This blog post is about Isolation that so many feel because of abuse as well as their fallen sinful nature. It is self protection rather than God protection. It is something I have only come to understand in recent years. With this understanding comes the understanding of the damage done to the abused. Barriers are put up in relationships to keep us safe ,but at the same time we are losing out on the God given privilege and responsibility of bearing God’s image to one another.
Those who struggle with the affects of abuse have found ways to protect themselves. One of the ways is lying. As a young child finds triggers that will cause the adult in their life to respond in a negative way, they will lie their way out of situations as often as it works. This pattern of lying will continue in life to make people react to them in the way they have concluded is the best for them. These patterns don’t change as we grow old, instead they become more imbedded into our life’s relationships. The sad part is that we also lie to ourselves and reality is hard to see.
Another way of protecting yourself is by just keeping the distance, staying away from the abuser as much as possible. Little children will hide in closets, older people will stay away from home as much as possible. You can hide in a crowd, by making sure you are not alone with the abuser, making sure others are around to ward off the wrath or confrontation. You can hide in activity, finding something to keep you occupied rather than engaging with others. You can hide by finding ways to numb your soul ,with food or alcohol or any addictive substance.
In a devotional by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called The Quiet Place, she tells about the giant redwoods in California. Some of these trees reach 350 feet in the air and are more than 2,500 years old. You would think they would have an enormous root system extending hundreds of feet into the ground. But the fact is their roots are very shallow, no deeper than six to ten feet. One could wonder how these massive trees could stand up under the the storms and wind that come in that part of the country. They stand because their roots intertwine with each other and they are not standing alone. Each of them supports and protects the other.
This picture show us our need for one another. We were designed to grow in community together as believers, not in isolation, but having our root system intertwined with each other, providing mutual nourishment, protection and support.
“God’s design is that the lives of believers-particularly within the local church- should be characterized by this kind of interdependence, not merely present in body but actively involved in sharing and giving and serving and learning – together. We need accountability and encouragement from each other if we expect to keep ourselves vertical. It’s not an option; it’s a matter of survival.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss
This illustrates the damage done to the abused person who feels they can only trust themselves to take care of their needs. They can’t trust others or God to meet them. Larry Crabb calls this the sin of self protection. This is sin because we are engineering our own life and perceived needs rather than looking to God who knows what our needs are far better than we do.
The following will be excerpts from Celestia G. Tracy Mending the Soul work book copyright 2015:
Page 164: Isolation occurs when we maintain relational distance in order to feel safe. The trauma of abuse and the emotional damage of neglect create isolation in myriad ways. The unhealthy relational patterns you learn when you’re a child stay stubbornly with you into adulthood. If you have a history of broken relationships, you may feel safer keeping others at a distance-both longing for and fearing intimacy: that vulnerable joy of being known and knowing another. We’re drawn to each other because this is how God created us. In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Scripture describes intimacy between man and woman as “one flesh” because they become as one person, naked without shame (Genesis 2:25). But Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3 6-13), and the perfect connection between man and woman- as well as the perfect connection between them and God-was severed. Experiencing shame for the first time, they hid from God, and blame shifting began: Adam blamed God and Eve for his choices, and Eve blamed the serpent.
Page 166: I’m Shameful Toxic shame drives us into hiding, because we believe we’ll never be loved or forgiven. Shame tells us we’ll be rejected if we’re real and honest. So, like Adam and Eve, we withdraw and hide from God, others, and even ourselves.
I’m Shattered If a child’s needs are responded to in loving and consistent ways, they internalize positive beliefs about themselves and their relationships … Neglect and abuse shatter these positive core beliefs, convincing the victim that the world is a dangerous place.
Page 167: I can’t trust-I’m Untrustworthy Relational distrust flows out of our assumptions about life and others. I’m safer not trusting others, we assure ourselves. Abuse destroys trust.
