Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. —James 1:12
The title of this post is as it says, and that is Gods’ plan for us. As I know from first hand experience and daily battles, it is hard to sometimes feel as though we are thriving, especially in a life that has been short but packed with many negatives that haunt you day in and day out, as if they stopped for a while or maybe never and then PTSD just continues to make you hyper vigilant and fearful.
Not only surviving but thriving has been on my mind a lot, especially since Thursday evening when I saw my favorite Christian band in concert, which is Casting Crowns. Like a lot of other Christian music whose lyrics dig deep, and chime on the love of Christ, but can still hit home with anyone who knows ups and downs in life. And the trials we may face regardless of how much we love Christ or live to always do our best to do the right thing. We are still human, we will still know joy sometimes as well as sadness. But as some of you know Casting Crowns new album is titled Thrive and then they have a story behind the huge tree on the cover. But it just goes to show that God wants us to thrive, not to merely survive or squeak by day-to-day.
If you are anything like me maybe you have questioned why you’re here or questioned Gods’ plan for you, or been angry because of what you have endured in this life, asking “Why God, why me?”
But since the Garden of Eden, and the eating of the forbidden fruit, humanity knew our walk in life would never be the same, and also that we have the right to choose, and make our own decisions. And maybe we always try to do the right thing, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be hurt by others, and their poor choices. We all have been on the short end of the stick when it comes to people hurting us and I am sure we all have been guilty once or twice of hurting others. Now I’m not saying a mean comment is the same as abuse, or an attitude is the same as murder, there are extremes. And some effect us more than others. Short term and long-term it all depends on what happened and how much support and care you have gotten after. Now I’ll hit on some stuff that I can relate to and maybe you can too, which is why I even take time to do these posts.
As I have mentioned many times before and I’m becoming more and more of an outspoken advocate for Child Abuse victims, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am well aware of the damage that is caused because of it. At the hands of a much older female babysitter when I was around 3-4 years old. And following the abuse, was never given any help for what took place. So at a level of maturity that a toddler has, and the years to come I was left to deal with the after effects on my own and to try to make sense of what happened, which didn’t happen until I was much older. I had very bad anger problems as a child, never knew they were connected. I had “acted out” with other children my age, like 5 or 6 times, because I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t even know what it was we were doing, I just knew it had been “taught” to me. No one ever helped me. No one ever told me it was wrong or shouldn’t have happened. No one loved me enough to protect me, no one put their arms around me and loved me unconditionally and showed I could trust them. Not only was I abused as a young child by a babysitter, I was in foster care 3 times which consisted of like 5-6 years between 4 and 12. So not only was I abused but neglected and abandoned by those who should love you the most, which in the end makes you feel ever worse about yourself, like you weren’t good enough or it was your fault.
Not only does hearing of children and adults being abused make me sick to hear or think about, but the way it is minimized and categorized as something aside from abuse is totally asinine. It doesn’t matter if it is a male abusing a female, male abusing a male, or a female abusing a male or female, it is ABUSE, and it is wrong to be viewed as anything else. Children and adolescents are not mature enough or capable of having an adult relationship with someone much older or someone who is an adult. It isn’t possible. So to say a boy who is 3, 4, 5, 8, however old is capable of having a “relationship” with an adult woman or man is ignorant and unintelligent. First off, they aren’t educated at that point, mature enough or have enough knowledge to know what it is that is happening, and it is simply an unfair tug-of-war battle of power by someone much older against someone who is vulnerable.
It’s mind-blowing that a man can abuse a girl, and it is rape or abuse, but a woman can do the same to a boy and it is downplayed. Or minimized as him being lucky, or an initiation and you know what from personal experience, that is how I viewed it for a long time. I never really told anyone because I didn’t think it was a big deal, or I thought once I was older, those things feel kind of good, if I only I were older when she did that…..But the truth is, is I didn’t know how it would affect me once I realized what was done. I didn’t know that my lack of self-esteem and confidence was because of that. I didn’t realize that I would be diagnosed with PTSD as an adult, and have flashbacks all because of what she did back then. I didn’t know, I would be so angry or that the reason I was is because of that. I didn’t know, it would affect my ability to be close to people, and establish healthy, trusting relationships. I didn’t know, I would internalize it, and be eaten alive by shame and guilt. I didn’t know I would cut and burn myself as a young teenager because I had so much pain inside of me. Not to mention, how often I feel as if I am leading a double life, I am an EMT and a firefighter, here I am every day at work running to people to help their emergencies, and doing all I can to make a difference in their lives, while merely falling apart in my own, wanting to be the rescuer or help people, but I don’t even feel worthy enough to ask for help or to reach out and share my story and bare my face. The desire in me to help other children who are in situations similar to what I grew up in, is burning inside of me, I feel it all the time. But then there is Satan in the back of my head, telling me I am not worthy or that I will be judged or look bad if I speak up. And you know, since trust has always been so hard for me, Satan wins a lot of the time. I start to get my courage up, and have good days and weeks, and feel as if I can change the world, and then Satan tells me, “Man, if you share your story people will think you are weak, less of a man, gay, dangerous to children, and they will minimize it or blame you and you’ll fail and look dumb.” And you know what, this far, he has won. (It’ all fear based and I know I am not alone, its very common among survivors, partially due to the myths that surround child victimization.) Because 99% of people who know me, know nothing about me. They know my name, they know what I do for a living, they know I love Christ, they know where I live or my phone number, but they don’t know my story. They don’t know how hard it is to live a life as if I am okay, and strong because physically speaking, I am well-built and healthy, but that inside me, I have a void that has never been filled, not yet. That I appear to be strong, and doing well but that’s where people go wrong, someone who is used to hurting they get really good at faking it around people, to keep from drawing attention, and the despair and pain always comes out or emerges when we are alone. I know that Christ can help fill my void, it’s a matter of trusting. It has always been a battle of mine, as far as I can remember. With friends, in my relationships with females growing up, and especially since I was diagnosed with PTSD, I always feel as if people have ulterior motives, whether it’s with me or people close to me. I have extreme difficulty establishing and feeding healthy relationships, in fear of being hurt some way again, instead of risking it, it gets to be easier to isolate but then life is plain and empty. Whether they are romantic relationships with females or just friendships with anyone, growth doesn’t come easy, and I struggle to get close to people or to allow them close to me. It’s a matter of self-doubt because when the traumas happened I couldn’t keep myself safe, and so who is to say I can now? And a matter of fear, of the past repeating itself. Because we may be physically bigger, and stronger but memories don’t know time, so they feel so real.
