In this post, I’m going to get a little more raw and honest than usual. I’m going to talk about some heavy stuff. These things may apply to a lot of people, as simply being alive in a fallen world with broken people means you’re bound to experience some kind of pain. But this post is definitely aimed more at people who have had really difficult pasts or have experienced some kind of trauma or abuse in their lives.
I want to talk about how owning your story is a big part of healing, and how as long as we’re in denial about our stories, we’ll remain stuck and won’t be able to fully become the people God created us to be.
If you had a pretty incredible salvation experience, for a while you might have felt like all your problems miraculously vanished because you found Jesus. When I first became a Christian, I was pretty naive and thought that because I was experiencing such joy and peace, I would never have to deal with any of my issues ever again. While I believe God can definitely heal us and give us a fresh start, I think it’s also really important to acknowledge that we are human and that working through one’s issues often takes time.
We’re all multi-layered, like onions. We can think we’ve dealt with everything, but then past hurts can sneak up on us and try to drag us back into the past. Old struggles and traumas can cause us to think that we’re not really a new creation and that we’re too messed up for even Christ to fix.
People are complicated. We’re not only spiritual beings, but we also have our emotional, mental, physical and psychological selves. We often forget that these elements of ourselves are all interwoven and affect other aspects of our identities. As a Christian, yes, I believe we are first and foremost spiritual beings. But we can sometimes use that as a copout and a way to deny our own humanity and become too hard on ourselves.
Sometimes we can live in denial and call it “moving on.” We can think that we’ve healed, when clearly we haven’t, because we still have really dysfunctional behavioral and thought patterns, and facing any of our issues still causes an immense amount of pain. We can think that we’ve gotten over our pasts because we’ve acknowledged some tough stuff, but still live in denial about other parts of our stories.
If you’ve gone through some tough stuff–particularly shaming experiences that make you feel like everything is your fault, like abuse–then you know how difficult it can be to admit everything that has happened to you. You look at “normal” people who have grown up in healthy families and would do anything to switch lives with them. You feel like having such a messed up story makes you inherently flawed or broken or unlovable. But these are all lies the enemy uses to isolate and silence you and make you give up.
In reality, God can use your story to reach people who have been through similar things. He can use your negative experiences to give you depth and empathy that a comparatively easy life might not have given you. I’m not going to say that “everything happens for a reason” and that everything that’s happened was “God’s will,” because I believe some things happen because Satan hates you and wants to destroy you and because we live in a broken world where evil runs rampant. But God can use the awful ways evil has tried to damage your life and turn them into a message of hope.
It’s so much easier to live in denial and refuse to own your story. For years I didn’t want to own everything I’d been through. For a long time I also acknowledged half of my story while remaining in denial about the rest–I admitted that one person in my life had been abusive, but refused to admit that another person in my life allowed this abuse and has also been abusive in different ways. Because it’s so hard to admit things you’ve been in denial about your whole life.
I went to a counselor for a while recently, and I actually became pretty resentful towards her because she made me face things I didn’t want to face and acknowledge things I didn’t want to acknowledge. But now I am profoundly grateful to her because she listened to my story and validated my experiences. She made me feel like I wasn’t crazy and like everything I shared with her had validity. If you don’t own your story–and how people have mistreated you–you can end up internalizing blame and carrying shame around for the rest of your life. And that’s not what God wants for you. You can’t follow Jesus if you think everyone else deserves His grace but you.
The other day I read this post about healing from past wounds, and it made me realize that I haven’t healed much at all. There are so many aspects of my life that are so dysfunctional and that I need to allow God to heal and redeem–including my academic, social and spiritual life.
I know that my life is nowhere near what God wants it to be. He has better plans for me than this. He doesn’t want me to be held back by my screwed up past and my messed up family. Simply talking about what you’ve been through isn’t always enough. You need to separate yourself from the shame your trauma has burdened you with, and you need to unashamedly own your story.
There was something profound about the #MeToo movement and all those women owning their stories. It took the power away from twisted men like Harvey Weinstein, whose evil actions had remained in the dark for years. The same goes for any kind of abuse. We have to dismantle evil by bringing it into the light, because it continues to thrive if it’s kept in the darkness.
Sometimes we can hesitate about owning our stories because we want to protect the people who have hurt us or because we know they would freak out or call us liars if we told the truth. But you should never feel silenced. If people didn’t want you to be honest about your story and the role they play in it, maybe they shouldn’t have mistreated you in the first place.
So few people have the courage to fully own their stories, and that’s a tragedy, because they’re missing out on an opportunity to bring comfort and hope to those who have gone through the same or similar things. We can become so concerned with protecting our own pride–or protecting other people’s pride–that we miss out on opportunities to speak truth to others.
We should be living examples of how God can redeem broken situations. How can we heal from past wounds if we won’t even be honest with God about our stories? We have to be completely honest about the areas we’re dysfunctional in. It’s okay to be messed up. Trying to pretend everything is okay and that you’ve healed when you haven’t won’t get you anywhere.
If I’m honest, I’m still kind of a complete mess. I’m working through a lot of stuff. I have a lot of ups and downs. Past hurts and insecurities often cause me to act in ways that I’m ashamed of and that don’t reflect my true identity. I can easily fall into deep depression and want to isolate myself from the world. Acknowledging reality can be taxing, and it can cause a lot of pain at first. But if you want to move forward, you simply have to do so.
Being in denial about your story is extremely dysfunctional, and your past will eventually sneak up on you and wreak havoc on your life if you don’t allow God to heal you. And if you want Him to heal you, you have to acknowledge everything–even the things you’d rather bury deep down for the rest of your life.
So own your story. Know that it isn’t too big for God to redeem and to use in amazing ways. I think that many times, you have to die to yourself before you can fully own your story. Because it’s natural to want to have a happy story like “normal” people do and to feel ashamed of where you’ve come from. But this kind of thinking is actually pretty selfish, because if you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of hurting people in this world. People may look happy on the outside, but more people than you would think have also dealt with heavy stuff. You’re never the only one.
If you’re struggling through things like this, I most definitely recommend finding a trusted person to talk to, or even a counselor. I don’t believe counseling fixes everything, but I think you have to start with simply telling your story. Don’t be silenced. Own everything that has happened to you and know that God can and will use it for good if you’ll let Him.