guise of “initiation” by a gang of peers and older boys. I became a recreational scapegoat for them.

Finally, when I was about 15, I was molested in the fitting room of a menswear shop by a clerk who was “measuring” me for a pair of trousers.

In NONE of these instances was there a hint of grooming. Each was an instance of an infliction of power by the abuser(s) to work their will. They did not have to groom me. They were bigger, stronger, more numerous, and had more clout. In the case of the stepdad, it was not difficult because I was available, I was a mere child, and he had the authority of an adult and a parent. There was never a question that he would get what he wanted. With the bullies, they had the advantage of numbers, greater sexual knowledge, and the mob mentality. Both the bullies and the stepdad used physical restraint and greater strength. The clerk was also an adult that took advantage of my youth, his experience, and my “freeze” reaction when he began to touch me inappropriately, so no force was needed. I had already been conditioned to submit passively.

In talking with and reading of survivors who experienced grooming, I have recognized that there is a strong possibility that they may feel partially complicit in the abuse and that this may cause additional issues of guilt and shame. I have observed groomed survivors who suffer from feelings of betrayal and disillusionment, and have difficulty trusting others.

But in cases where force or intimidation is used instead of grooming, the survivor has other issues to deal with. I have identified my own feelings of helplessness and of total lack of control. Because I was repeatedly abused by multiple and unconnected perpetrators, I felt like a perpetual victim with a target on his back. There was not even the pretense of kindness or a personal relationship to temper the trauma. The bullies and stepfather wielded cold, calculated, and intentional cruelty. The store clerk took sudden advantage of circumstances impersonally and anonymously. All of the abuse events made me feel like a commodity to be used at their convenience, without regard for my personhood.

I know now that one method of abuse is not necessarily more or less harmful than the other. But when I was learning more about grooming, I actually wished that I had experienced it rather than abuse without grooming like I had. At least I would have had some temporary semblance of relationships and feeling special to someone instead of the isolation, loneliness, and scapegoating that were my lot. I now realize that it would have simply been a different variation of pain.

Anyway, what I am requesting is that you, as a spokesman for the male abuse survivor community, would include more acknowledgments that grooming is not always part of the experience and that many survivors are abruptly abused, without pretext or preamble, under application of physical force or threat or the power of authority or intimidation. I don’t know if there are any statistics available about the percentages of abuse with or without grooming, but I am sure that I am not alone in my experience. I am confident that including my demographic of non-groomed survivors would allow you to speak more effectively to a larger audience.

On Forgiveness

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Another abuse survivor wrote, “I have some people . . . from my past who I need to forgive. I have never been ready to and really have never wanted to.”

I struggled with forgiveness as well. Suppressed rage filled me a good part of my adult life. Initially, I believed it was aimed at my father. At times, I also sensed anger toward God. Then I suspected I was angry at my young self for letting it happen.

Later, I realized I was angry at me—an adult who wasn’t handling life well. I made excuses, blamed others for my circumstances, and blamed the abuse for all my mistakes and bad choices. I hated myself for not accepting responsibility.

I’ve learned that what happens to me isn’t as important as how I deal with it. God is developing character in me, and trials and hardship don’t build character; they reveal it. The Holy Spirit uses them to refine me, which usually involves pain. Apparently, I needed a lot of refining.

Understanding that has helped me to forgive. I started with myself, then the boy who was, and finally the father who was never a dad. It was a long and tortuous road but one I needed to travel.

Now, when things get ugly and I get frustrated, I step back and remind myself of why I’m here. Because I’ve been broken and angry, I can reach out to others who are broken and angry. When I recognize myself in others, God works in us both. It’s one of the ways God reveals Himself to me. His love for me, in spite of all that I am and have been, helps mitigate my anger and raises what I call my “stupidity threshold” back to a safe level.

That love followed me through all my flailing and attempts at finding myself. More than anything, it’s enabled me to finally forgive, and has released me from the ghost of my father’s touch. I’m free and at peace (as much as one can be these days) because I’m able to see that love as I look back through those years. It’s a journey, not a destination, and I have always had a faithful—though often unappreciated— companion with me.

Just my thoughts.

Me? A Controller?

I doubt that anyone thought of me as a controller—at least no one ever used that term to my face. But I was and had learned ways of controlling without appearing to do so.

The first time I became aware of that reality was when I met with a group of professionals in the publishing business. We met in a restaurant, where we sat at tables and got to know each other. Within minutes, I realized the other seven people at my table were hesitant to speak up, so I took charge by introducing myself and then asked each one to do the same. After that I threw out questions and kept the discussion moving.

At one point, two of them referred to personal problems connected with their jobs. After a pause, both times I made a humorous comment and moved on to asking why they came to the meeting.

Afterward, I realized I had taken charge of the group. Not that it was wrong; someone needed to do it. But I also admitted that I had manipulated the conversation to keep it on safe subjects—in that case, away from personal problems, especially my problems.

Over the next few weeks I was able to acknowledge that at times I manipulated others and dominated the decision-making process. It was still a long time before I had the insight into my motivation.

Eventually, I faced the reality: I needed to be in control—not that I used that word. I would have said, "I had to speak up." Or "I wanted to keep things on a safe topic." As a child, I had been helpless and powerless and I had that deep, unconscious need not to be dominated by others.

