One of the most debilitating obstacles in life is the trauma we carry in our bodies. It can haunt us for decades and take root in illness. All people suffer. Some work to resolve it, and some carry it forward. It’s worth the hard work to understand, limit, heal, and use it to bring good to our world.
Trauma has a familiar face. Those who know it see it in others.
Trauma’s outlook is distinct. It completely colors life with the constant presence of fear and the expectation of more harm to come … from anyone, anywhere, at any moment.
The names we give it vary: pain, suffering, abuse, anguish, PTSD, sorrow, shock, grief, a living hell, and more. But they all describe the inner, silent chaos of trauma. All people experience it.
If your trauma is from abuse (intentionally inflicted harm), your story might include betrayal, oppression, atrocity, obliteration, agony, persecution, murder, and more. They all describe brutal violations which God abhors. “And the one who loves violence His soul hates.” (Psalm 11:5)
Abuse defies what is reasonable, kind, and good for all human beings made in the likeness of Jesus, the divine-human. It mocks civility and degrades humanity. Plainly, it is a sin against God and man.
Abuse is the face of evil in the flesh of humans. It forces (demands) submission at another’s expense. The wickedness feeds and transfers hatred into the abused hearts, hoping to repeat itself and keep the evil flowing. It harms every person and every relationship it touches. Abuse is immoral, wicked, and destructive.
Trauma from abuse blows people to pieces. The damage done is an abomination to the psyche. It is the unfathomable, intensely personal mutiny that wars against everything inside us that’s pure, just, and holy.
The destruction hides inside us, only to rear its ugly head when least expected. A glance, a place, a smell, a sound can bring it all flooding back instantly. Our minds and emotions implode, and we are haunted for weeks or years. It re-injures us on cue (triggered).
The horror confronts our inner workings with polarizing confusion (chaos) and the fact that our world is unsafe and cruel. Nothing is in our control. The internal contradictions of mixed emotions, thoughts, defenses, shame, retaliation, hatred, and injustice are staggering.
Trauma makes parts of us die. Trusting loved ones and those in authority dies away. Hope that the world is safe and good dies. Love dies. Civility dies. Kindness dies. Trauma silences us, numbs us, and takes our breath away. It rolls us into self-condemnation and suffering, again and again. It slowly destroys us. Abuse can feel like murder. In many parts of the world, it is.
For kind and sensitive souls, a lie appears that only self-harm (anger turned inward) can give relief from this horror and pain. Do not become their minion, working for them to abuse you! Fight self-harm with the truth — that God, in His High and Holy place, also dwells with the oppressed and humble, restoring their spirit with courage (Isaiah 57:15). He lives every moment with you, to uphold your given dignity, so you can stand upright again.
Don’t Get Suckered Into Harming
Abuse is as old as the world. It entered humanity when the serpent lied to Eve and continues today. We have passed down abuse (sin) for millennia. How?
Abuse produces anger, giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27) which overflows into retaliation. It rolls on: abuse = anger = retaliation = abuse. Deny evil access by arguing against anger. The Bible is our best weapon, especially the Psalms.
Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. (Psalm 4:4)
Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.James 1:20
Abuse is contagious. Destruction and harm breed more of the same. Those abusing others are likely doing so from their own hidden trauma of abuse. The vicious cycle continues and creates insanity with the internal contradictions (chaos) of justice versus injustice. I hate them, but hate is evil, so I am wrong for hating them. I deserve punishment for hating them, but they have hated me without penalty. It is a double bind that is impossible to escape.
All people can abuse. With the right conditions, we quickly transition from abused to an abuser. Though it may be a lesser evil, our abuse could escalate over theirs. It’s a slippery slope. See verses below.
These truths expose the fact that human beings have free will. Every person decides whether to harm people or not. Some people even tend to harm those who simply disagree with them. Apologies are designed to repair abusive actions.
No one ever gets by with abuse. God sees harm done and eventually brings justice. Each person is responsible for paying for or making right every harmful thing they do or say. (Hebrews 4:13) Jesus took our responsibility and suffered violently, paid the penalty to make it right, and rescued mankind. He offers that free payment to each of us when we believe He is who He says He is: the world’s Savior.
The way is simple. Believe who he is for you personally, and ask to be saved. That’s it; believe and ask. We are His treasure. He will come into your heart and life and dine with you and you with Him forever. (Revelation 3:20)
Since harmed people harm people, we could have compassion for our abusers. We know how harm feels. We can give them over to their dealings with God: the one who sees. He will read their hearts and appropriately avenge, train, or forgive them. They may have started it, but you can stop yourself and the cycle. We can say, “I’m not gonna be that person,” who retaliates into seething sludge. We were made for better things.
Remember that unaddressed trauma can spark emotional and physical illness beyond reach. It can ricochet into addictions and lodge in our vulnerable spots (throats, lungs, stomachs, brains). It waits in hiding for the moment when kind attention, compassion, and understanding will soothe its toxicity and return the body to rest.
No one creates life by retaliating. This fight against it can seem impossible, but these verses help.
- Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
- Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.(Psalm 7:15-16)
- Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways. For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright. (Proverbs 3:31-32)
- Be angry but do not sin; sleep on it, search your heart, and be silent. (Psalm 4:4)
- But whoever listens to Me will dwell in safety, secure from the fear of evil. (Proverbs 1:33)
- Most of all, let love guide your life…. (Colossians 3:14)
- If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
- God is trustworthy to judge our abusers, and to forgive those who are humble. (Psalm 37)
What do we do with our trauma? How do we control this stealthy, reckless force inside us? Do we ever regain sanity? See my next post, Healing Trauma.