There are many things that can seem to bring us shame in this life. We are fragile souls treading lightly across an unforgiving and often harsh earth, so it should be no surprise that we all at some point experience shame for something we for one reason or another believe should bring us to the harsher hell that is shame. Today, I’m going to let you in to view one event that brought me nearly fifteen years of it. I will warn you, friend, it is not the feeble shame of a white lie once told to protect the feelings of a friend, but shame from something far more damaging, more sinister. So please, if you would like to stop reading, I encourage you do so now, my feelings are unhurt.
The shame of dehumanization
At the age of eleven, you don’t understand that at its core, sexual abuse is dehumanization. It is without equivocation a violation of your intrinsic value as a person, let alone a child of God. It is one person (in my case) classifying you in the most optimistic of views as a lower class human than them, but there are no lesser class humans. Rather, whether intentional or not, they are stripping you of your personhood and rebranding you simply as an object, like a lamp. You, the victim, are merely the tool being forced to accomplish their selfish gratification. And then you feel dirty, used; there is no more innocence, it has died in an instant.
The shame of lost innocence
Where does an eleven year old boy run after he’s had the apple from the Garden shoved down his throat and been forced to swallow it? No, that’s not a thinly veiled reenactment analogy, but being violated at that age and by another male, damage is done and twice over. What compounds that effect is that a boy that age doesn’t know how to cope, and that’s when we begin to inflict damage upon ourselves, because it hurts less than the hemorrhaging caused by the event itself. But I will say that the inability to comprehend at that age was nothing short of a blessing. It wasn’t long in my running that I resorted to porn as a means of regaining what I thought then a piece of manhood that I felt lacking. Nine years. It was nine years until I recalled again the dark event that forever stole my innocence.
The shame of hiding
The danger of hiding is that it serves to perpetuate the vileness of the secret that you’re hiding for its initially unsightly nature. Every year composts 365 days of feeling dirty about your secret that fertilizes the root of ugly that has already taken. It’s a vicious cycle. Nine years after the event, I dared trust a couple people with my horrible secret. After nine years, it still felt dirty. I needed counseling, but I wasn’t ready to dig that deep. No, brief, shallow-root-exhuming spurts of truth were all I could muster. Too soon.
The shame of shame
My abuse now something like a midlife crisis, it was time to dig. There is a sort of safety in anonymity. That’s what a new city more than a couple hours from home, filled with people (unlike a college campus) you’ll never see again. This is when redemption truly began; it was in the foreign state of Pennsylvania that God’s grace opened me up like an open heart surgery patient and the roots of ugliness and sub-personhood began to be removed. This time, it wasn’t just one conversation with one or two separate people, but several conversations with a trusted individual. It was tears on journal pages and in secluded oases known as nature. But, this was just the beginning. I wasn’t quite ready to forgive, nor share with my family yet.
Two years later, it happened. I said I’d forgiven him, I’d prayed for it, I’d gotten down on my knees and cried out to God to be rid of this great burden. No, there wasn’t room in the overwhelming vastness of my shame to let go and forgive. I’ll never forget that morning I drove through the brick-filled wall of tears on my way to work, mist rising off the lake to meet the fog. I nearly had to pull over the car, as I had been jolted into a full body cry at the relief of God’s grace lifting the terrible and horrible weight of another’s sin I had carried so long. I forgave him. At last. And I began telling a select few people in order to protect the image of the shaming individual. No, he was not a monster, but his ignorance nearly turned me into one. And that monster would’ve killed me were it not for grace through forgiveness.
Here I am over fifteen years later, now telling the story. It’s been enough time and I am not the only one who has been through an ordeal such as this. I am not the only one who has ever needed God to pull me from the miry dehumanization of abuse, sexual abuse in this particular situation. Where is the victory? The victory, friend, is in forgiveness. The victory is in loosing myself from the shackles I once attached of porn, physical relationships, alcohol, and recanting this story for you here. Victory is knowing that when Jesus told the disciples at the last supper “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” He was talking to you and me and He overcame sexual abuse two millennia ago. (John 16:33)
I admit that my story on the scale of sexual abuse was both very short lived and very minor in terms of things physically done to me. Nonetheless, it was damaging to my soul. It taught me I was something to be used and abused; sexual abuse lies to you telling you you’re subhuman. Not only are you human, but you are God’s beloved. I promise, there is healing for you, if you have a similar struggle. More importantly, Jesus promised you and is promising you now that He overcame and redeemed your circumstances through His crucifixion and resurrection. If you still hide in shame, please, I beg you, seek out help. Whether you email me, get ahold of a trusted family member or friend, seek out a counselor, or unload on an unsuspecting stranger, take action. You are valuable and there is far greater in store than your shame. Trust me, I know. Let the Redeemer start to do just that today.