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The first step to emotionally and spiritually heal from any harmful relationship requires self-reflection. Self-reflection involves examining how you got into and chose to stay in your relationship. For this blog, I will focus on domestic abusive relationships. And I will address some of the changes you might need to make as you seek healing.

When I talk about self-reflection, I am talking about discovering how your partner’s abusive actions affected your emotional and spiritual well-being. I am not talking about taking the blame for what your abuser did. You are never responsible for someone else’s actions. But your responsibility is to understand what happened and what you did about it.

You can start by asking yourself, how did I get into this mess? I believe that when we self-reflect and try to answer that question, we will discover things that we might need to address as we seek healing. I will attempt to answer that question and suggest some things you can do to change and heal.

Self-reflection: How did I get into this mess?

Love

Yes, love is the number one reason why we stay in an abusive relationship. Most people I know married for love. I certainly did! But I think my concept of love wasn’t as clear as I thought it was. It was influenced by others’ perceptions of who I was and was performance-based. The truth was, I didn’t love who I was or saw myself as important, due to past experiences in my childhood and teenage years. In addition to those experiences, my parents weren’t around to nurture my sense of self-worth. This led to a faulty concept of love which made it difficult to tell the difference between healthy love versus sick love.

Love in an abusive relationship means one person does all the giving and the other person does all the taking. Once you realize that fact, you can change your unhealthy concept of love and replace it with healthy love. As Christians, we don’t have to look too far because Christ demonstrated what healthy love is.

Fear

We can’t move forward without addressing fear. Fear is what keeps us frozen and unable to seek change. Although fear is healthy if it keeps us out of danger, some of our fears are irrational. For me, I feared my husband’s wrath more than God’s wrath. You might ask, how so? I mean that I wasn’t afraid to break God’s commandments, such as lying to please Xavier or covering up for his abuse; in other words, I was more fearful of what my husband would do if I didn’t follow his wishes. Some of us fear our families, or what the church might say when we speak the truth. We let our fears stop us from seeking change.

We can’t let fear stop us from doing what we must do to change our abusive situation. If we’re ever going to move forward, we have to face up to our fears and realize that the alternative may be worse.

Shame/Embarrassment

As we self-reflect, I think shame is second only to fear in preventing us from seeking help. Shame is inwardly self-inflicted. Shame tells you that you are unimportant, or don’t deserve any sympathy because you made some bad choices. Embarrassment, on the other hand, is being affected by what other people think. Both are damaging to one’s sense of self.

I believe that educated women who are accustomed to being in control or who can access the resources to end the abuse are at more risk of letting shame and embarrassment stop them from seeking help. I know friends who have left their abusive relationships but haven’t started the process of healing from “domestic abuse” because they weren’t ready to accept the fact that they were victims. Accepting that fact will mean having to face their shame.

Confronting our shame in a safe environment will help us to overcome it so that we can move forward to freedom from abuse.

Anger

Self-reflection will help us uncover our anger, which is required to heal. Self-reflection means asking questions like, “Why didn’t I leave early?” and “I can’t believe I let him treat me that way, and why didn’t I do something?” These types of questions may produce anger and regret. Anger itself is not bad. Anger allowed me to take back some of my power; for instance, I refused to have a joint bank account so that I could have control of my money.

But the thing about anger is, if you stay in that state, you will become resentful and bitter. We have to make a conscious effort to use anger only for positive change and not let it control our lives

Trust

Abuse can cripple our sense of trust. It hampers our ability to trust ourselves and even God. I know of a woman who was angry with God for allowing her abuser to get off without any consequences. Mentioning God will send her into tears, and her resentment will be obvious in her face. She didn’t trust God anymore.

But I believe we have to retain our trust in God so that we can trust ourselves. Also, we have to understand what trust means.

I am glad the scriptures don’t command us to trust everyone who says, “I’m sorry.” Regardless, some of us were urged by others to trust our abuser when he said he was sorry without showing any signs of meaning it.

Even though I have forgiven my abuser, that doesn’t mean I have to trust him. I had to realize that I am not required to trust him even if he apologizes or shows tearful remorse. Trust is earned, and he would have to demonstrate that he deserves my trust. There was no time limit attached to the acceptance of my trust in him. I had to be okay with that choice.

As we seek healing, our priority should be learning to trust God and to trust ourselves. Trust that we have the power within ourselves to change our situation. In addition, trusting our abusers is not based on what others want from us.

Forgiveness

I think our greatest challenge as we self-reflect is learning to forgive. We can spend hours on this topic. Forgiveness is the key to healing. Here, I am talking about self-forgiveness. For most of us, it is easier to forgive others than ourselves.

It was difficult to forgive myself. Why did I allow his abuse to happen for so long? Why did I expose my children to an environment that was damaging their emotional health? My responses to these questions produced anger that I had to confront and let go of.

If we don’t forgive ourselves, abuse will continue to control us. I believe the key to self-forgiveness is understanding God’s grace. It is easier to extend grace to others than to ourselves. For me, extending grace to myself means that I am not taking responsibility for my actions, nor am I taking advantage of God’s kindness. But if we don’t extend grace to ourselves, we are not allowing the scriptures’ power to change us.