I still struggle with wanting to manipulate the outcome. The more secure I am inside, the less I need to dominate. And the more I can trust in a sovereign, loving God.

God, as you make me feel more loved and secure,
you teach me to manipulate others less. Thank you.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

What I Missed the Most

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I saw an ad on the MSN home page about Chuck Connors, the guy who starred for five years as The Rifleman back in the fifties. The show still airs on MeTV in our area from time to time.

​I was instantly curious to read about the backstories on the series, and especially his little co-star Johnny Crawford, who played his son. It was an unusual story line for back in those days—a single dad raising a son whose mother had died. Most shows had the usual formula for families: dad, mom, and kids.

​I was intrigued because my dad loved this series and never missed it. I loved it too, but not to the extent he did. As I pondered and read about the personalities, I understood why he was a dedicated fan. It was the idea of the healthy father-son interaction. The two characters portrayed great love and affection, and I wonder if my dad was missing that as much as I.

​I wished my dad was like Connor's character, who wasn’t afraid to hug and talk and listen to his son. They were both fiercely loyal to each other and had many sweet, tender moments throughout the series.

​Knowing what I know now helps me look back and identify things I never noticed at the time. I was the same age as the character Johnny played when I became aware I was being nocturnally molested. I will probably never get over missing the relationship that should have been between my dad and me but never was.

​I can't go back, but I can stop the cycle.

Past Tense of Abuse

A few weeks ago, I compared the rape of 15-year-old Maya, to that of male assault. She’s a major figure in the novel, Beartown. Today I finished reading the sequel, Us Against You.

It’s now months after her rape and the author shows us her heart—and her pain.
When people talk about rape, they always do so in the past tense. She “was.” She “suffered.” She “went through.”

But she didn’t go through it, she’s still going through it. She wasn’t raped, she’s still being raped. For Kevin it lasted a matter of minutes, but for her it never ends. It feels as though she’s going to dream about that running track every night of her life. And she kills [Kevin] there, every time. And wakes up her nails dug into her hands and scream in her mouth.

Anxiety. It’s an invisible ruler.[1]
Obviously, I made a comparison and realized the relevance. For us men, our assault remains present tense for a long, long time.

Once my memories of childhood rape came back to me, I relived them for months. I’m glad no one said to me, “that was the past. Just move on.” I couldn’t have moved on any faster.

Until we start healing inside, there is no moving on and no past tense. We feel it, and like Maya, we live and re-live it.

For me, it took more than a year before the worst flashbacks and memories stopped tugging at me. But gradually the healing showed. I can now say that my abuse has become past tense. Still back there, but no longer controlling my emotions.

Perhaps I’m not fully healed, but I keep getting a little closer to that goal. I rarely feel the pain—at least not the way I did “back then.”

I still hear from survivors who may not use the present tense, but it’s obvious, it’s still part of them. I want every survivor to live in the past tense. Even better, to live in the past perfect tense—an action fully completed in the past.

For a long time I lived in the present tense of pain. 
Now I’m experiencing it as a past event 
and getting closer to it being a past-perfect tense. 


[1] Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (Atria Books, 2017), page 255.

Contemplating My Father (Part 2 of 2)

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I swore to myself repeatedly that I wouldn't allow myself to become my father. I've managed fairly well, but sadly, there are exceptions, and that brings me many regrets.

I've imitated my father's work ethic, his charm and charisma, his wit, and his intelligence. Still, I also have the imparted weaknesses. Is it generational? Have the sins of the father actually been passed down to me by decree or by nurture? IDK.

What I do know is that, like him, I’m manipulative, competitive, secretive, lustful, angry, and by my own actions, a loner and lonely. I've done all the things he did with few exceptions and many more he probably wished he had done. And yet, I have no STDs, I'm in good health for my age and look and act at least ten years younger than I am.

I've been wishing my life was over and I could rest. But that's not to be. I must still be needed here for something, and I'm happy to stay a while longer.

If my father’s actually in heaven, as I suspect he is, I don't look forward to seeing him. I think it's because I understand him a lot more now than I ever did. A lot more than I ever wanted to.

Contemplating My Father (Part 1 of 2)

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Although my father’s been dead for years, I’m still contemplating his life. This year has been more insightful as I look backward. Maybe because I’m now older than he was when he killed himself.

My father could have been great; he never was. He always pastored small churches and never made a lot of money, even though he was in sales and was good at it. He reached a successful level, then stalled and moved on to something else. He had many casual friends, but his closest and most intimate were always of an odd or sexual nature.

He knew a lot about the Bible but had trouble applying it to his own life.

He was a control freak, but it was tempered by his faith. He never became violent, didn’t drink alcohol, and kept up the appearance of happy husband, father, and minister. Still he never really connected with anyone like I have on the level we have on this blog.

He was secretive and led a double life fairly successfully most of the time until the end. He never really connected with me emotionally.

As I pondered his life, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between us—especially in the area of achieving a certain level of success and then coming to an abrupt halt and moving on. I was always trying not to gain too much attention. My life couldn’t have stood a lot of scrutiny.

Whether it's shame, guilt, or pride, I too have trouble applying truth to myself successfully and consistently. The posts that I read on this site have helped in gaining insight to what is wrong and what needs to be done to correct it.

And thanks guys, BTW. You're all amazing.

