Friday, January 29, 2016

What's Wrong with Me?

I cringed when I heard other men speak of their painful childhoods, especially when they talked about how they hated what was done to them. I hated those things too. But it took me a long time to admit they were also telling my story.

Even at six years of age, something inside told me the abuse was wrong; another part of me admitted that it felt good. For a few minutes, it seemed that another person loved me. I was worthwhile and acceptable.

But afterward. After my perpetrator was finished with me—that's when reality struggled to the surface. I felt confused and condemned. That man did something terrible to me. As an adult, I told myself that I should have hated it, struck out at him, yelled, or pushed him away. Instead, I had gone back the next time he offered a snack to come into his room.

What's wrong with me? I didn't ask myself that question when I was six or even when I was ten. And yet the question was always there. If it had been such a terrible experience, why did I enjoy it?

Now I know. I needed the emotional connection—even though it was false and temporary, I needed to feel loved. I still needed those things after he pushed me aside.

What's wrong with me is that I was a normal human being. The wrong person deceived me and made me believe he was offering affection and compassion—that he cared about me. He cared about me as a means to satisfy his lustful needs.

Nothing was wrong with me;
Something wrong happened to me.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Emotions Confuse Me

As we venture more fully into healing, our emotions don't always comply with our desire for progress. At times, we feel different from other people—that's not new. Because of the molestation that warped our childhood, that's true with most of us.

Too often, I didn’t know what emotions I felt. I got angry and wasn't aware of my inner rage; excitement overwhelmed me and I didn’t realize how euphoric I truly felt. I was cut off from emotional awareness.

As we heal, most of us struggle in some emotional area. We're flooded with negative feelings and want to push them away. Perhaps we're unaware of the unkind words we've spoken.

The worst part for me has been to face my negative, harsh, and judgmental feelings and say to myself, "Yes, that's how I feel." My full healing depends on facing every part of myself.

That's no easy task. As a boy, I was afraid of my negative feelings. My father was violent, so was one of my brothers. I feared that if I accepted my anger, I'd become like them.

One day, however, I realized that I'd probably behave much as I had before. But this time, I would be aware of my moods and reactions. And by being cognizant, I could change. Since then, one of my goals has been to embrace, nurture, and love every part of myself.

My emotions still confuse me, 
and I'm learning to embrace even my emotional confusion.

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Responsibility

Responsibility is a strange word. For some, it delineates who we are—the one on whom others can depend. We receive commendations and appreciation. People admire us. "He's as good as his word," they say. That sentence sounds like what people have said about me.

That's not bragging, but only to say that I've grabbed on to words like duty and obligation. If I'm responsible, it implies that I'm worthwhile. Likeable. Loveable.

I never heard anyone call my younger brother Mel responsible. When I visited my hometown, he'd promise to come and see me and not show up. He owed me money and often said, "I haven't forgotten and I'm going to pay you back." Even growing up, he'd say, "I'm going to" as the prelude for some action both of us knew he wouldn't take. I don't recall that he ever did anything he promised.

At times I've wished I could have been more like him. I envisioned him as carefree and indifferent. He was neither. Only during the last months of his life did I realize how guilt-ridden he was.

For me, when I realized something was wrong, especially in the family, I was responsible. I'm sure that's part of the reason I was a pastor for 14 years. By then, I liked others depending on me. When I did something right and members praised me, I felt wonderful. And yes, I felt terrible when I disappointed someone or a member disliked me.

As a man who is healing from abuse, I don't want to be irresponsible, but I want to be accountable for the right things and especially for the right people. As I act on being answerable to Cec, it also means that I don't have to accept the guilt for others' unhappiness.

I'm responsible for me. 
That's a good kind of self-love.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wearing Those Masks

We often speak of wearing masks—hiding our real selves so that others don't see deeply inside us. When I was a teen, a popular song about being rejected went something like this: "I'm laughing on the outside, crying on the inside."

That's as good an explanation of masks as I know. It means we intentionally withhold our real feelings and attitudes. That's not always bad. Masks can shield us from people who don't understand or who would exploit our weaknesses.

Hiding our identity from those who care about us is the problem. We're afraid to open up, don't want to take the risk of losing someone's affection, or don't have the courage to be our real selves.

