The recurring theme that underlies the devastation of childhood sexual abuse is shame. The initial trauma produces shame and communicates a lie that in time becomes a core belief. The belief is that I no longer have value or worth as a human being. As the journey of life continues the core belief determines behaviors. Sadly, many if not all of the behaviors are destructive to the individual survivor and the community at large.
Healing begins when survivors acknowledge that they were abused. The next step, the most important, is to tell the story and release all the poison that has collected over the years. The shame is shrouded in silence and it is often years before the point of release can be reached.
The lies must be addressed, confronted, and reversed. There must be a renewing of the mind and recognition of the truth that has been silenced. The original lie that I as a survivor have no value or worth is where to begin. Henri Nouwen in his book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” helps begin the healing process by reminding us of who we are as followers of Christ. Nouwen says:
“Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests”—the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. I heard that voice. It has spoken to me in the past and continues to speak to me now. It is the never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love whenever it is heard. When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear. As the Beloved of my heavenly Father, “I can walk in the valley of darkness: no evil would I fear.” As the Beloved, I can “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.” Having “received without charge,” I can “give without charge”. As the Beloved, I can confront, console, admonish, and encourage without fear of rejection or need for affirmation. As the Beloved, I can suffer persecution without desire for revenge and receive praise without using it as a proof of my goodness. As the Beloved, I can be tortured and killed without ever having to doubt that the love that is given to me is stronger than death. As the Beloved, I am free to live and give life, free also to die while giving life.”
The most important truth to combat the lie of value is to hear from the heart that I am a “beloved son of God and on me his favor rests.” That truth may take many years to overcome the lie. It may come after years of silence, pain, and struggle. But it will come. With care and kindness from followers of our Lord, it will come.
AWARENESS is the necessity of moving this issue into the public arena. Holding onto Hope is working every day promoting awareness and walking with the courageous survivors that emerge from the silence searching for hope. Whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse or not, the issue of shame is common to everyone. Trust in our Lord and the truth He provides combats the lie in all of us that we are not worthy. The King made the way to restore us and one day we will be whole again. In the meantime, Hold onto the Truth and embrace more each day that WE ARE HIS BELOVED.