Rape

I recently read a powerful novel called Beartown, by Fredrick Backman, translated from the Swedish. Maya, age 15, is raped by Kevin, age 17. At the end of the chapter, the author writes this powerful statement: “For the perpetrator, rape lasts just a matter of minutes. For the victim, it never stops.”[1]

What does that mean for us—the survivors of sexual assault? First, as I’ve pointed out previously, we were raped. That’s a strong word, but we were molested before we were able to make our own choices. Chosen. Groomed. That’s also the reason I often used the term sexual assault.

Second, those words state the situation well. For perpetrators, it’s another conquest. I assume they feel satisfaction afterward; I hope they also feel guilt and shame. Regardless, they have the ability to push away such emotions and move on to the next victimization. To them, each of us was just another means to a temporary satisfaction.

But what about us—the victims? As Backman says, “it never stops.” Call it PTSD flashbacks or recurring memory. For us it never stops. At least not for a long, long time.

For Backman, the end seems hopeless. For some, that’s exactly what it is. But to those of us who are able to face our rape, pain, and humiliation, our stories can end in triumph.

For us, it’s not too late to have a happy ending. 

[1] Beartown by Fredrick Backman (Atria books, 2016), page 177.

Still Feeling Powerless

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)
I’m about to enter my seventh decade as a man, so one would think that I’d be pretty settled in my own skin by now. And yet, in certain situations, there are men (and even some women) who can make me suddenly feel like a ten-year-old boy caught trying to steal candy from the drug store.

Why is that? What is it that can make me feel so powerless in those situations?

Recently I was at work, which I love by the way, and was called to the manager’s office. I’d done nothing wrong as far as I knew. I was told that I’d made mistakes—small things of no consequence. And yet I felt my stomach begin to squirm on my way across the store. As I entered his office, he greeted me and then asked me to close the door. The butterflies in the tummy got worse as I sat down and he looked at me across his desk.

As it turns out, I’d done nothing wrong, but someone else had in regard to my paperwork. I’d covered my butt with notifications to all parties involved, and they had verified it too. The matter had to be explained to me because I would probably receive some disciplinary letters in the mail from headquarters’ human resources. That would’ve been upsetting had I not been made aware of the corrective action taken already on my behalf.

I was relieved and let out a big sigh as I left his office. In spite of the pleasant outcome of the visit, my hands were still shaking. A life of keeping secrets and walking on eggshells has left me constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, even though there isn’t one any more.

Some call it PTSD. I took a test over the internet and that’s what it said I had, but I never suspected I could have anything that serious. Most of the time I feel okay, but I have to admit that some things can still trigger a panic in me that is way beyond what situations or persons are able to induce in others.

Peace and contentment can be elusive, but I’m learning to recognize the triggers and change my response.

My Inner Dialogue

A few months after I began my healing journey, I had several dreams one night. In the first, I saw myself as an adult and I held an infant in my arms. I knew it was myself and I said to him, "I'm Cec and you're little Cecil. I'm sorry I wasn't able to take care of you in childhood, but I'm here now."

In the second, little Cecil was maybe six years old. I stroked his cheek and said, "I couldn't help you then, but I'm here now."

In each dream the little child was older. In the final dream, Cecil was a teen. I took his hand and we walked down the street together. "You were so brave," I told him. "You survived and you're healthy. Your brothers didn't make it, but you did. I'm proud of you."

I stopped, turned to him, and hugged him. Then I awakened.

The meaning was obvious, but it started an inner dialogue with me. Even today, years after that dream, I still talk to the boy. I remind him of his survival and thank him for not committing suicide (which he tried to do once).

I like who I am now. I like who I am because that younger self was brave and kept fighting. He didn't let Dad or others defeat him. Growing up, he felt alone and like no one cared.

I'm strong today because he was strong then—even though he didn't realize he was.

All-powerful God, thank you for your strength.
Thank you for enabling my younger self to survive his painful childhood.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

Life Is Messy

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

Life is messy. Messier than I ever imagined. I grew up in a house that celebrated truth and honesty. At the same time, I was told/taught to keep secrets and lie. I was just a kid, but there was something about it that didn’t sit well with me. But being 9 or 10 years old, what did I know? “Father knows best” is what I was told.

Even as a kid I got an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach about what was going on, but I was conditioned to override that and obey my parents.

But stuff like that won’t stay silent for long. As a teenager I began to see that Dad was not so all-knowing and perfect as I had been led to believe, and that made me mad. I had been lied to, betrayed, and eventually set aside. He hadn’t given me much attention throughout my childhood, but what he did give changed to less and less as I got older. I think he began to worry about what I might say or do.

I let it go. There was nothing I could do that would not cause even more problems, so I left home as soon as I could. I think he was relieved. I thought I’d managed to get away and put all that behind me. I was wrong. All the secret abuse and lies didn’t stay buried. The older I got, the more problems I seemed to have until finally I had to deal with it all.

The anger didn’t go away. The flashbacks and the bad dreams that scared my wife led to my trying to deal with it on my own. That only made it worse. I was a lost soul, and the foundation I had so carefully laid began to crumble beneath me at around 45 years old. I needed help and I searched to find it.

When we reach a certain age, we often look back on things. That’s when the fa├žade shows its cracks. For me it was 45, and I have talked to many others around that age with similar stories.