There is hope and Steven Tracy writes about reconnecting and healing Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse Pages 125 – 126
RECONNECTING AND HEALING The bad news—and the good news—about being a human made in God’s image is that we are profoundly affected by our relationships with other humans. When people misuse their power and abuse others, tremendous long-term damage is created. Abuse damage is particularly evident in abuse victims’ relationships. Abuse creates shame, mistrust, and emotional constriction, all of which undermine abuse survivors’ relationships. Abuse isolates victims. The good news is that healthy relationships have tremendous power to nurture the soul and heal the wounds of abuse. The power of human relationships to heal is an expressly biblical concept. It was a loving relationship with his new bride that healed and comforted Isaac after he lost his mother (Genesis 24:67). It was David’s intimate relationship with his friend Jonathan that helped him endure physical abuse and attempted murder by King Saul (1 Samuel 19–20). It was Barnabas and the disciples at Damascus who took the risk to love and disciple Saul, the very man who had been persecuting Christians (Acts 9:1–30). Shortly before the apostle Paul (the man formerly called Saul) was executed, it was Timothy and Luke who brought him help and comfort when others had abandoned him (2 Timothy 4:9–17). God has designed the church, the body of Christ, to be the matrix in which healing and sanctification take place. Believers are to love, restore, and care for each other because they are all part of the same spiritual body through Christ.38This is a particularly powerful principle for those who have experienced abuse by family members because, in spite of what one has experienced from his or her physical family, God has given a spiritual family of fellow believers who can love and nurture and aid in the process of healing. There are two principles that come into play as we encourage abuse victims to reconnect with others. Friends and family members of abuse victims must recognize the critical role they play in preventing and healing abuse damage. Their response to abuse will largely affect the extent to which the abuse will create long-term damage. For instance, parents’ and caregivers’ harsh, disbelieving, or apathetic responses to a child’s abuse disclosure can be as damaging as, or more damaging than, the original abuse, whereas supportive responses can mitigate abuse damage.
This principle is true for adult survivors of abuse as well. One of the strongest findings in a large-scale study of female sexuality and abuse was that women who were raped as adults were far less likely to destructively seek to control their sexual desires (shut down, etc.) if they had felt very close to at least one immediate family member in childhood.In another study of adult rape survivors, the reported length of time required for recovery was directly related to the quality of intimate relationships the women experienced in the present. Survivors who had a supportive, stable relationship with a spouse or partner recovered more quickly than those who did not.41 Friends and family members of abuse survivors must be patient, recognizing that shattered trust is rebuilt very slowly. They must also be strong and gracious, for in the early stages of recovery abuse survivors often lash out most severely at their closest allies. It’s very helpful for loved ones to realize that much of the abuse survivors’ rage is displaced rage at their abusers.
The second principle is this: Abuse victims must, with God’s strength, learn to develop safe, intimate relationships. They must learn to resist the temptation to hide and pull away. They must learn to give God and the healthy people he puts into their lives a chance to love them. They, in turn, must learn to love others, in spite of the fact that the world is not always a safe place. They must learn to resist distrusting God and good, safe people because of what an evil, unsafe person did to them. Lori Tapia illustrates this principle as she summarizes the lessons she learned in her journey of healing from incest. In particular, she notes the way God healed her sexuality and her marriage after several years of complete shutdown, isolation, and rage: All our hard work and perseverance in the flow of God’s presence had paid off. The fruits have been profound joy, hope, true faith, and yes—great sex! Not only did genuine intimacy become possible for me—it even became enjoyable. . . .Learning to trust has been the most important step for me. I didn’t know how. Step by excruciating step, I learned to trust [my husband] more each time. . . . The process has convinced me of the capacity of the human heart to respond to persistent love. I believe we want terribly to believe that love is real and that we are loved. Maybe we’ve just never seen it lived out. Or maybe we have, but our souls were so wounded that we could not receive it. At some point I had to choose to believe. The payoff has been worth the risk.
Lori’s comments set the stage for the next and final section of Mending the Soul. Now that we’ve surveyed the profound soul damage created by abuse, we need to discover the process of healing. In the next three chapters, I’ll map out a path so that those ravaged by abuse can experience emotional, spiritual, and relational healing. End of Quote
The next three chapters are the reason I wanted to write this blog. There is healing and hope all because of God’s love and grace!