Let me the begin this blog by saying that I am not a psychologist. I have no formal training about how the brain works, but I do have decades of dealing with inner conflict and failing miserably.
Lately, I have been reading the book by Chuck Degroat, Wholeheartedness. It has given me great insight into my own inner conflict, and how to deal with it in a more effective way.
When I sit down with a friend who is upset about something in her life and is conflicted about what to do, the last thing I do is scream at her and tell her to shut up, nor do I try to ignore what she is saying. Rather, as a friend who cares, I listen to her words in an effort to understand why she is upset. Most of the time I discover it is because she is afraid. I try to offer compassion and give her some sort of comforting words that will calm her fear. But when I am dealing with my own inner conflict, I often treat myself with much contempt. I either scream at myself for being so ridiculous, or I try to ignore it and numb out my emotions in some way. I am finally beginning to recognize that dealing with my inner conflict this way, has only brought much harm.
Last week, I wrote a blog about my inner critic. But as my counselor pointed out to me, there’s more than one voice causing me conflict, and this one today is the one that I really don’t want to write about!
Just as a friend needs compassion when she is conflicted and afraid, so do those parts of my mind that are triggering some sort of fear that locks me down. These past couple of weeks, I have been praying that God would give me the ability to listen to what those sometimes irrational voices in my mind are trying to say and offer myself compassion.
Compassion comes when we allow ourselves to have sympathy for another. I recognize that the my conflicted mind needs compassion rather than more conflict. It takes an incredible amount of energy to argue with myself about what’s going on inside. God has called us to peace. A house divided cannot stand. A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. So all this fighting and avoiding has got to stop, and it can only happen by opening up all of my heart to the Only One who can bring me peace.
Over the past couple of weeks doing the exercises in Wholeheartedness, I realized how hard it is for me to really be still and allow God into certain parts of my life. I find it so much easier to read a book and gain some sort of understanding about trauma’s role in my life, to watch a television show to turn my brain off, or to clean to the house to make myself feel more in control. I avoid a close encounter with God more than I like to admit. Why?
I’m convinced it is because there are certain parts of my life that I am still afraid to give Him access to. Those parts I’m deeply ashamed and afraid of. Those parts that I allowed to come out when I was around my former pastor. I’ve tried for a long time to understand what it was that caused me the dark side of me to resurface when I was around him. The only explanation I have been able to come up up with is the deep sense of shame I felt about the sexual attraction I felt for him. The same stirrings had occurred during the abuse I experienced with my father. These stirrings caused me to hate myself and even sometimes harm myself. I gave into sexual temptation telling myself I was a sick human being who didn’t deserve any better. On the other side of giving into these desires, my inner conflict would be at an all time high. I’d do anything I could to shut up the voices of shame and condemnation and to numb out the pain that they brought. I sought approval and comfort from my former pastor, but there was never enough to give me peace. For a long time, I believed that I didn’t have any control over this part of myself. The only way I found that I was able to deal with it was to numb my emotions.
But then in my quiet time the other day, I had a vision of the adolescent I once was giving into sexual temptation and trying very hard to make the pain go away. She hated herself as she gave in. She thought what a sick and disgusted person she must be. She believed that she wasn’t worthy of love or acceptance. There was so much pain, but also a desperate longing to feel something, anything even if it was lust.
My former pastor made me feels things I hadn’t felt before. Somehow his kind words of affirmation and the attention that he gave me turned on a need I wasn’t even aware – the need to love and be loved by another person. Somehow I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t lovable. I’d built up walls around my heart and his affection began to tear those down. But behind those walls was that very scared and confused girl. Because of boundaries that were not kept and the abuse from my pastor, that girl came out and didn’t get healed, but got worse.
However, after almost two years of counseling with a licensed professional counselor, who has kept boundaries, this part of me has been able to hear the truth and get better. Yet, in my prayer time the other day I realized that I still resist giving access to God this part, because it is so painful and scary going there. I don’t trust this part of me and it is hard to trust God with her, too.
I’m so thankful for God’s loving patience with me. He knows how hard it is, because He knows how broken I am, and it grieves Him very much. He has nothing but compassion for me, and He wants me to have the same compassion for myself.
So I allowed myself to have a conversation with that hurting adolescent girl. I told her that even though she’d given into some temptations that had only made things more painful for her, that I understood why she was afraid, and told her that it was going to be ok. That God loved her and wanted her to know the she deserved to be loved. And somewhere deep in my heart, a peace that I didn’t understand came.
I know that I still have a lot of healing to do. Our bodies and minds were not created for trauma, but thank God He is making all things new and that includes us! It’s God’s kindness that brings us to repentance and renewal. And I thank Him that every time I receive His kindness that I am learning to be more kind to myself. He really does have a better way for me to live than the self destructive ways I’ve tried to do it on my own.
No matter what you’ve been through or what you’ve done, please rest knowing He loves you, too and He won’t give up until you know it!
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”