Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Intentional Forgiveness

(This post comes from D. Petree.)

I experienced sexual abuse and many other offenses over my lifetime that required forgiveness. We all need to forgive and to be forgiven.

I've learned that forgiveness is a choice.

How do I let it go?

After my divorce, I stumbled on the answer. I was angry but knew I needed to forgive. I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed for my spouse.

The prayer was short and simple; the results were astounding. Bitterness, anger, and resentment dissipated. I knew I had discovered something wonderful. I call it God's Roto-Rooter.

When I need to forgive, I put two things into practice. For me, they've worked every time.

1. Express your pain and anger openly to God.

2. Speak compassionately to the offenders about what they've done. By speaking in a kind way, you may also open the door for repentance on their part.

There's a bright light at the end of the forgiveness tunnel. Freedom can be yours.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Want to Be Healed

(By Cecil Murphey)

Those of us who were sexually molested yearn to be healed. Sometimes we get impatient. We tell ourselves we ought to be free of the painful memories and horrible effects of our assault.

About two years after facing my abuse, I often heard myself saying, "I should be healed by now." When I spoke those words, I didn’t understand the per­vasiveness of molestation. I wanted to be completely free from my past abuse and to have the memories wiped away.

Life doesn’t work that way. Healing is a process—and the word process means that the changes don't happen quickly.

When I consider process, three things stand out. First, sexuality involves our total selves—mind, body, emotions, and spirit. God created us that way, and sexual­ity is a powerful force in our lives.

Second, our abuse took place in secret, and it happened when we were young and innocent. We lived with our hidden anguish for years.

Third, it took a long time before we were ready to face our pain and reach for healing. Deep healing comes slowly. To acknowledge that reality is a powerful factor in learning to endure.

Be kind to yourself. Think of each day as taking you forward toward a full resolution of your pain. As Alcoholics Anonymous says it, "One day at a time."

Healing is a process. 

I'll be patient with myself.

(This post is adapted from Not Quite Healed, by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Victims No More

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

I was abused.

These words can crush me each time I remember them. They can fall upon me like a boulder out of the sky. They can pound in my ears like monstrous tympani reverberating repeatedly, beating out their excruciating rhythm, “I WAS ABUSED! I WAS ABUSED! I WAS ABUSED!” 

They can rattle in my soul like old bones—brittle and broken. They can scrape against me like bad brake pads, metal on metal. They can wound and bruise and cut and batter me mercilessly every time I think of them, but only if I let them.

It's taken me years to understand something crucial to my recovery from childhood sexual assault. The memories have only as much power as I will give them.

This sounds easy enough, but don’t be fooled. The trauma is real. The memories are potent. The reality that an older male raped me is just as disgusting as it ever was, but somehow, little by little, the power of it can be sapped, the pollution of my mind cleaned up, and the venom of the bite be drained as I heal one day at a time.

I was abused.

It happened and nothing can change that fact. But I can change how I respond to it now. The choice I have today is to let the abuse make me bitter or better. There resides in the human soul the power to let the past find its proper place as we pursue the present with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I was abused, yes, and forced into the role of a victim. But right now, today, in this moment I am living, I choose to be a victim no more. Today, I am an overcomer.

Friday, February 15, 2013


(This post comes from John Joseph.)

In my experience, recovering from childhood sexual abuse is a lot like peeling onions. I have to do it one layer at a time and it makes me cry a lot. There’s no way to deal with it all at once. Child abuse rapes the soul and creates abysmal depths of shame, fear, and psychological torment. It would kill anyone to face it all at one time.

The deeper the wound, the longer the healing takes. When the emotional injury of abuse is discovered or uncovered for the first time, often our reaction is to cover it back up and ignore it. Either out of protecting ourselves (or our abusers) we tend toward denial and repression over bold and immediate therapy.

My abuse happened decades ago, yet a therapist had to tell me two years ago that I had been criminally violated. People these days are put in prison for life for doing what they did to me. I'd made many attempts to deal with my past, but it wasn’t until I understood and embraced what really happened that I began to heal. A thick layer of the onion was torn away.

As survivors, it may take us years to deal with the stratum of painful emotions that have compounded one upon the other, tier after tier, until it seems like there’s no way to get to the bottom. But if we can endure the peeling back of tender layers, feel the pain, and cry the tears, one day, we'll realize that our healing was worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hope in Despair

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

When it comes to recovering from childhood sexual abuse, hope is essential. Without it, there’s no chance of holding on until things get better.

Hope is an anchor tossed into the future to help us get there. Hope is the soul’s seed that grows the healthy crops of emotional wholeness. We all need hope, especially survivors.

