A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thursday Thought — Mending the Soul by Stephen Tracy

Because our Resource pages are extensive we have decided to occasionally use the Thursday Thought post to highlight a Resource.  Today’s highlight is Steven Tracy’s, Mending the Soul:  Understanding and Healing Abuse [affiliate link*]. While not specific to domestic abuse, it is nevertheless very useful for understanding the dynamics of abuse in general.  Pastor Crippen has these comments about Mending the Soul:

The tenth chapter is about forgiveness.  This is not primarily a book about forgiveness, but about abuse.  And guess what?  Lo and behold, the guy who gets forgiveness right is the guy who specializes in abuse!  This is evidence that my theory is correct — abuse is the test case for much of our theology.  Tracy is wise to the abuser.  No way is he going to insist that the Bible will have reconciliation of the victim and abuser included.  He warns about the abuser’s crafty and deceptive repentance, and notes that Christians and churches are very often sucked in by him.  This book is worth buying if only for the 10th chapter.  

ACFJ Post:  Comments on Steven Tracy’s Book — Mending the Soul

Steven Tracy is the founder of the organization Mending the Soul.  He and his wife Celestia and others at Mending the Soul are doing great work with victims of sex trafficking, and they offer training in Arizona, Oregon and Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, the “rape capital of the world”) which is helping Christians minister to survivors of abuse and trauma.

 *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.

9 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    Thank you for posting this. I have this book on my Kindle, but haven’t read it yet. I’m going right now straight to the 10th chapter.

  2. Finding Answers

    I am faced with forgiving my abusers, though not in person. Over. and over. and over again. Each new realization / understanding / trigger, brings the desperate need to turn vengeance over to God.

    Justice will not come in this lifetime.

    Forgiveness feels like a hamster wheel, never ending.

    And it still hurts. And I am left with permanent damage. And I have limitations / boundaries imposed by the permanent damage.

    The teachers may teach correctly on the topic of forgiveness, but they oftentimes forget to mention it’s not not always a one-shot deal.

    • Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

      Amen to that. Forgiveness is very much part of our daily walk with God. It does not take the pain away, but it keeps our focus on healing and recovery.

      I am pondering your comment and wondering is this why Jesus taught us how to pray and gave us the Lord’s Prayer as we have come to call it, as an example …. “give us this day our daily bread” before “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those against us.“
      I’m beginning to realise that in context the word “daily” also applies to deliverance from temptation and regarding forgiveness. Just as our talk to God should be a daily occurrence (just like it was in the garden of Eden) so should our walk be right on a daily basis.

      Often we recall our abuse, sometimes it reoccurs literally if we are still in abusive situations and at other times sometimes reoccurs for us mentally. The wounds are deep but it takes a while before they heal and a scar sometimes remains. I’m reminded that a deep wound often scabs over a good few times even when we don’t pick at it.

      The “teachers” don’t always get that it takes so much within those of us who have been violated to forgive. Yet we have done it daily time after time during those terrible times. Sometimes we were even doing it right at the very time it was happening. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” For some of us that was our very thoughts. We probably would have escaped sooner if we had not have been so forgiving. In leaving we have also been forgiving – for it was certainly in my case best in my opinion for both that I left that perhaps just perhaps there may be some jolt to change or the abuser seek at least some help. I left that to God. It’s not my concern for I cannot change anyone only God can change them.

      We continue daily forgiving, but it most certainly is not an easy practice that some teachers think is just like a switch. I bet it is the same for them. I wonder how many of those accusers of unforgiveness are fully practising what they preach? I wonder how long it takes them to forgive even minor things?

      Many do not understand true forgiveness in the light of what they believe is unforgiveness. Merely remembering something that we would dearly love to forget or venting regarding due to the hurt and often a cry for help that we may need as part of our recovery process is not unforgiveness. Speaking to others about it is not a means of showing unforgiveness. Sharing our experiences with others is not unforgiveness.

      Often these are a great means to bring healing or seeking justice for others. We do well if helping someone who has endured abuse of any sort to let them speak, even be angry. We recall things we wished we could just erase, but we often cannot. It is part sadly of who we are and why we are.

