My dilemma

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Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

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Flashback (for A.)

Image: rock-cafe, Yandex

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you
(Isaiah 43:2; NLT).

1. Here comes a flashback,
Always undesired:
My mother, screaming at me
Without restraint.

2. I’m two or three years old,
So I can neither
Understand her words,
Nor guess what lies behind them.

3. I’m at her mercy,
Paralysed by fear;
Helpless, lost, defenceless,
And alone.

4. But here you are, Lord,
Entering the scene.
You pick me up,
Then take my mother’s hand.

5. “Peace, be still!”
These are your only words.

6. You shine with love,
And radiate concern.
Your voice is steady, gentle, calm,
And kind.

7. You look at us
With perfect understanding.
Comfort and healing
Flow from your wounded hands.

8. My mother’s screaming stops.
My terror ends.
Together, we absorb
Your silent joy…

9. And then my flashback fades, but from now on
Every time this memory intrudes,
You will be present, Jesus, at its heart,
Just as you were, in fact, so long ago.


References

4. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11; NIV).

5. He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39; NKJV).

6. His face shone like the sun (Matthew 17:2; NIV).

8. Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21; NLT).

9. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; NIV).

A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

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Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

With love

Do everything with love
(1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

1. Face all you feel with love:
Grief, anger, shame, pain, fear.
Share everything with God,
For he is always near.

2. Observe your thoughts with love:
Hate, envy, judgement, pride.
Confess them all to God,
Who will not blame, or chide.

3. Speak every word with love:
Don’t mock, abuse, or lie.
Admit your sins to God,
Who hears our victims cry.

4. Do everything with love:
This principle is clear;
Just ask the Father’s help,
For he is always here.


References

1. You are near (Psalm 75:1; NLT).

2. I confess my sins (Psalm 38:18; NLT).

He will not always chide (Psalm 103:9; RSV).

3. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

The Lord hears the cries of the needy (Psalm 69:33; NLT).

4. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Help me, Lord (Psalm 30:10; NLT).

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever (John 14:16; NASB).

Suffering and loss

Pray for all people. Ask God to help them;
intercede on their behalf
(1 Timothy 2:1; NLT).

1. Lord,
I pray for all of us
Who suffer:

2. Those yearning for a home,
A job,
A child;

3. Those thirsting for freedom
From fear, abuse,
Or exploitation;

4. Those longing for better health
For others,
Or themselves;

5. And those who ache
For the presence
Of the dead.

6. Please strengthen us
To face each loss;
Console us when we mourn.

7. Help us to find
New hope in you,
And to rebuild our lives

8. By following your much-loved Son,
Who gave up all he had
For us.

Through his dear name,
Amen.

References

1. Pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT).

2. Forget not your servant but give her a son (1 Samuel 1:11; NIV).

3. The oppressed will be set free (Luke 4:18; NLT).

4. He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

5. You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

6. Even when I walk in the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

7. “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11; NLT).

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me!” (Matthew 4:19; NLT).

8. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being (Philippians 2:6-7; NLT).

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us (1 John 3:16; NLT).

Foundations

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Children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3; NLT).

It would be better to be thrown into the sea
with a millstone hung around your neck
than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin
(Luke 17:2; NLT).

1. All parents groom their children
To accept what they receive.
Abuse, control, and punishment
Will teach them to believe

2. That they are stupid, weak and bad,
For all they do is panned –
Children given this foundation
Build their lives on sand.

3. All parents groom their children
To accept what they receive.
Encouragement, support and praise
Will teach them to believe

4. That they can tackle all life brings
Accepting every knock –
Children given this foundation
Build their lives on rock.

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References

1. Parents, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

2. A broken spirit saps a person’s strength (Proverbs 17:22; NLT).

I have cried until tears no longer come; my heart is broken (Lamentations 2:11; NLT).

Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb? (Job 3:11; NLT).

[They are] like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash (Matthew 7:26-7; NLT).

3. Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body (Proverbs 16:24; NLT).

4. [They are] like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built (Luke 6:48; NLT).

Wake from the nightmare

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Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows
(John 16:33; NLT).

1. Let’s wake from the the nightmare
Of childhood,
And think of the mountains
We’ve crossed.

2. Let’s cast off the hell
Of our parents,
And rise above all
We have lost.

3. Let’s wake in the light
Of God’s kingdom
To think of his Son,
And forgive.

4. Let’s cast off depression
And darkness,
And rise in his strength –
Then we’ll live!

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References

1. Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:14; NIV).

The gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult (Matthew 7:14; NLT).

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

2. Banish anxiety from you heart and and cast off the troubles of your body (Ecclesiastes 11:10; NIV).

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

3. [Give] joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12; NIV).

If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14; NIV).

4. Those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired (Isaiah 40:31; NET).

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NLT).

After death


1. After death, Lord,
All of us will meet
Those we abused,

2. And we will grasp
How much we damaged
Those we have misused.

3. We will face
Our callous deeds,
The hurtful words we spoke,

4. Until we beg forgiveness
From all those
Whose hearts we broke.

5. Help us now, instead, to change,
Say: Sorry, Lord,
And try

6. To live more like
Your only Son, on earth,
Before
we die.


References

1. The time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgement (John 5:29; NLT).

2. Now I will pour put judgement on you for the evil you have done to them (Jeremiah 23:2; NLT).

3. Human pride will be humbled, and human arrogance will be brought down. Only the Lord will be exalted on the day of judgement (Isaiah 2:17; NLT).

4. You should fear punishment yourselves, for your attitude deserves punishment. Then you will know that there is indeed a judgement (Job 19:29; NLT).

5. If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-4; NIV).

6. As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world (1 John 4:17; NLT).

Choice


Today I have given you the choice between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19; NLT).

1. Lord,
You give us all
A choice:
To follow you,
Or walk away.

2. Lord,
You give us all
A choice:
To stay with you,
Or to betray.

3. Lord,
You give us all
A choice:
To ask forgiveness,
Or refuse.

4. Lord,
You give us all
A choice:
To love our neighbour,
Or abuse.

References

1. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions (Matthew 19:21-2; NLT).

2. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Mark 14:34; NLT).

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” (Matthew 26:15-16; NLT).

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him (Matthew 26:50; NIV).

3. Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late (Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).

If you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you (Genesis 4:7; NLT).

4. Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27; NLT).

Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognised, and they chose to abuse him (Matthew 17:12; NLT).

You have blessed my life

Give thanks in all circumstances
(1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

1. Father,
You have blessed my life
With hardship and abuse;
You’ve given me so much to learn:
Lord, thank you for each truth.

2. Father,
You have blessed my life
With suffering and pain;
You’ve given me so much to learn:
Lord, thank you for each gain.

3. Father,
You have blessed my life
With sorrow, grief and loss;
You’ve given me so much to learn:
Lord, thank you for each cross.

4. Father,
You have blessed my life
With guilt, regret, and shame;
You’ve given me so much to learn:
I praise your glorious name.

References

1. God has seen your abuse (Genesis 31:42; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33; NLT).

Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you (Psalm 25:5; NLT).

2. You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and life me up from the depths of the earth (Psalm 71:20; NLT).

3. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

4. I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3; NIV).

O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! (1 Chronicles 29:13; NLT).