Saturday, May 31, 2008

Do You Want Healing? (Part 1)

“Jesus said, ‘What can I do for you?’

The blind man said, ‘Rabbi I want to see.’

‘On your way,’ said Jesus. ‘Your faith has saved and healed you.’

In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.’”

—Mark 10:51 (The Message)

When Jesus was approached by lepers and blind men, he often asked them a question before healing them. I used to wonder why he asked what they wanted Him to do for them. Their need for healing was so obvious. Why did he ask?

I now believe Jesus asked to increase the recipient’s blessing. Asking for help causes us to take stock of our situation. Asking helps us to humbly recognize our true needs. Asking helps us to humbly recognize our helplessness to fix things in our own strength with our own abilities. Asking engages our faith, and our hope. Asking prepares the heart for thankfulness and praise when our request is granted.

Have you asked for healing from the trauma of abuse? Have you asked for specific healing for wounds that affect your behavior?

God is able…just ask, saying specifically what you are asking him to do for you.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


So many abused people
Remember hiding
Trying to be invisible
To be out of harm's reach

Hiding, always hiding
under the bed or in the closet
in the woods or in the treetops
Under a bush or behind a chair

Hiding thoughts and beliefs
Burying feelings
Trying to keep pieces intact
Deep inside and far away

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Four Reasons to Rest

Emotional healing from abuse of any sort takes much hard work. It also requires seasons of rest. Have you ever felt burned out with professional counseling? Have you ever worked so much on trying to overcome an old coping behavior that you feel you are banging your head against a wall? These are normal parts of the journey.

When you feel ready for a break, go ahead and rest. There are four wonderful benefits of taking a rest period from emotional healing work:

  1. During a break you can see better how far you have come. You can notice how you behave now versus how you were behaving before the last round of counseling or the last stack of self-help books. Seeing the changes will help you to feel re-energized when you are ready to bite off the next chunk of healing in the future.
  2. A rest period allows you to enjoy trauma-free living. It helps you to get used to the idea that you don’t need all of your life to center around survival any more. You can explore and find out more about who else you are.
  3. A rest, a time in which you are not focusing on memories or digging up unresolved feelings, can be a great time to practice taking good care of yourself and loving others in healthy ways. Your successes will refresh you and bless others.
  4. A rest from healing work can help you to reassess if you are keeping God and His Kingdom as your first priority. You can rest in Christ Jesus and receive God’s wonderful care as your Good Shepherd. It will deepen your trust in God and give you greater faith and strength when it is time to enter another period of active healing work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You are More than a Victim

You are More

by Tanya T. Warrington

You have suffered abuse,

but you are not solely a victim

You have tears to shed in God’s timing,

but you are not doomed to unending depression

You have secrets you have kept,

but you are not required to continue hiding the truth

You are more than the trauma

You are more than the heartache

You are more than the memories

You are more than a survivor

You are a traveler on a difficult road

You are a gift to others given by God

You are more than you think

You can nurture yourself

You can allow healing

You can walk in Christ Jesus

You can talk about things that excite you

You can explore things you’ve always wanted to try

You can be thankful for the blessings God bestows

You are a cracked pot that can shine forth God’s redeeming power

You are a unique creation with a specific job to do

You are an eternal being with many choices to make

You have suffered abuse,

but it can make you more empathetic

You have tears to shed in God’s timing,

but you can smile joyfully too

You have secrets you have kept,

but today you can sing out about God’s goodness.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Art Therapy

Pain from trauma can remain stuck in the heart, mind, soul, and body for decades. Finding ways to release the pain, the suppressed memories and feelings is essential for continued healing. One tool that God has led me to use is art therapy. I don’t personally know any art therapists, but that has not mattered. I am not an “artist” but that does not matter either.

Don't worry. This isn't like art in elementary school--no one is going to grade your art. You do not need to show your creation to anyone. It is the process of creating that is healing. If you want to share it with someone you trust, then do so--but it is fine to keep it private.