      Don’t abuse us further by telling us to be quiet or that we are bitter and unforgiving. I’ve been there many times and it’s like a slap in the face and a cut to the heart, when I am not allowed to be who I am! I know for me I feel totally alone because of that. I feel I cannot share with people who say they care but have continually thrown things I’ve said back at me. I’ve been accused of being bitter and I need to move on. I am not allowed to have a voice. I just don’t speak anymore. They wonder why I never talk about things … you truly cannot win. How much do I share before I’m not allowed is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure I’m not taking the risk to be belittled, slated or condemned.

      Just as my abuser exactly did they would not let me be me either!

      The best thing a friend, family member or church can do if you want to support me …..let me be me!!! Don’t judge me for God is my judge.

      • The wounds are deep but it takes a while before they heal and a scar sometimes remains. I’m reminded that a deep wound often scabs over a good few times even when we don’t pick at it.

        Hi Now Free, this reminded me that one of our readers wrote a post about wound healing.

    • Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

      Oh and I must add forgiveness does not mean we ignore wisdom.

      I was not best pleased when during my separation some family members still for over a year were taking birthday and Christmas presents to my abusive wife.

      Firstly, they could not see that they had broken my separation order that stated no direct or indirect contact. It therefore put me in a bad light and position and could well have been used against me as harassment.

      Secondly, it gave my abuser an excuse to break the no contact and get in touch of course with some verbal digs at me at how surprised and pleasant my family were. Their other words had lots of double meanings. I have come to know not all communication is as it seems to the eye. Some was very direct and hurtful. I wasn’t impressed and the gist of her words, “see I’m not the one who is being nasty or bad! Even your family understand and are not treating me the way you have done!” It opened an opportunity for them to continue to abuse believing they were not the guilty party.

      Even after I tried to explain to those family members that it was not a wise move, they were apologetic but dismissive. Despite knowing what I had suffered they still felt she was family until the divorce, and felt sorry for her. I felt betrayed to say the least. Was I not more important? It seems not and that we both were on equal footing. This then made me feel that I was no more or less guilty of what I’d had to endure for years. This person had destroyed my life and it seemed that did not matter when forgiveness meant seeing the good in everyone.

      Forgiveness does not mean seeing the good in everyone. Forgiveness does not mean trying to see something that is good in a person who has been systematically violating and destroying another person.

      Thirdly, I felt I was not as important and what I had gone through for 20 odd years was just someone not able to handle life and a relationship. They [the abuser] needed help, but it seems I didn’t. It was an act of forgiveness, but it gave the impression of the abuse was not that bad and I felt totally belittled, and all I had shared (by no means all for their own safety and sanity) was really not a big deal.

      Forgiveness does not mean we have to lose our wisdom and that we are not “wise as serpents.” Forgiveness does not mean I have to endure the abuse while I too try to find some good in that person and hang in to those things.

      Forgiveness does not mean we have to be nice and kind to those who impart evil. Forgiveness does not mean we suddenly go blind or deaf to evil for the sake of doing good.

      To this day they just do not get this at all. I cannot talk as I said before. If these are godly people who hate evil but for some reason cannot see abuse as evil when it’s been fairly well spelt out to them, what chance have I if I ever want to find a church or Christian friends again. The church needs to waken up and teach what true forgiveness is and certainly what it is not. It seems though they do not know themselves. Any wonder evil and abuse abounds and is allowed, whitewashed over in places where it should be exposed and dealt with.

      I am alone and can only hope and pray someone comes my way. I cannot risk going to look. All around me I just hear and see people who don’t get it. I once thought women would get abuse more but recently mentioning something in passing to a female colleague the reaction I got horrified me. It’s a lonely walk and that hurts me deeply perhaps more than anything.

      My point is forgiveness does not mean no wrath for an evil doer.

      These are some thoughts around my ponderings on your comment finding answers. The initial acts may have been over long ago but the severe damage remains. I’ve said this before and I’ll say again – there are going to be some extremely surprised, shocked and shamed people on judgment day.

      I’m hoping those around me have their eyes opened before then.