In conclusion, we have to realize that the scriptures have the power to heal us. But we must still do the work that is required to heal. Self-reflection will help us identify areas that we can address as we seek healing. I pray that when you self-reflect, God will grant you the knowledge to change the areas in your life that need his healing.

The content of this blog is adapted from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman.

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November 26, 2019 0 comment
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We take time off when we’re not feeling well, or we take a vacation to visit friends and family, but rarely we think about taking time away from home for a mental health rest. What I mean by this rest is to slow down our minds by being still in the moment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to slow down. My mind is constantly busy. I can be in a room filled with people and yet not be aware of anyone because my mind is somewhere else. As a result, I decided one day to get away, to slow down my thoughts so I could focus on prayer and listen for wisdom from God. During my time away, I learned three valuable lessons.

Tilghman Island getaway

For my mental health rest, I chose Tilghman Island, Maryland, mainly due to the pictures I saw on the internet. Tilghman Island is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live and is located where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The island is literally where they connect. At the point of connection, there is a bed-and-breakfast called the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Black Walnut Point Inn

When I arrived, I admit, I wasn’t impressed by the inn and the surrounding landscape because the pictures on the Internet didn’t reflect the current environment. They had been taken mainly during the summer. The scene during my visit was of winter: cold, windy with no snow, and the flowers all gone. Furthermore, the inn is a historical site owned by the state. Most of the interior was built in 1847. Not much has changed, and the caretakers are not allowed to make any structural modifications. I personally prefer contemporary interior decor.

I soon changed my attitude when I realized the building wasn’t the reason why people chose the inn. It was the view! I was mesmerized by the sunrises and sunsets and overpowered by the colors I saw. There were pink and purple hues during dawn and yellows and reds at sunset. All I could do was stare at the sky.

Sunrise at Black Walnut Point Inn
Sunset at Black Walnut Point Inn

Lesson 1: I can’t slow down until I explore my environment

Now let’s go back to the lessons learned. First, my brain has to immerse itself in my environment before it can slow down. There was so much beauty around me that my mind got distracted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who is excited to see the different kinds of candies and doesn’t want to leave until she has tried each flavor. My mind was so diverted that I couldn’t say which was the most important reason for my coming here. I had to see everything before I left.

Instead of slowing down mentally, I went into a picture-taking mode. All I wanted to do was find new things to take pictures off. I even decided to walk through the thick marsh to look for swans, even though I am terrified of snakes. I didn’t find any swans, but my new-found courage to walk through the swamp took me by surprise.

Looking for swans

Lesson 2: Focus on the images that interest the mind

After exploring the area, I realized I needed to focus on one particular aspect of the place that captured my mind. For example, there were the sunrises and sunsets I’d mentioned earlier, but the most thought-provoking place was the site of a huge cross. The cross is at Black Walnut Point, the southernmost part of the island, where the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay come together. I don’t know, and I didn’t think to ask, why the cross was placed at that spot.

The merger of the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay

I began to leave behind my hectic thoughts and enjoy the majestic splendor of God. Gratitude came alive. With a joyous heart, I started to thank God for being there, for allowing me to immerse myself among his magnificent works. With my grateful heart, I poured out my prayers and petitions to him as an overwhelming sense of calmness came over me.

Immersed into God’s Creation

Lesson 3: Be still to listen for God’s voice

As I stood still under the cross with the sunlight striking the left side of my face, and the river and bay before me I felt God telling me to pay attention to see how this moment, this image of the environment, related to my present life. It was an analogy for my life. Ahead of me was this body of water which represents all my fears. The fears of the unknown. Yes, I have a lot of unknowns in my life. The fear of rejection, failure, lack of confidence, the evils of the world and so forth—they all prevent me from moving forward and sometimes stop me from accepting God’s truths about my life.

Under the Cross

The cross, on the other hand, represents love, forgiveness, hope, triumph, and the assurance that I am never alone. I am part of God’s family. Because of his Son’s suffering on the cross, I can conquer any difficulty.

The sunlight that was radiating over my face represented God’s light. A light so powerful that it can banish any darkness. A light that allows me to shine regardless of all the mistakes and messes I made of my life.

I felt God speaking to my heart and saying: Rose, because of the cross, you are with me. I have chosen you to shine. Step into my light. I know you’re fearful of what is ahead, just like this body of water. It looks enormous, but I am still greater. My light is greater than any darkness you have ever feared. I will help you overcome your fears and the obstacles that that block my light. What a rejuvenating mental health experience! But I had to keep still so that my senses could engage in that experience.

As I drove back home, I felt a sense of freedom listening to the below song, Step into the Light by Passion.

Step into the Light

Life bombards us with decisions that we have to make every day. It is important to find time to take a mental health rest to declutter our minds and listen for God’s voice. That might mean going away from our familiar environments. The lesson for all of us is that we can’t hear God speak to our hearts if we don’t slow down and keep still. Check out this link for scriptures about stillness and rest.

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February 25, 2019 2 comments
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