At times, hope seems elusive. As a recovering person, I've gone through many seasons of outright despondency. I can’t count how many times my future seemed so dark and empty that I found myself depleted and discouraged. That's when my addictions can kick in, which leads me deeper into gloom and self-loathing. The vicious cycle of hopelessness, despair, and acting out fuels more vicious cycles.

As a survivor, I tend to turn small problems into catastrophes. The future can be habitually in a state of calamity in my mind, and remembering hope is one of the greatest tools I’ve found to bring me out of it.

Hope rises to the surface of my soul when I take a few moments to meditate on the current good in my life. It settles me down again in a way that nothing else can. My goal is to learn how to live in hope every day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Good Things

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

One of the side effects of the childhood sexual abuse is the pervasive sense that I don’t deserve good things. Maybe it’s the way I was treated by my abusers, in that I was only worth what they wanted out of me. Or maybe it’s a self-imposed sentence that condemns me to languish in the land of ne’er-do-wells. 

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m undeserving of life’s simplest pleasures. Is it just me, or does everyone cower inside waiting for the next tragic thing to happen? If tragedy isn’t happening fast enough, am I the only one smart enough to choose self-sabotage as a means of controlling my circumstances? Isn’t something predictable— even failure—better than the excruciating fear of the unknown?

The current of fear and the desperate need to control life runs deep. It’s not that I don’t want good things; it’s tough to believe that I should have them. And even more difficult to believe I deserve them. Someone else is always more deserving, better looking, or better qualified. Call it low self-esteem or the fact that I always sucked at sports. Regardless, I always seem to think I deserve to lose.

Even my faith in God suffers on account of this. I assume that I'm the exception to grace. I’m the one who succeeds in out-sinning his forgiveness. I’m the one who stumbles on the unpardonable transgression and falls headlong into it. I’m the one who is mighty enough to predestine myself to eternal damnation because I certainly don't deserve heaven or happiness.

A big part of my recovery is to accept and relish the good things that come my way. I have to choose to by-pass self-sabotage and make peace with the unknown events of my future, no matter how they turn out.

Letting go of some of my control and trusting others again (including God) can be healthy choices and effective steps toward my healing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Permission to Heal

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

Do you remember having to raise your hand in school to get permission to go to the restroom or sharpen your pencil? As children, we knew the rule and lived by it the best we could. As we’ve grown we’ve forgotten about it. We take a lot of our freedoms for granted because we rarely have to ask permission from anyone.

But what if there’s a part of me that is still raising its hand, asking for permission to heal?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve come to face a part of me that is still sitting in that small wooden desk. He’s squirming a bit and has his little hand in the air waiting for me to recognize him again.

He’s the wounded child, the neglected boy who got lost in the family system. Tears streak his face and fear is in his eyes. He wants badly to gain my permission to heal from the wounds inflicted upon him by older boys and men.

He needs my help. Will I see him? Will I notice the strain in his arm from waving his hand for so long?

Some dismiss the idea of an “inner child.” I know that I'm not separated from the little boy I was when the abuse occurred. I’m the same person.

The little boy was me. That little boy is me.

Sometimes I have to go back and sit with him to help him know I see him, that I recognize he's hurt, and give him permission to heal a little more.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Good Gardener

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

An ancient story tells of a gardener who came across a tree that wasn't bearing fruit. He had two choices. He could cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place or do what he could to help the tree become fruitful.  

He chose the latter, dug around the tree’s roots, fertilized it, watered it, and waited. After a time, the tree became lush with fruit and the gardener was satisfied with his labor.

When it comes to recovering from childhood sexual trauma, our souls are the tree and we are the gardener. Often our lives are fruitless because of the damage we’ve suffered. Like the tree, we stand in the garden of life with little to show for our existence. Just as trees were made to blossom and be fruitful, we're made to enjoy our own being and relationships with others. When we're barren, we experience frustration and often choose to cut ourselves down in one way or another.

There is a better way.

The gardener in the story did four important things. He dug around the roots, watered, fertilized, and waited. If we are to see growth and fruitfulness, we must be like the good gardener. We must choose to give the tree another chance.

Digging around the roots is hard work. It's the painful shoveling out of the old, diseased ways of thinking and behaving. Sometimes we have to dig deeply to replace the rocky dirt with fertile soil.

After we’ve dug, we water our souls with truth, beauty, and purity. We fertilize with knowledge and wisdom from many sources.

Then we wait.

Waiting is the hardest thing. Our penchant for immediate gratification often undermines our soul’s growth. But after we’ve done the work of digging, watering, and fertilizing, our part is to watch and wait, to let the soul blossom once again.