An anonymous author over at The Guardian has this to say about childhood abuse:
The experience of abuse is powerfully defiling – your wellbeing is shockingly outraged. These experiences are often internalised and lead to overwhelming feelings of shame, self-loathing, worthlessness, fear and disgust. Early abuse cripples your sense of self and blights your capacity to trust. Often the only way a child can make any sense of the situation is by assuming they are doing something wrong. That they are somehow to blame. This is, of course, inaccurate. The survival mechanism of self-blame often means that anger churns and boils beneath the surface. It’s difficult for a child to develop confidence in the world if an adult – a grown-up who is not just physically huge in comparison, but also in terms of resources, status and significance – chooses to victimise them in this way.
The author also says something very profound here about something learned in while in a support support group:
At first, we all blamed ourselves for the abuse, but gradually we learned to apportion appropriate blame. The blame for abuse always lies with the abuser, never the victim. We found it easy to be compassionate with each other, and then it became easier to extend compassion to ourselves. For all of us, I think, it was the first time we felt truly understood. Truly cared for and supported. Those women saved me.
I don’t know if I communicated well in my book, but I struggled with some very similar.
The hardest person I’ve ever had to forgive is myself — who was I that people would do to me what they did to me? Especially at Citrus Elementary, where the abuse and the tormenting enveloped me. It’s something that still lingers in the background, as I deal with my current situation. It’s hard enough being out of work, and it’s worse with the nagging sense that this might be all my own damn fault and the world is right to throw me away. After all, two bishops and two ELCA committees have clearly said I’m not good enough. They’ve passed a harsh judgement, they have condemned me as a sinner, and have cast me into outer darkness, and they’ve never really explained why.
And sometimes I think — if I could only be a different person, someone not me, or maybe even a better one, I would be accepted, and I could belong. I don’t think that often anymore, but it is something that does come to me every now and again.
I don’t beat myself up much about it though — I have come to realize that I’m not 10 years old anymore, and the people I met at seminary (God bless you, you know who you are) who struggle with similar things have helped me understand I am not alone. But this is a struggle. And I think it’s better to be brutally honest and open about that then to pretend otherwise.
This matters because if, as Christians, we worship a suffering and crucified God — one we tortured and murdered — then we cannot simply set the abused aside as if they have nothing of value to tell us. Or that they should be people permanently under the care of those who are “normal.” We have something to tell the church about suffering. I know the church doesn’t want to listen — it has no time for real suffering. Only the idea of suffering.
(Bourgeois virtue cannot accept any moral value in suffering, much less a suffering God.)
This is one of the great problems of the liberal and progressive church; it valorizes suffering theologically but does so only from the position of a spectator, viewing from a superior, detached post, because in practice the liberal church believes in the promise of modernity — that suffering is an aberration, something to be defeated and conquered through science and progress. But how can you believe — truly believe — in a God who suffers while, at the same time, seeking to end all suffering? While marginalizing and excluding those who have suffered?