I urge you to experiment with this powerful recovery tool. So far, here are some of the art projects that have helped me to heal:

  • Creating magazine picture collages to help me visualize who I want to be or to reveal pain I am facing.
  • Finger-painting nothing in particular, just letting the colors and the textures express pent up emotion.
  • Writing certain poems with a crayon
  • Sculpting out of clay, letting my mind shut off and allowing my hands to find a shape in the mound of clay.
  • Sketching or painting scenes of God’s beautiful creation renews feelings of hope and connection with God
  • Making a shadow box of my journey
  • Creating different bulletin boards (like elementary school teachers do). On those boards, I highlight the lessons God is teaching me.
  • Making floral arrangements to remind myself of God’s grace and beauty.
  • Designing signs to hang up using the graphic tools on the computer.
  • Creating posters on construction paper.
  • Decorating a prayer shoe box.

If you think that you could never create anything, it is time to reconsider. Everyone has God-endowed creativity. If you find it difficult to make anything with art materials then look for other forms of creativity. Do like to dance? To make music? To bake? To work on fixing engines? To build things out of wood? To write things in sand? To paint rooms? Is there anything you do that creates or alters something in a way that enhances your life? When you’re angry, create with speed and large motions. When you are depressed, allow color reflect where you are at or express yourself with slow fluid motion.

Give art a try. Release emotions and live more abundantly.When you have pent up feelings or need to understand your thoughts or reactions, get creative.

Tanya T. Warrington

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Those Threats

My car made a funny clicking sound after I started it. I froze. My heart pounded loud and hard.

It's been over 11 years since I left my abusive husband, but I reacted automatically. I was on adrenalin-pumping high alert.

I tried to laugh at myself. It had been way too long ago...there was no way my car was about to explode.

Memories came back of the year I separated from my husband. The year my car, my mailbox, and my front door all became a threat. Even then I told myself I was crazy for worrying every time I twisted a key. For the first few months, I had post traumatic stress disorder. I ducked when a man expectantly walked into a room, I went clammy when I heard neighbors yelling, I woke up from dreams drenched in sweat, and I told my kids to wait a few feet away when I turned my car lock. I clamped my jaws down hard each time I turned on the car ignition with a twist of the key.

I wasn't born with lock phobia.

I was the victim of repetitive suggestion. I didn't even notice while I lived with my husband how many times he told stories about blowing up several cars of people he didn't like when he was in high school. I didn't consciously tune in to the times he told me that he knew how to wire the ignition to a bomb (even though he hadn't gone that far in high school). I dismissed as silly the times that he bragged that he had CIA information that would enable him to hide--or make it possible to eliminate someone and eradicate all record of her ever having lived. I thought those messages had little meaning--until I left and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought to the forefront all the direct and indirect threats said over many years.

I've had the car checked. I now know about the sound that set off an old fear. The clicking in my car (due to an electric component malfunctioning because my battery was going bad) was a step of the healing process. It let me know a fearful response still remains buried inside of me. Now, I have the opportunity to ask God to do more healing.

It will be a joy to have no more automatic fear reactions left. Fear no longer rules my everyday thoughts. God has freed me and healed many places within my mind, emotions, and soul already. I trust that he will heal automatic reactions in His perfect timing.

Do you ever see the fingerprints of abuse in your responses to situations? Do you ask for God’s healing?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Gender Issue

It saddens me when people hate a gender because of the painful abuse they have endured in the past. Abuse is horrible, but it is not limited to only one of the two genders. Men have abused women, men, girls and boys. Women have abused all the same groups.

Women and men, let’s face our real enemy square on. Sin drives abuse. Greed, lust, and desire for more power motivate abusers.

When I write about abuse I sometimes write about the victim as she and the abuser as he, because it is less cumbersome writing and because more women than men report being victims of abuse. I never want grammar, however, to confuse anyone about the nature of abuse. Consistently, sociologists report abuse demographics cross all boundaries of gender, age, nationality, economic status, sexual orientation, or religion.