Whatever your age, get help. 
You can’t do it alone. 
The results are worth it.

Feeling My Feelings

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of  childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain--to reexperience the hurts of my past--if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it, and this may not work for others. Each day I said, "God, help me feel my feelings." Followed by, "I feel my emotions." I usually spoke to my reflection in the mirror. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed.

The journey wasn't easy, but I refused to give up. At times, I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy--and other negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, however, and thanked God for allowing me to experience them, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

The Man Card

(This post is from Roger Mann.)
I hear this concept every now and again as part of some joke. For me it’s no joke. I understand what they are talking about, but I’m sure I don’t have one and don’t have a clue as to how to get one. Dad never taught me how to dress, how to play sports, how to shave, or anything else but to shut up. Children were to be seen and not heard.

I began elementary schooling wondering what it was all about, being a boy that is. I had all the right equipment but no clue as to what to do with it all. How do you make your legs run and not look stupid? How do you throw a ball and not look like a girl? How do you keep from flinching when a ball is thrown your way so you can catch it like you know what you’re doing?

How do you not react like some little baby when you fall and hurt yourself? Most of this stuff I learned by watching others and risked looking like an idiot trying to imitate their skills. As I went through the educational system learning my math, English, and science, I was constantly in a state of anxiety trying to pretend my “man card” was fully legit and endorsed.

I thought after I graduated from high school that I was finally finished with the game of “am I just as good.” But as I got into the work place, the rules changed once again, and I was on edge once more trying to figure out this thing of being a grown-up man. Of course, there was the sex thing too, which now complicated an already complicated navigation. Now I had to pretend I knew what that was all about. So here comes the eyeroll, the nudge, the grin, the “oh yeah, I know what you mean there, buddy.”

I didn’t know what they meant—not really—and I ached, feeling all the more exposed.

It has taken me a long time and a lot of stupid mistakes and bad choices to realize most of them were as clueless as I was. I shunned many a potential good friend because I didn’t want anyone to find out how clueless I really was.

Scott's Story

I recently received this poignant email from Scott (which I’ve edited with his approval). He wrote an additional 500 words, and the pain was so obvious. I was especially touched when I read that he wasn’t believed. Many of us know that experience. (Cec)

* * * * *

I reached puberty at age 16. I was put on growth hormones at age 15, as I had not started growing.

Around that time, a teacher fondled me at least once. He was reported by other parents for doing the same to their sons and dismissed from the school. I remember feeling sorry for him as I didn't realize he had done anything wrong.

The serious abuse started when I was 14 or 15. A friend, only 6 months older, began to abuse me. That situation continued for 5 years until I was 19.

All that is mild, and I could live with it. Now comes the bombshell: I became a perpetrator, and I’ve never truly forgiven myself. I had a sexual experience with a 7- or 8-year-old boy. I was 16.

Then on a Tuesday—a day I’ll never forget—the boy’s mother knocked on our apartment door. My life forever changed on that day. I confessed and had to go to the police. I was lucky because the case was dropped by the judge.

I had stopped by then, although I’m pretty sure I would not have done it again even if I had not got caught.

I explained to my parents and the psychologist that I did it because it had been done to me. They didn’t believe me because the person who had done it to me was not much older than I was.

I accepted that, and never understood why I had committed that most awful sin. Eleven years later, I realized I was re-enacting what happened to me when another psychologist suggested it— as a reason, and not as an excuse.

Maybe that’s why I let the abuse to me go on—as self-punishment.

A Letter from a Female Reader

The letter below comes from Jen Puckett, a female follower of this blog.

* * * * *

Dear Cec,

I want you to know what your willingness to share about your abuse has meant to my husband and me. After reading your book, my husband felt understood and not alone or like something was wrong, defective, or disgusting about him. We’re especially grateful that as a Christian man you were gut honest about same-sex attraction and the struggle that causes when you genuinely love your spouse. I read your book for wives too and found encouragement in your words and in the ways you said your wife supported you most, even when she least knew how.

My husband is reading More Than Surviving right now. He appreciates knowing he’s not alone. He's 48 years old, and his abuse happened from childhood through age 16. It's been a long road. We've been through intensive individual and marriage counseling over the last couple years and are rebuilding our seventeen-year marriage.

A few years ago, I felt a desire to write a book of my own from the wife’s perspective—before we were ever ready ourselves—and treasured it in my heart until now. I struggle to tell the agonizing stories, but my husband and I agree that unless the raw truth is told, it won’t help other survivors’ wives. Your honesty and transparency in writing are what enabled him to open up toward healing.

We both know the price in exposing the truth is high. My husband’s ministry could be devastated, or we could have a shift in the way people look at abuse—especially male sexual abuse among Christianity. The chasm between true compassion and hope for the hurting and the shock or discomfort with the symptoms of abuse seems insurmountable; therefore, the church often refuses to acknowledge it. But you gave it a voice long ago, and voices are beginning to join yours. Ours will. Others will too.

We sincerely thank you, Cecil, for sharing your harrowing journey. You risked so much to help other hurting men heal and know they’re not alone. You exposed light into the darkest places of unspoken shame. You opened never-before-opened doors for abused men and showed them firsthand the courage it takes to walk through them. As a wife to an incredible survivor, I am beyond blessed that you chose to use your voice and write your words.

