Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unit 5 Lesson 4, Believing the Truth

As you recover you may be surprised to find that some family members may also pursue recovery from their former behavior patterns. If this happens, you may for the first time be able to establish functional and loving relationships with them.

Even so, you need to allow God to become your closest family. You don't have to give up your biological family, but you need to place God at the center of your life. He is the one who will never let you down or abuse you. You an allow God to replace your feelings of unworthiness with His truth about your worthiness. Your hopelessness can be replaced with hope in Christ and your profound feelings of inadequacy with the adequacy found in Him.

Search for Significance explains four common false beliefs created and maintained in part by dysfunctional families. The victim of sexual abuse is almost certain to hold as truths these false beliefs. These false beliefs will create guilt, a false sense of responsibility, low self-worth, and a host of other issues for the victim.

One of these beliefs is: I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself. Whatever standards you have set are in part based on the messages you heard as you were growing up. The false belief blocks you from realizing that you already are fully pleasing to God. No matter how intense, perfect or successful you become, meeting falsely motivated standards will not bring you the peace you desire. The fact that you were sexually abused does not have to keep you from feeling good about yourself.

In your journal, describe at least one standard you have held that may be blocking your journey to recovery. As yourself, "What do I think I must do to be a good person?"

Jacque thought that she could never let anyone know she felt inadequate or afraid. Regardless of her accomplishments she never felt adequate because something always remained that she didn't know or understand. Her ability to admit she needed help blocked her recovery.

I must have others' approval is another of the false messages families transmit. This belief will lead you to become consumed with pleasing others at any cost. As a result, the fear of rejection or disapproval can overwhelm you. Even if others disapprove because you have chosen to talk about the abuse, you can feel good about yourself. You do not have to have their approval.

Have you ever experienced or feared the disapproval of friends or family members becuase of how you are choosing to recover?

If so, how are you reacting to them? Do you need to let go of the need to have their approval? What is their approval costing you?

Your recovery may require that you suffer the disapproval of some significant others. Some people will not understnad that you need to tell your secret so that you can heal.

The third negative message is: Because I have failed, I am unworthy and deserve to be punished. If someone else doesn't punish us, we will punish ourselves. This sense of unworthiness must be recognized for what it is - false shame and guilt.

Do you continue to hold to any feeling that you are unworthy, or deserve to be punished because of your abuse? If so, describe your feelings.

You may already have overcome this roadblock to recofvery. Romans 8:1-2 speaks powerfully to those of us who struggle with the feeling that we are unworthy and deserve to be punished.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

As you read this scripture, journal the prhrases that you nee dot believe and accept about yourself.

Take a few minutes to pray; asking God to help you let go of the feeling of unworthiness. Write your prayer in your journal. Ask Him to help you believe that you will be free of this feeling of condemnation.

The last of the four false beliefs is: I am what I am; I cannot change; I am hopeless. The family in darkness places the victim in an environment that teaches helplessness.

Every survivor at times feels hopeless. How did you learn hopelessness from your family?

What gives you hope now?

Hope comes from many places. A support group, family and friends, a counselor - all of these can provide the hope that you need. Re-read what you have written in your journal so far... What have you learned and where have you grown? The greatest source of hope is God who sacrificed Himself for you and promised that he would never leave you.

To recap, the four false messages are:

1. I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself.
2. I must have others' approval to feel good about myself.
3. Because I have failed, I am unworthy and deserve to be punished.
4. I am what I am; I cannot change; I am hopeless.

Describe in your jounal all the ways that these false messages have blocked your recovery in the past.

Recovery on your own:

Sometimes we must realize that our families will not join us in the recovery process. We may have to recover on our won with the help of a support system that we create.

Jean is the oldest of six children, very anxious, and an alcoholic. Her father started sexually abusing her when she was very young. By the time she was 10, they were having intercourse. She consistently made protests to her mother, bu ther mother only replied, "What can I do?" Jean's mother was jealous of her daughter and her husband. As Jean began to recognize her mother's jealously, she used it against both parents. By age 16, she couldn't stand the situation any longer, ran away, and never returned.

Jean's mother still resents her. She really doesn't try to have a relationship with Jean's father, with Jean, or with Jean's daughter. Jean's father, on the other hand, wants everything to be okay. He wants Jean to forget the past. Jean is working through recovery. Although it would be extremely helpful if her family would also enter recovery, Jean is beginning to realize that her dysfunctional mother and father are unwilling to do the same. She is accepting the fact that she must continue in recovery on her own. She can no longer look to them to change so that she will feel better.

If your family chooses not to pursue recovery from dysfunctional behavior, how does that affect your recovery?

If you family chooses not to pursue recovery - and many make that choice - you will need to find ways to seek support and strength from significant other people. You may need to establish emotional, psychological, and maybe even physical boundaries to protect yourself if your family is abusive.


I have found that dealing with family matters is generally pretty complicated. Our love for them, and desire to be loved by them, is natural. That is how God designed us. In my own life, I occasionally struggle with sadness and grief over the lost familial relationships. I also second guess myself sometimes; thinking, "Have I just not been merciful enough? Do I need to try one more time to establish a relationship?"

This lesson speaks into my life a great deal. I do not need their approval. I do not need their permission to talk about the abuse and to heal from it. It would be ideal if the entire family would seek recovery, but it is not required in order for ME to seek recovery.

My seeking recovery and advocating for victims of abuse, has come at a high price. Because of my decision to no longer live in fear, pain and isolation, I am estranged from pretty much my entire family. I have no paternal side, so the decision to risk losing my maternal side as well was a very difficult one. If I could have healthy relationships with them, I'd take them in a heart beat! But, as long as what is being offered is unhealthy and unsafe, I choose to keep my distance and break this cycle of dysfunction for myself, my husband and our children. This was not God's design at all - for families to be broken - but God's design cannot be lived out in situations of gross darkness. I would rather live in His righteousness and peace. After all, God truly is my Father; the family from which I will never be separated.

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."
Psalm 68:5-6

1 comment:

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