  3. Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

    Hi Barb
    I’ve read that wounds article – it’s excellent. Typical me trying to say something that someone has already and far far better.

    I just know as my blister from gardening is still healing and a week on is onto a second scab. This is only something small on the palm of my hand, and not a deep wound at all, but it takes time. It was numb for a day or so too, but now as it is healing it hurts more and impedes. Hard to keep from infection due to my work nature and environment and that I’m no pen pusher and like to get my hands dirty with manual work and hobbies. There’s a lot in that alone we can apply to healing and recovery.

    It’s amazing what God speaks to us through simple things. The wounds article goes into more depth and I would encourage all readers to read it.
    Thank you for remembering and pointing it out to me.

  4. Finding Answers

    In reply to Now Free (Formerly Struggling To Be Free)

    Thanks for writing out your thoughts on forgiveness – it’s difficult to explain to people why forgiveness is not black-and-white, nor why the same “fix” cannot be universally applied.

    I followed the link Barb suggested to you on wound healing, and could totally relate to the explanations. Sometimes I feel like parts of me are in various stages of healing, ranging from oozing to unhealthy scar tissue to newly formed skin.

    Perhaps the wound healing analogy can be included in the forgiveness process – every time we face unhealed / improperly healed places, we encounter the possibility of passing through another cycle of grieving and forgiving. Hence the reason some people think we haven’t “gotten over it.”

    And it helps me remember why some days / moments are better than others…..

    • Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

      Hi Finding Answers yes I agree with you and that post on healing wounds is excellent on many levels. I think if people could just grasp that and the things on forgiveness, etc they could understand more of where we are at, and certainly help more instead of commenting often with well meaning comments, but ill informed and sadly with very hurtful comments. In a lot of cases it’s best not to say anything, but a hug would make an awful lot of difference.

      Knowing quite a few doctors and nurses, and having had a girlfriend who was a nurse and had shared similar, I can see much in the post that will help others. If anyone here has not read, I encourage you to read or even re-read and gain some insight from the medical world that so easily relates to those of us who are wounded by abuse. Such an excellent post. I want to print it out and refer to it often.

      There is so much more to us as we are so fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. Broad brush strokes or ‘black and white’ comments, do not cut the mustard when it comes to mental illness or abuse. I’m mentioning mental illness as I know it is very misunderstood too and a lot of what applies in this post can apply to that arena also.

      Many a counselor/pastor or leader even supportive friends should take note. This is not where we wanted to be in life. It was NOT of our own doing. We will not accept the wishy washy answers or comments made that are supposed to make us forget or “get on with it!” It is not easy and more complex than you may think and certainly as we heal and recover, we DO move on but may have to process and deal with something else that has been damaged. It IS taking up a lot of our valued time and much effort. We do not wish to be in these places. God never intended us to be in these circumstances, but He is with us and encourages us step by step even if it is baby steps, we ARE moving forward! We are not wallowing in self pity! God forbid!! It may not always seem to some like much is happening or we are “getting over it”. What a terrible phrase btw!!
      I’d actually respond back if someone now got at me regarding that and ask, “Are you actually any where nearer to getting it!?”

      Question??
      Would you treat a burns victim or someone who has experienced extreme PTSD the likes of many soldiers or service men and woman have in a similar fashion? The Invictus games has just finished. Would you treat others who have been deeply wounded as you do abuse victims or would you treat differently?

      There’s much similarity with those of us who have undergone much abuse with these brave men and women. Note I say similar not the same because we are all unique and been faced with unique but dreadful circumstances to face.

      We will conquer, but we need your love, your precious support and understanding and we ARE fighting like crazy to be somewhere we want to be too! It is not here believe you me.

      Please give us the time of day, the respect due and just your helping hand or words of love.

      A hug really doesn’t go amiss, btw and can speak volumes. Just be a friend who is there for us, even if you don’t fully understand. I know for sure that is one thing I’d appreciate in my lonely life.

      Thank you to all who stand with us here at ACFJ. You don’t go unnoticed and are always appreciated!!!

      • Thanks Now Free. Well said. 🙂

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