Another thing that drives me mad, and is internalized by many men, and few women who are abused, is the fear of being “less than” of a man or human, which is much more common in male survivors than women mainly due to society and the fact that mainly women are considered victims and men are referred to as lucky. But what are us “lucky” guys supposed to think of ourselves years later when we are hurting and facing the damage done to us during such encounters. It makes us feel as if we did something to attract the abuse, or that we can’t be real men, because real men protect themselves. Although many times we are young boys, not men. But that’s where memories know no time. The brain doesn’t differentiate the time gap. So in return we become isolated in fear of appearing “vulnerable” again when we never did in the first place, we were just taken advantage of. But in fear of being victimized again or feeling helpless, we keep people at bay, we become rigid in our boundaries and keep everyone out just in case they mean harm or have ulterior motives, we restrict our range of emotions to only anger, and toughness, because if we show love, compassion, tenderness and caring qualities it may appear as if we are weak, or not “manly” enough because those aren’t societies views of masculinity.
So I have a question, how are men supposed to be good fathers and husbands, when the world and societies we live in frown upon men being kind, compassionate, loving, and displaying at times more feminine emotions or qualities. You want children to grow and develop with fathers who are rigid, stern, distant, angry, emotionless, demanding, controlling, instead of with a father who can be child-like and have fun, laugh and play, be loving, compassionate, supportive, and mindful of their children’s needs in life. Men and women aren’t the only ones suffering because of these guidelines that are taught. The children are paying a high price, a very high price. They are taught at a very young age that boys don’t cry, men are in control always, we are never victims unless you are weak, and it gets passed on and on to future generations, and then a majority of children suffer because those boys turn into men, and those men have sons and daughters and those sons and daughters have children, and if someone like myself isn’t dead set on breaking the cycle it continues to get passed on to their kids, and men forget how to be a real dad, and feel a full range of motions, and be content with being human and having ups and downs, instead of always needing control, and never hurting. Not to mention if those fathers were once victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment and what not and then the internalization of not being a “real man” if ever victimized or hurt, makes a bigger impact on how that man feels about himself and how he relates to the world around him, mostly out of fear, until he continues to grow, learn, and does the work necessary to break through all of those lies that continuously are told to our youth nonstop.
I guess you could look at this way too, outside of fatherhood. Do you want to go to a doctor or have your child go to a doctor who is mean, rigid, disrespectful, lacks compassion and love, and treats everyone poorly? Yeah, I’m sure the answer is no, so why should our boys grow into men feeling the only way they can be real men, is if they do exactly that, and always have control and never be vulnerable. It really blows my mind, and those things need to be changed before more children pay the price.
Just because someone is hurt or victimized as a child or adolescent doesn’t mean they are weak, damaged or less of a man or woman, or incapable of being great human beings and parents. It doesn’t matter if someone is abused by someone of the same-sex or someone of the opposite sex, it’s abuse, none-the-less. Not an act of consensual sex, it’s an act of abuse of power on part of the abuser, for them to know the difference, and know what they are doing, and to do it anyways, to someone vulnerable or uneducated. It doesn’t make a man “gay” or a woman a “lesbian”, and it does NOT mean that they will abuse others. If anything it will keep someone from ever wanting to do something like that, because we know how much pain it causes. And abuse doesn’t make someones sexual orientation, although they say it can cause confusion, which means they may not be comfortable with taking part in sex, because they were introduced to it through abuse, or maybe they are very promiscuous because they relate to sex as love. Or if they were abused from someone of the same-sex, and experienced any pleasurable feelings during the traumatic event, because the body responds through a physiological response, not by choice they may not know why if they are heterosexual that their body responded the way it did, why your body deceives you. They also say that, sexual orientation is determined early on in life, and most people who identify as homosexual, had feelings of being different or of being homosexual before their abuse. But there is a lot of research into what impacts someones sexual identity and human sexuality, and I am no scientist. But there are classes in college regarding such topics.
But those are all very damaging myths, just because a couple fit that mold, it isn’t right to fit all under that judgment, that just adds more weight onto someone who is healing from abuse, and trying to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem enough to carry out Gods’ plan for us. Not any 2 cases are identical, so everyone who has been abused shouldn’t be treated the same, or categorized as dangerous, gay, damaged, less than; doing so is further damaging.
So if you are a survivor I send my prayers and well wishes and I hope this helped, feel free to share it to help others, or if you aren’t, I would advise you to become further educated before you choose to speak freely on a topic such as this, speaking without education would be speaking out of pure ignorance, and makes you look silly once the facts are shown. We can together continue to move forward to help one another heal, and to bring awareness because we have to be the ones to share our stories and stop it. And as we do that we all become better spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, teachers, coaches, pastors, and friends. Put and keep your trust in Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Please share, and educate others!