Like many people, I find myself numbed to the news headlines. As I have discussed before, constant consumption of news has little positive impact on my life. When I reflect on the lack of impact, I am saddened. I am capable of hearing of a double homicide in my own city (as I did a few days ago) and not give it much more than a shrug before moving onto the next thing.
The one exception to this is when the bad news involves children. When I come across a news story that highlights harm done to children, I cannot help but be affected. Part of this is because it usually triggers reflection on my own children. The thought of ‘I don’t know what I would do if this happened to my family’ flashes in. Alongside it, the sense of loss for someone else experiencing heartbreak.
That said, even before having my own family, bad news headlines that involved children were jarring. For me it comes down to the fact that children are vulnerable – they need protection. Every child should expect to be safe. When that order fails, damage is done, and the ripple effect can be significant.
The third piece of the trifecta for me is that children are the least capable of processing the bad things that happen to them. Trauma experienced as a child can often go without being dealt with.
The stories that make it to the news are often the most horrifying or brutal. The reality is that we are all carrying damage inflicted upon us. Much of it is from childhood, but we all know pain that extends beyond that. The pain stays with us as a wound. Wounds unattended to can be buried or ignored, but their effects are never far from the surface.
We live in a fallen world – a world that nearly everyone would agree is not as it should be. In such a place, wounds are inevitable. Because there is no such thing as perfect parents or a perfect childhood, we all experience pain. John Eldredge helped me come to a greater understanding of ‘the Wound’ in his book, Wild at Heart. Sometimes the wounds are glaringly obvious, other times they are not.
In his book, Eldredge notes that there are different types of wounds:
“The assault wounds are like a shotgun blast to the chest. This can get unspeakably evil when it involves abuse carried on for years…One thing about assault wounds – they are obvious. The passive wounds are not; they are pernicious, like a cancer. Because they are subtle, they often go unrecognized as wounds and are therefore more difficult to heal.”
Wounds, especially when buried or ignored can impact lives. My wounds are of the subtle variety and it has been a challenge to get to them. I have turned to looking at certain behaviours to get to the root of it.
One symptom that has shown up in my life is a need to be validated constantly, particularly at work. Looking back at the various roles I have held in my career a pattern emerges. The times I felt best about myself were when I had a manager who provided me with regular, positive feedback. I would often go looking for it. When this was missing, I struggled.
Being able to identify this pattern in my life has helped me look backwards. I can see where those feelings come from – the behaviour points to the wound.
Time Does Not Heal All Wounds
It is an appropriate time to note that I am neither a counsellor nor a psychologist. I am speaking only from my own experience. That said, I cannot think of any examples in my own life when a wound or pain has been best dealt with by ignoring it. Or, as a good friend of mine puts it, by ‘shoving it down and burying it with whiskey’.
Examining long-held wounds can be painful. Particularly when the wounds are from childhood. The easier option is to ignore them or dull them through distraction or other means. I had a conversation with a friend recently who is experiencing a tough time with his extended family. As I listened to him, I could feel the pain it caused him to leave the situation unaddressed. At the same time the idea of bringing it up is more than he feels capable of doing.
I know that getting to the wounds is not easy. I know it from the many times I have chosen to ignore them and pretend they are not there. Getting to them is hard work, but I have also seen the benefits that come from the willingness to try. I have experienced it in my life, but also seen countless examples in others who have been willing to dig. Healing is possible.
Jesus offers to meet us in our wounds. When my wounds have led me to destructive behaviour and sin, He has met me at my worst. He offers forgiveness and healing. That healing is always available, but I must make the choice to receive it. As a Catholic, I receive it through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I have also received it through counselling and spiritual direction.
I Don’t Have to Go It Alone
Relationship has been a critical part of examining and excavating my wounds. It is slow work, and there is no “Five Steps to Healing Your Wound” book as far as I am aware – at least one that works.
Several years ago, I thought that talking to someone about my pains and problems would be a sign of weakness. I thought I could figure it out by myself and will myself to be a better person. I could not have been more wrong.
The truth is that it was only after surrendering control to God that true healing could start to take hold. Conversation with my spiritual director has become foundational in my life. Regular opportunities to discuss my struggles and opportunities have gifted me with perspective.
Meaningful friendships in which I am willing to be vulnerable with my wounds are also immensely helpful. Supportive relationships with those on the same journey are worth their weight in gold.
If we did not live in a broken world, children would not experience wounding. Sadly, this is not the case. The wounds we experience as children shape our lives, often in negative ways. This does not have to be the case. Revisiting our wounds can be painful and hard, but there is healing that is available. We have a God who wants to meet us in the depths of our wounds. If we allow Him, He can lead us out.
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