Some researchers focus on the role patriarchal society has played in giving birth to the victimization of women. I suppose anything that creates a power imbalance does increase the incidence of abuse. It makes sense. But patriarchal considerations only explain one type of abuse. We would need to explore all the other imbalances of power to have a complete picture of abuse. What about the power adults have over children, the power teens have over elementary aged children, the power caregivers have over their charges, or the power adult offspring have over elderly parents with health or mental issues? I suspect abuse occurs most frequently in situations in which one person naturally has greater power than the other. But it doesn’t explain all abuse.

What about a young child who abuses a peer? What about a teenager who date-rapes another teen? What about a younger child who abuses an older sibling? What about gangs abusing peer-age groups? What about wives abusing their larger husbands? What happens in matriarchal societies? Is there less abuse or more abuse in which women are the abusers? As long as we have sinful human beings interacting with other sinful human beings, abusers will abuse.

When we are hurt, the first question many of us ask is, “Why?” But knowing why, when it can be known, does not heal. Understanding why someone did it, does not fix the injuries. It doesn’t even help us to do the full work of forgiveness, not really. To forgive I must fully acknowledge how much I was hurt and how incapable the other is of fixing the damage they have done—why he or she did it doesn’t really make any difference in whether I can forgive. Understanding Hitler was insane should not short-cut the painful healing process for any concentration survivors.

For healing purposes, why someone abuses is much less important than how we deal with abuse. To heal we focus on acknowledging the effects of abuse and processing our emotions, beliefs, thoughts, and actions. We take responsibility for how we will live the rest of our lives, regardless of whether our abuser is male or female.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sphere of Influence

The serenity prayer is a great place to begin in determining which things are our areas of responsibility:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

If you are a former victim of abuse, you are responsible for how you live your life today. You can directly control only your own behavior. You can influence (have a limited impact on) your children, spouse, friends, work associates, relatives, and others you interact with.

When some current decision troubles me, I often make myself a serenity prayer type chart:

What I cannot change/need God’s help to accept

What I can change/ need God’s help to be courageous about

Most often these are things about other people.

Most often these things are about me-my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, & behaviors

If I were to make a very general chart of some of the things I and other victims have struggled with it would include the following:

What Former Victims Cannot Change:

What Former Victims Can Change:

How our abuser(s) behaved in the past

Choices about how much we will process the old hurts and violations

The original impact abuse had on us

Decisions we make about how to live our lives today

The abusers’ opinions about us

What we tell ourselves about who we are

How many abusive and unhealthy people there are in the world

Careful choices about who we let into our most intimate circle

Which parents we have

What kind of parent we will be

The rejection we felt in the past

How we will accept and love others

Monday, May 5, 2008

What is a Victim Responsible for?

Victims feel helpless. Yet, when we are in an abusive relationship we put lots of effort into trying to indirectly control the abuser. Whatever it takes to keep him happy, we do. Anything we can do that might keep him from getting “angry” we try. But eventually all victims learn that nothing they do works for long---in fact, the longer the relationship continues the less their behavior seems to make any difference. There is always a new reason he is upset.

We cannot control him. We cannot make him want to stop abusing. We cannot fix him.

So what can victims be responsible for? We can be responsible for treating ourselves with respect. We are the only ones who can set our own boundaries on what types of relationship we will tolerate. In an abusive marriage, we are the only one who will put our children’s needs first and take steps to give them a healthy environment to live in.

We have the power to make many decisions that will affect our welfare and our children’s welfare. We have choices. We can ask for God’s wisdom in figuring out our options. We can decide not to keep abuse a secret any longer; we can seek help from professionals. We can pray asking God to show us how to best love each member of our family. We can separate from our partner until he gets sufficient help to end his abusive behavior. We can educate ourselves on abuse and make decisions on how to change our responses. We can seek wise counsel. We can seek help to put an end to a relationship that is harming ourselves and our children. We can process our emotions. We can model healthy self-care for our children. We can get a restraining order.

