(This is a “Trigger Warning” for this post which looks at how childhood sexual abuse can make it difficult for a person to love and forgive themselves.)
There are some verses in the Bible that assume things about how people are.
There is no commandment in the Bible to love yourself. It’s just assumed that everyone does.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39 (KJV)
There is no commandment in the Bible to forgive yourself. It’s just assumed that everyone does.
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 (KJV)
But not everyone loves themselves. Not everyone forgives themselves.
This can be true when we have made bad choices mostly perhaps on our own such as choosing addictions like drugs or alcohol, starving ourselves or cutting ourselves.
This can be true as well when we have been manipulated or forced into making bad choices without fully understanding what is going on or what the consequences will be. Childhood sexual abuse can make it very difficult for a person to love themselves and to forgive themselves.
Sometimes there is an abuser, a predator, who has very carefully manipulated the situation so that they seem to be not at fault. The abuser may be “just trying to help” or “taking the place of someone else who can’t or won’t help.” These are lies and deceptions that mask their true intentions.
The abuser may even make the child believe that it was really his or her own idea, not the adult’s idea, and that they are just as naive as the child, just playing a game that the child wanted to play. They may say something like “Just remember, this was your idea and what you wanted to do.” They will not say that they are enjoying the manipulation, the power, the control, the sexual thrill.
Looking back with adult survivor eyes, there may be pain, embarrassment, and the feeling of betraying oneself. You may doubt yourself. You may blame yourself for not being smart enough, for being gullible, for liking the attention, for allowing yourself to be used like that.
Years and adult decisions can put distance between the adult survivor and the abuser, but how does one make decisions to put distance between oneself? How do you get away from yourself? There is legal recourse that can be taken against an abuser, if you choose to take that route, but how does one take legal recourse against oneself? How do you make yourself pay?
Here is the dilemma.
If someone hurts God, treats Him like He doesn’t matter, then that person is going to pay for that betrayal. You mess with God, you are going to pay. The gun is loaded and cocked. The gun is fired at Jesus instead of you. This is sometimes the way that the Gospel is presented. Someone has to die. It’s either going to be Jesus or Me.
If someone hurts Me, treats Me like I don’t matter, then that person is going to pay for that betrayal. You mess with Me, you are going to pay. The gun is loaded and cocked. Only in this case, the gun is fired at Me.
When we hurt and betray ourselves, that’s not against God. That’s not messing with God, so maybe Jesus didn’t die for that. God gave Jesus to die for the hurts we give to God. Jesus took the penalty that rightly should be ours.
But who am I going to give to die for the hurts I gave to myself? The only person I can give to die for the hurts I gave to myself is me.
Stuff like this can make you want to kill yourself. No lie.
So think about how Christ and His Cross are presented. Is it like “when there is sin, the gun is loaded and cocked so somebody has got to die”? Jesus was crucified so God could change His mind about us? Is that right?
This next quote was part of our message on The Second Sunday Of Easter, and it came at just the right time as I was thinking through what to say in this post:
“Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our minds about God.”
This is an important message for everyone, on the last pew or not.
There is only one thing that I want to add for those on the last pew who hate themselves and are unable to forgive themselves for whatever reason, including those who believed lies, were misled, and abused as children. Even though everyone has a different story, is remains true for everyone who was abused as a child.
“Jesus also came to change our minds about ourselves.”
You did nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong.
You were never in control of the situation, even if you were led to believe that you were. You could not have been smarter. You could not have figured it out on your own. Your abuser was not your equal. Your predator had a plan to succeed no matter what you did or didn’t do.
I believe with all of my heart that just as Jesus came to change our minds about God, He also came to change our minds about ourselves.
He can change your mind about yourself, and He can heal you.
Here is the only other part that I’m putting in bold. If you can relate to this and are struggling with this or know someone who is…seek counseling. There are resources available that can help you. I’m just drawing and writing from my limited perspective. But there are professionals that can help you. Seriously. Jesus is right there with you on the last pew. Honestly.