God bless in every way,

Jen

Same-sex Attraction

This post is from Roger Mann.

* * * * *

It's been a difficult struggle to accept God's truth about me. I impose so much of my dad's attitudes and vocalizations when thinking about God. It's not fair to God and not fair to me, but those ruts in the road of my logic journey are deep. The wagon just doesn't want to slip out and turn onto a different direction, a healthier direction without heroic effort. I feel I need some kind of an aha moment to turn that corner and leave this mental track.

From my high school days into in my fifties, I secretly accepted I was what everyone else probably thought: I'm gay. But I refused to admit it out loud. The closest I came was to tell someone I was bi and even that hurt and gave me a mental cringe.

I now admit that I have an unwanted same-sex attraction that I struggle against due to my childhood sexualization by my father and others. While I believe that to be accurate, it is not what God sees when He looks at me. At least I hope so. But even if he does see me that way, I love the fact that he loves me anyway, is not uncomfortable with my telling Him I love him and knowing there is no misunderstanding when I say it.

I’ve been uncomfortable telling another man that I love him, especially if he knows my history. Hugging another guy is fine if he doesn't know, but hugging one who does is awkward for me.

What is he thinking? Am I releasing fast enough so he doesn't think I am enjoying the contact too unduly?

Years ago, when I attended my first men’s conference, I was uncomfortable with any physical interaction for that reason. I also was careful not to seem like I was favoring certain guys so no one would get any ideas.

For me it's been a mine field. So, yeah, it's different from "I have a problem with alcohol, so let's not go to a bar."

I need male fellowship—healthy male fellowship— but I isolate because of the above. I feel like heaven's misfit toy. Still usable but marked down as defective.

A Note from Ben Franklin

Last year, at age 62, I began seeing a psychiatrist for sleep problems. On my second visit, he told me I showed classic signs of depression and PTSD and asked how long I’d been depressed. I mentioned the verbal and emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of my father, but some of the traumatic events were blocked from my conscious thought.

One day, my wife asked why I was so angry. I told her about flashbacks I had of my father violently raping me as he accused me of being a reminder of two men he had sex with during his time in the army. Because I was named after those two men, he couldn’t forget what he had done.

My wife was dumbstruck. By the time I finished my story, I was huddled in a corner of the patio with tears streaming down my face. I had never told anyone. Who would I tell? Who would believe an eight-year-old child?

Back then I didn’t understand the sexual content. I just knew the physical and emotional pain and the betrayal. After the rape, my father never hugged me again. He never said he loved me, and he belittled my accomplishments until he died.

My psychiatrist transferred me to a psychology resident. He’s been wonderful help along this journey. But while reading your book Not Quite Healed, I realized that many of the trials and tribulations I’ve dealt with all these years aren’t unique to me. I see myself in almost every chapter, and I can usually read only one or two before tears overtake me.

When my therapist asked me what I hoped to get out of our sessions, I told him I wanted to quit hating myself. You’ve helped me take the first positive steps in that direction. Thank you!

My wife is reading your companion book and is trying hard to work through this with me. Just writing this to you has helped. I’m not quite healed, but I’m working on it!

Ben Franklin (not my real name)

Self-confidence

Roger's post below originally came in as a note to me, but I felt it needed to be read by everyone.

When I read his comments, several memories flooded me.

I’ve been there—too many times. I assume most of you men have had such experiences.

Here’s mine:

One time the table was full, but I pulled up a chair and joined the group. Several of them nodded or acknowledged me, but no one spoke to me or invited me to join the two or three conversations going on around me.

I was surrounded by people I knew and yet totally alone. I ate my meal, got up, said “Excuse me,” and left. No one acknowledged my leaving.

That happened in 1990. Why do I still remember? The pain. The rejection. Those two things hit me, and yet, had I asked, I’m sure each of the people would have been shocked that I felt rejected.

READ ON.

(Cec)

* * * * *

Not sure if it’s shame or fear of rejection, but when I was at a church sponsored men’s conference this weekend I felt awkward and had difficulty joining in. If it was a meeting where we were all supposed to be there or a small group like in our cabin where all were expected to be present, then I was okay walking in late and joining. It was expected. But to just walk up to a group and join the conversation, I was not comfortable.

At one point, we were all sitting around a table and talking before breakfast. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back everyone had gone to the tables where they served breakfast. No one looked for me or waved me over. I finally saw them all the way across the room and felt completely abandoned. All the seats at their table were taken, so I got a plate and sat at an empty table. I finished eating and went for a walk.

I just couldn’t bring myself to walk all the way over there and look for a seat. I was afraid there wouldn’t be one and it would be awkward. I’m not shy, but I found myself angry that I could let myself get in that situation. All of them are good guys. Why couldn’t I go over and ask to sit with them?

(Roger Mann)


A Note from Cec

Monday, May 14, 2018
Since I started this blog in 2010, I’ve never deleted or restricted points of view. That has changed with the ongoing comments about masturbation.

IMO, the comments have gone beyond helping and encouraging men in their struggles for healing, inner-peace, and self-esteem.

This is a blog aimed at healing for hurting men.

The Two Sides of My Abuser

(This post comes from Mark Cooper.)

* * * * *

Many of us felt confusion about our abuse because our abuser was also good to us. We enjoyed the good times, so how could what they did in abusing us be bad?