In the next post let’s talk about responsibility for former abuse victims. If we are no longer living with an abuser what are our areas of influence?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bearing Your Cross?

How many times have sincere people crucified Christian victims of abuse by telling them that abuse must be “their cross” to bear? Far too many times.

It is a gross misrepresentation of scripture to tell others that abuse is a cross to heroically bear to prove their love to Christ.

If God’s will is to glorify abuse, then it would make sense to tell abused people to consider abuse their “cross.” Instead, I see a message of warning to abusers in God’s Word: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature…The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21). Clearly, God is not glorified by the sins of abuse.

If the gospel said we could earn salvation, then it might make sense to tell someone that abuse is a cross they should pick up. However, the gospel teaches we cannot earn salvation because it is a gift God the Father freely gives us despite our sinfulness. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Sacrificing our safety and well-being to abusers does not gain us any points in heaven.

If submitting to your abuser would teach others about God’s goodness, love and salvation, then it might make sense to call domestic violence a cross for the gospel of Jesus Christ. But domestic violence actually tears down souls and Satan uses it to try to convince victims that God is absent at best and an unjust wicked punisher at the worst. In addition to that, children who witness abuse are likely to become either victims or perpetrators of violence later in life. Domestic violence doesn’t teach anything positive.

Jesus was warning his followers about upcoming trials when he spoke of his upcoming date with the cross and the cross his followers needed to be prepared to carry. Read Matthew 10 to see the context ( is an easy way to look up verses while you are at your computer). Jesus warned his followers that difficult trials were coming soon. He made sure that they knew that the world would hate them, just as the world hated Jesus himself. He wanted them to preach the gospel and to stand strong in Jesus despite opposition to the truth. He instructed them to say whatever the Holy Spirit prompted them to say when they were dragged into courts for teaching others about God (Matthew 10:19-20).

Notice that Jesus did not tell them to throw themselves at suffering to try to prove their calling in Christ. In fact, he told them to be on guard against men who would unjustly punish them (Matthew 10:16-17) and to flee persecution (Matthew 10:23). Guard against and flee. Not words urging us to seek out unjust punishment.

What is the cross Christians must carry? Our cross is our willingness to follow Christ faithfully by obeying God, loving God with all that we are, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and teaching others the gospel message of hope. Jesus is looking for people who will not be ashamed to stand up as Christ-followers even if it costs us family members who do not understand or even if it costs us our lives should our government kill followers of Christ (Matthew 10:23-33 and 16:15-25, Mark 8:21-35).

Our cross has nothing to do with allowing sinful family members to degrade and endanger us for their own perverted entertainment.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Prayer Helps

The children who were removed in April from the polygamist retreat center, Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, have many concerned advocates now. People care whether they have been subjected to sexual and physical abuse. I am glad that we live among people who try to watch out for the best interests of children.

But it doesn't change the fact that these children's lives are turned upside down right now. The abuses and neglect that seems likely to have marred their young lives has been replaced with sudden removal from everything that was familiar. I doubt that many of those rescued children feel safe yet.

It is so tragic and overwhelming. So many children. Such secrecy about their former lives. What is the best way to help them?

My heart hurts for all those children. It is stressful to suddenly be expected to make decisions (when others have controlled you for years) and it is stressful to have contact suddenly severed from your family (no matter how they behaved).

It seems to me that the only thing that the majority of us can do is pray for them. But fortunately, God can do much with earnest prayers. I will add my prayer below in case any of you would like to join me:

Heavenly Father, we ask you to surround these children with your loving care. Please help them to cope emotionally and protect them from further harm. You know exactly what has happened to each child. Only You know whether any of these children could be safely returned to their parents. Bless each foster parent who tries to help these children, give them wisdom and sensitivity. Help these children to feel your comfort and your loving presence. Lead and direct medical teams, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and judges into the best way to help these children. You know what they need better than we do, Lord, may Your will be done. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft