Information can be abused. So can rank, power and trust. Animals can be abused. So of course, can people.
Abuse can be deliberate or unintentional, sustained or temporary. It can be mental, emotional, political, corporate, institutional, sexual, physical, or spiritual. It can come from individuals or groups. It can even be self-inflicted. Whatever its shape, what do we do with its legacy? Is a Christian response different to that of the world?
These are bigger questions than a lifetime of blogging could hope to answer. But perhaps Selwyn Hughes helps us make a start.
Hughes argues that, in the secular model, recovery from abuse takes the form of three steps – self-discovery, self-expression and self-protection. Self-discovery is where the victim is encouraged to get in touch with their repressed emotions. Self-expression is the release and expression of those emotions. Self-protection is the establishment of boundaries around one’s life so that one will never have to experience or endure serious hurt again.
The biblical route to healing is, he argues a more difficult one. Whilst recognising that there is some truth in this strategy, it starts from a different base and leads to a different goal. It begins with this question: Do I believe that a God, who allowed me to be as deeply hurt as I was, is good? And it ends by asking this: Am I willing to give myself to those I am called to love and to be more concerned with loving well than protecting myself from hurt?
These are enormous, dark questions. I don’t pretend to be able to resolve them in a blog post. But one of the best resources I’ve listened to on the theme of recovery from abuse is ‘The Wounded Heart‘ by Dan Allender. The audio seminars are brilliant but pricey, (find them here).
Allender goes deep into the devastation of abuse but also testifies to the grace of Christ that is deeper still.
I’d be glad to hear of other helpful resources…