We may still deal with that confusion. How do we reconcile our conflicting memories of pain and pleasure? 

If we enjoy photographs taken with that person, or if we value a gift they gave us, are we betraying our inner wounded child? If we face the evil they did to us, are we betraying what was good about them?

I’ve had less depression, increased energy, a greater sense of purpose and peace about myself as a man, and more confidence in my relationships as I’ve accepted that my abuser indeed abused me and caused great harm in my life. But then I’d remember the turtle shell he showed me when I was ill, the time he gently held my hand to remove a painful splinter, or the oak plant stand he made for me.

Enjoying the good memories filled me with guilt. If he had been kind to me even once, then how dare I call the other times abuse? Admitting he hurt me caused me to feel as if I were to blame for the pain, just as it did when I was a child.

One day my friend Jason laid a pen on the table in front of me. He said, “The way you’re thinking makes as much sense as saying, ‘There is a pen on the table; therefore, I wasn’t abused.’” He explained what he meant. “Just like this pen has nothing to do with whether you were abused, his doing something good for you has nothing to do with whether you were abused. You were abused because he abused you!”

Now, when I start down my old pathway of thinking, I remind myself that a good memory doesn’t undo the abuse. Neither does the abuse void the good my abuser did. The truth is, my abuser did cause deep pain and damage in my life. He also did good and gave me memories that I still enjoy.

My inner peace grows as I accept that my abuser was capable not only of evil but also of good. I knew both sides of him.

Having a Terrible Time

This post is from Roger Mann.

* * * * *

Around certain meaningful dates, I’ve experienced times of intense increase in same-sex attraction (SSA) and desires to binge on pornography and masturbation. For me, I finally realized that the fantasies, memories, and desires were deep down my own boy inside wanting to make a different outcome than what actually occurred back then. It was like I was trying to re-write history— my sexual history with my father and others.

It was bad back then. But I didn't understand how bad. It was all new and arousing in ways I’d never dreamed of, but at the same time very unsatisfying. And as I got older and more aware of what kinds of things could have happened, I began to be drawn into fantasy of what might have been had this or that just happened. It fed a porn and masturbation binge time and time again.

Sometimes it led to actually acting out. The thing is, even when I acted out and the situation should have been perfect, there was always something inside me that said, “NO, this is not who you are." And the witness of the truth of that ruined it as it should have.

As I said, it was a terrible time. Finally, I began seeing that it was just my mind desperately wanting a different end—a fantasy relationship with my father. Or later with another my own age. And as I got older, with someone even younger than me. Perhaps it was in an effort to reverse roles to make it end differently that way.

I wanted the love, acceptance, and affirmation that I never got. I got sex from Dad, but nothing more. For the rest of my life I had been willing to trade my body for that. But that's not how one gets that, and that's not who we should look to in order to obtain it.

For me, God is the only one who gives unconditional love with no strings attached and none needed. It took me way too long to learn that, and I left a wake of destruction trying to find it in all the wrong places.

These Ashes

This post comes from Daniel Eichelberger.
* * * * *

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.
* * * * *

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)

* * * * *

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.)

* * * * *

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. 

* * * * *

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.)

* * * * *

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.

Roger

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)

* * * * *

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.

The Disconnect

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I never questioned what was happening to me. Not really. We had a normal family and a normal family life. In fact, because we were Christians and deeply involved in church, at times I felt a quiet sense of superiority over some of the other kids I knew whose parents argued, drank a lot, or were divorced.

Normal is just what is going on around you.

As I got older, the disconnect became uncomfortable. I looked around at others my age and discovered that my experiences were not common; sometimes they even appeared rare.

At high school age, it’s difficult feeling different, wondering if others think and feel like you do. But when you KNOW you’re different, it’s a whole new level of crazy. That crazy pushed me, and I pushed back. I won most of the time, I thought, but around 28 or so I began to lose the war. I was tired, alone, and so confused. At some point, I gave up and allowed myself to experience all that had been going through my mind in the quiet darkness.

And the darkness, quiet or not, will get you. It sure got me. I spiraled down until I was suicidal enough to really try and end it all. But it didn’t work, and I realized I needed to get help. I tried a few therapists, but I just couldn’t form the words. They would stick in my throat, and all I could see was that I was betraying my father.

Weird, huh? Especially when considering he’s the one who betrayed me.

Eventually, it was get help or get out, and I finally was able in a session to blubber out the truth as I understood it. I can’t describe the relief and sense of betrayal that I felt, but it was worth it. After the dam broke, the tide came pouring out, and together we began to sort it out.

Painful? You bet. But as they say, pain is weakness leaving the body. The more we sorted, the stronger I began to feel. Truth hurts at times; it also heals if you let it.

Learning to Walk

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

My wife’s grandson, who soon will be 9 months old, is starting to walk. He crawled for a bit a month ago but soon got the hang of that and pulled himself up to a standing position when he realized he could. It wasn’t long before he’d stand up all by himself, balancing well for a child his age. Two weeks ago, he started taking tentative steps. Now, although he falls frequently, he can manage four or five good steps at a time. He’s ahead of the game right now. I can see him running around before long with us having to chase him down.