Recently my wife and I watched a film on TV. Several adults were romantically involved but no one became vulnerable enough for the other person to know how they felt. "Don't they ever talk to each other?" my wife asked.

I smiled, and thought, in real life it's often that way, isn't it? For those who are important to me, I want to remove my mask as an expression of my love for and my acceptance of them. I want them to know the real, true, inner me.

If you love me, you'll love me more after I remove my mask. 
You'll love me more because you'll love the true, deeper me.

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Same-sex Attraction

As a child who never experienced love or affection from this father, I was easily marked for victimization. But more than that, I gravitated toward any male who showed me affection. Mr. Lee, the pedophile who molested me, intuitively grasped my neediness.

For a long time I struggled with an attraction for any man who reached out to me. As a young adult, I didn't yield but the feelings and the temptations were there. Of all the residual effects of sexual abuse, same-sex attraction has been for me the most shameful.

I blamed myself for being needy and vulnerable.

As an adult, I've learned to say that I had what someone has called "a father wound" and another refers to as his "father hole." It's that inborn need for a healthy, significant male figure in my childhood. I needed affection and the loving physical touch of a caring man.

If that hole isn't filled in a healthy way, acting on same-sex attraction is one way to get a temporary fix—a very temporary fix.

I think of a woman who came to my office years ago. She had gone through countless affairs and said, "I wanted love and I settled for sex."

That's the sad story of too many abused men.

The things that have an unhealthy attraction for me 
point to those unmet needs of my childhood.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What I Don't Know

I don't know the answers to every problem—even though I may sound as if I do. I don’t understand why some of us gain victory almost immediately and for others it takes years. I don't know why some male survivors fall back in their old patterns and some never do.

I wish I could give perfect answers to every dilemma and shine a bright light on every dark path. I don't always have enough light for my own path. Even when I know the answer for myself, I sometimes fail to live up to my convictions.

I do know this, however. It’s shameful to admit we’ve failed, especially after we’ve determined not to repeat our wrong behavior. And that can refer to anything that impedes our progress.

Almost as bad is to fail and deny it. We're ashamed and try to hide the fact. Or we make excuses for ourselves by blaming circumstances or saying, "Yes, but if he hadn't . . . " Such negative responses mean we by-pass a chance for healing.

Admitting each tiny step in the wrong direction 
can be one positive, 
small-but-powerful step toward full recovery. 

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

"You Did So Much for Me"

"You did so much for me." Monroe ran up to me, embraced me, and thanked me.

He thought I had done so much; I felt I had done so little.

"You listened," Monroe said and hugged me again.

In terms of my doing something, I felt inadequate.

For Monroe, I did the one healing thing I could do: I allowed him to talk and didn't judge him. That’s all he needed—someone to listen and not to tell him what a terrible failure he was.

That incident happened many times when I was a young pastor, and it took me a few days to process. Each time I had kept quiet—not out of wisdom, but out of not knowing what to say. I didn't want to offer advice out of my discomfort, or say something to make the situation worse. So I did the right thing—and, only in retrospect, understood it was correct.

Monroe and the others who came to me didn't need answers, sage advice, Bible verses, or a lecture on healthy behavior. He needed me to care, and I proved I cared by listening and accepting him in his dark moments.

If we want to help but don't know what to say, 
we wisely say nothing.

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Your Addiction

I've never been stimulated by or addicted to pornography. I suppose the major reason is because it wasn't available during my growing-up years. Today it's easy to make a few clicks on the keyboard or press buttons on the TV remote and the porn is in front of us.

A few men speak with disdain over others' bad decisions. They're repulsed when they learn that a friend has sneaked back (even temporarily) into old habits. Roger visits his friends Norm and Stan for dinner and ends up drunk or smoking pot again. "He should have known better," Stan says.

Perhaps it gives the speaker a sense of superiority or he feels smug because he doesn't do those things. He can talk dismissively about others who are still caught with their addictions or weaknesses.

I think of a verse from the Bible that urges us to help those who have failed and adds, "Humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself" (Galatians 6:1).

I may not have your problems, but I have my own. I'm not better than you (or worse). Each of us faces our own weaknesses.

Your addictions or problems are yours; 
I must not forget that I struggle with my own issues.

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