"You're being selfish... Complaining about your past... All I hear is 'me, me, me'"
"Paul said to forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal."
"Don't let your past define you."
"Get over your 'victim mentality' and get on with your life."
"Writing about such things breeds malcontent, bitterness, and unforgiveness."
"You must not be healed completely if you keep going back to these things."
Sound familiar? What I want to know is this: Who says that those of us who write against spiritual abuse, using our own pasts, aren’t moving on? Do they think that writing about what happened, about our own stories, means that we’re still stuck in that place? -That we cannot “get past it?” Why does it have to be either/or?
I don’t believe it does. These people like to quote Philippians 3:13: “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things that lie behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” They claim that we are not doing this. They claim that by not forgetting, we are not pressing on. But I say that we are. Do you realize that previous to saying this, Paul spent an entire chapter talking about where he came from? Talking about his past? He obviously didn’t forget. –He didn’t deny who he was, what he’d done, and where he came from.
Are we supposed to do this as believers? Forget where we were before Christ saved us? The New Testament is full of such phrases as “You once were ___. But now you are ___.” The writers of the epistles constantly speak of what things were like in their past and the past of their readers, while pointing to their present. Why? Because who we are is, in part, defined by who we were.
Think about it…
How can you write about healing without first talking about brokenness?
How can you proclaim victory without first speaking of defeat?
How can you claim freedom without first describing bondage?
How can I “comfort those who are in trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” if I cannot speak of how God has comforted me?
How can I speak of salvation without talking about what I was saved from?
How I praise God for His forgiveness if I cannot remember for what I was forgiven?
I cannot. It just doesn’t work that way.
I can speak of my past sins with sorrow, but as one who is not bound by them anymore. I can speak of past pain as one who has been and is being healed. Without the perspective of the past, we cannot understand our present or our future. This isn’t bitterness, though it definitely could be there. No matter who we are, we must constantly be watchful that we don’t let such things as bitterness and resentment take up residence in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we live in constant fear of being bitter. But there is a huge difference between remembering where I came from so as to not go there again, and dwelling on the sins of others in such a way that we let hatred of them consume us. Those of us who use our pasts to speak against a vile wrong, are not “breeding malcontent or unforgiveness.” Anyone who says different obviously hasn’t been reading the articles and letters on this site with openness.
And yes, I will always be a “victim.” As my friend, Lore, once wrote, “…A victim is a person who has been wronged, a person against whom a crime has been committed. The word has nothing to do with being strong or weak, or having a good or bad attitude. If someone was hit by a car, even if it was an accident on the part of the well-intended driver, that person is a victim of an auto accident. If someone’s house is robbed, even if that person took every possible security measure before, during, and after the robbery, and even if that person has a very proactive response to the situation, that person is a victim of a robbery. Likewise, if someone was subjected to a system of spiritual abuse, especially if that person’s parents imposed said system when the person was a child, that person has been wronged. To borrow from the Lord’s Prayer, that person has been ‘trespassed against.'”
I am the victim of a house fire. I always will be. Because it happened to me. This helps to explain a little about my heart, who I am, how I react to crises in my life, and why I hyperventilate when I see huge fires or freak out when I think I smell smoke in the middle of the night. When others find out, they have a better understanding of me. Remembering the fire doesn’t mean I’m still “stuck” back there in the past. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t moved on. Obviously I have. I’ve slowly collected new clothes, kitchen utensils, and furniture. The pain of losing all of my belongings does still cause my heart to twinge every so often, but that’s because pain doesn’t go away overnight. Healing is a process. I will never forget that memory. But its effect on me will change as the years go by.
We’re all on a journey. None of us get there overnight. We may even have set-backs from time to time. Some days we go miles. Other days… mere inches. But if we ever forget where we came from, we will be just as lost as if we do not know where we are going. Without the perspective of our past paths, out future paths aren’t as easily understood. We talk about our journey so that others might be encouraged on theirs. We tell them “I’ve been there. You’re not too far now!” and they get the courage to keep moving on. We say, “You don’t want to go down that path… I did just that and let me tell you where I ended up.” And some person might be saved from that mistake. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. And it is by the word of our testimony that others, too, might be saved.
One last thought: Someone recently pointed out that if their daughter were to write about them the way I write about my parents, that they would feel horrible. I certainly hope you would! You should feel horrible when you have hurt someone you love. And then you should move on. Confess your sins to them and seek forgiveness. Pray for reconciliation. Be real and open and honest about your mistakes. And let grace have its way with you. But do not be offended if they then learn from your mistakes. Take them and use them to help others light their paths. Hopefully you too will be able to say, “Yes, I did that. I said that. I believed that. I taught that. I was wrong,” and let the shame roll off your back and into the gutter where it belongs.