It hit home that this is kind of like God giving me a picture of growing and walking in the spirit with Him. He’s given me a cool illustration of how difficult it is at first and how much grace I should extend to myself and others. The kid falls a lot, mostly on his butt, but occasionally he will wander near something hard and edgy and end up with a small bruise or mark on his face or head. Thank goodness for a cushy diaper or his butt would be black and blue.

It’s not just his lack of skill and balance that gives him trouble. Sometimes he’ll go exactly where he knows he shouldn’t. He’s learning the word no and what that means for him. Of course, he can’t understand why we get firm with him around electrical cords or things that could break. He just knows we’re restricting his freedom and he’s not happy about it.

That too reminds me of myself. There are many pleasurable things in the world that I’d love to indulge in, but Daddy says, “No.” Sometimes I’ll try to sneak off and indulge anyway. When I do, eventually (and sometimes immediately) I find out why they’re on the restricted list.

The point is this: Like God, I’m not angry with the kid. I’m trying to save him grief or permanent injury. I grew up with some scars for that very reason. I don’t want to have any more than necessary, but some seem to be necessary if I'm going to grow and learn.

As Darwin pointed out, there are those that live and learn; and those that just live.

Lesson: I cut myself some slack. I’m human. But in this vast universe of His, I’m a child, and Father knows best.

I Dreamed

(This comes from an anonymous reader.)

I awake to a memory of a girl I worked with. Can’t remember how it came up, but she was bragging that she couldn’t be raped because being limber she could cross her legs and lock them so no one could spread them. I just shook my head and walked away, remembering my arms locked around my legs, my knees under my chin lying on my back.

I don’t remember the pain. I do remember the smells: sweat, Old Spice, and poop. I remember the shock of cold as I was cleaned up. I remember using a bar of soap and hot water on the cloth in the morning so no one would see what was on it. I remember using the same cleaning technique on underwear when necessary. I remember telling myself it didn’t happen.

There are things I’ve locked away in a dark corner of my mind never to be remembered. Things I promised to take to my grave. But some things won’t stay. Truth can set you free, but it can also break your heart over and over. So what does one do with such things?

I write them out, trying to get them out. I try not to be numb about it, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I let myself feel I’ll be unable to stop the tears ever.



.

From the News

In the 8 years I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve never quoted from a news report, but I think this piece from the Inquisitor is worth reading. It was posted on February 6, 2018. Terry Crews is an American actor, artist, and former American football player and was included in the group of people named as TIME Person of the Year for 2017.

* * * * *

In October 2017, Terry Crews tweeted a series of honest, sad, and alarming messages.

“This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to me.” He began to describe an encounter with an at-the-time-unnamed male executive who groped his genitals.

Terry said he feared how the incident would be reported, afraid that he could end up in jail. Hollywood and the public alike were shocked by Terry’s Twitter confession.

However, Terry’s unfortunate and frightening experience helped him understand those who have gone through similar things. It also helped him understand why victims of sexual harassment often choose to remain silent, he wrote in the same series of Twitter messages.

On the other hand, this has perhaps helped the rest of the public understand that these things can happen to anyone. Even men, former NFL players.

The public paid attention to Terry’s tweets, but until today, he had not addressed the elephant in the room properly — masculinity. The actor tweeted an interesting message today, along with a link to Esquire. Terry has finally spoken up what he calls the “man code.” He considers this phenomenon to be a subtle, unspoken cult of masculinity.
It’s the backlash I experienced when I came forward with my story: men who were angry that, at first, I didn’t name my abuser; men who questioned why I didn’t fight back, who said I let him do it, who said I must’ve wanted it, who said I must be gay. The man code is why I endured the male version of a female survivor being asked, “What were you wearing?”
Celebrities like Isaiah Washington, Gabrielle Union, and Tyler James Williams expressed support for the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor, BET reported, after the same online magazine had pointed out lack of Hollywood’s response to Terry Crews’ attempt to call out his assaulter.[1]


[1] https://www.inquisitr.com/4774448/terry-crews-on-metoo-and-the-backlash-he-experienced/

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: As you may know, Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse, is scheduled to release soon and is available for pre-order now. We've recently learned the significance of pre-orders.They give the publisher leverage to convince retailers to carry the book and to give it a spot on their shelves. And we want the book to have as much exposure as possible! It carries an important message of hope and offers healing to hurting men. If you plan on ordering it, would you consider ordering it now and encourage others to do the same? Thank you for your help in making sure More Than Surviving is successful!

Words

By Roger Mann

Every now and again I hear a word or phrase that triggers me for some reason. The other night in a playful mood my wife said something about me deciding to attack her or not. Don’t really remember the whole thing but that word attack hit me cold.

​I’ve been attacked. I don’t remember ever attacking anyone else. I was always pretty sensitive to whether someone was “interested” or not, and if not then nothing happened.

​I don’t want to attack anyone. I want everything to be mutual and feel good. I’m not into pain at all. Been there, done that, applied the ointment.

​Words, a song, even someone just looking at me in a certain way can stir emotions spontaneously. I guess this is normal. I don’t know.

I do know it's annoying and sometimes disruptive. I’m trying to desensitize myself by examining and being mindful of what's going on when that occurs. I don’t want to be so sensitive that I miss out on good moments by having something ugly pop up all the time and throw me for an emotional loop.

Breaking Bad Habits

This post comes from Roger Mann.

* * * * *

During my abuse, and for years after I left home, I picked up some bad habits. I don’t know if it was the PTSD or being trained to see others as objects that might be useful or harmful to me. I developed a hyper alertness when out in public. I tended to notice every male around me and would check them out for hostile or friendly body language.

Most times, depending on the venue, it was indifference, but not always, and it was those times I would seem distracted to whomever I was with. Mostly it was because I was checking out where the bathroom was, where the nearest exit was, and trying to find a seat against a wall.

Also, I became almost obsessed with my body. I wanted to know every inch, learn about all its functions and what sort of sensations and scents it carried. Certain parts like knees have their own scent. Of course that led to a curiosity about everyone else’s bodies too, which got me in trouble on several occasions. Some people are militant about their modesty.

Abuse changed my whole perception on the world around me in ways I couldn’t appreciate for decades, and after many counseling sessions, I still have a few quirks, which I won’t share here. But I have come to realize that much of what I believed was not true and even dangerous for me.

I’m learning a healthier way to navigate life these days, and I’m more comfortable with who I am. I’ve learned to listen to my wife’s suggestions and watch people’s reactions to things I say and do so as not to be thought weird.

I can look back on many cringe-worthy situations that would never have occurred if my sensibilities had not been so horribly messed with.

Fortunately, I’m re-trainable.

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: Cec's publisher sent him a box of bookmarks for his upcoming book, More Than Surviving. If you would like to help Cec by distributing some of the bookmarks, please contact him at cec.murp@comcast.net and give him your mailing address. Thank you!

Just Be Over It

By Mark Cooper

This is my story. It is not the same as your story. But I hope my story will encourage you to more fully live your story.

Those of us who deal with trauma recovery are probably familiar with the unhelpful concept, “Just be over it.”

My brother and I were enjoying dinner with friends. We got into a discussion about a former neighbor, a veteran of WW2, who battled alcoholism. My brother told us that the man’s son described his dad crying anytime the subject of the war was broached. My brother explained to us that the trauma of war no doubt contributed to our neighbor’s battle with alcohol. He then went on, “Of course, after a while a person should probably just be over [the trauma].”

I had to fight tears as I heard his words; his words felt like a mockery of my healing journey from abuse, but more than that, they exposed his own battles. My brother knows the pain of trauma in his life, but shows little evidence of facing that pain. His “just be over it” statement, rather than being an expression of callousness towards our neighbor, speaks of the harshness he feels towards himself; an expectation that by now he should “just be over” the pain of his wounds.

Those of us who have entered the healing journey know that we will never “just be over” our wounds. Rather, we have embraced the hard work of dealing with those wounds. We have accepted that our journey will include countless tears, frustration and anger. We know we must continually be honest with ourselves, with others, and with God. We face the raw truth of how we were hurt and how we have caused hurt in attempts to sooth our pain. But as the tough work of healing progresses, we eventually realize that we have more peace—even if it is fragile—than we once thought possible.

That peace would never have come had we told ourselves to “just be over it.”

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: Cec's publisher sent him a box of bookmarks for his upcoming book, More Than Surviving. If you would like to help Cec by distributing some of the bookmarks, please contact him at cec.murp@comcast.net and give him your mailing address. Thank you!

Roger's Response

Over the years, Roger Mann has been a generous contributor to this blog, and I’ve been impressed with his insights and honesty. I’ve asked him to write occasional posts to help out. His response to my request impressed me, and I asked his permission to share it with you. I look forward to his posts in the future. (Cec)

* * * * *

Years ago, I'd only been working on my recovery for five years or so, and all I wanted was to get fixed and get on with my life. Once I was "normal" I never wanted to hear about this stuff ever again or anyone else who had experienced it. It was ugly, dirty, shameful, and socially unacceptable.

I laugh now, because once I began to accept what happened to me and deal with it I became aware and in contact with others who shared so much of what I felt and was going through. It tugged at my heart, and I found myself responding, replying, and supporting them in their struggle too. I was not alone. It was not my fault. I needed to share those truths with others who also were hurting. I couldn't leave them.

The site I most frequent now I have two threads that I post on for my personal stuff—the single men's forum and the married men's forum. I have noticed I have six times the views of the next most popular thread. God has blessed me with insight and the compassion to articulate it. I guess I know why. Someone needs to say perhaps the things that I say and to share the hurt and victories that I experience.

And so I stay. Even though my wife thinks it's too much, I know I am needed there on those forums as His voice. Deep down I still wish I could walk away but I know I can't. I'm not done yet. God's not done with me yet.

That said, we both feel I should accept your offer and do what I can to help others along this journey, if only by pointing out what not to do. Let me know where to go from here and I will do my best to send you what I can.

An Email from Preston

Preston Hill emailed me the following note in response to the post titled “Naming Myself.” He gave me permission to share it with you here. (Cec)

* * * * *

I have treasured your emails for a long time now. I have been feeling prompted, in my own healing, to reach out. This email is, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel's back.

Identification is a power healing step, one I have been feeling my own heart inviting me into. My first public admission was with one of my professors in Bible college. I later started a support group with this safe sojourner. This group brought more self-disclosure, more safe solidarity, and therefore, more disruptive naming of pain that was necessary for healing to occur.

We used to always say in the group, "You cannot heal from what you have not named." In many ways, my journey of healing has been a process of learning my name, and naming myself.