“Her Clothing is Fine Linen & Purple”…(Do Abuse Victims Prefer Black?)

I try and keep my forays into social media ‘fun’ and ‘light’. Especially since what I read and write here on WordPress, is usually on the heavier side of things.

One of the Christian accounts I follow on social media is an image consultant. She ‘remakes people’s closets’ for them, first finding all the ‘keepers’ from their existing clothing, not merely adding new pieces. This is great fun for me to watch. Though sometimes it convicts me, and makes me think deeper, too. For instance, some time ago this professional image consultant shared that very few women actually look good in black.

Shocking, right? Since ‘does it come in black’ is pretty much the most frequent question all women ask when shopping for clothes. Plus, everyone knows black takes off ‘pounds’ too, right? Having turned my own closet, over recent years, into a kaleidoscope of muted colors with loads of grey and black, I was a bit concerned about this claim…however, not being one to just take another’s word for anything: I searched the internet to see if this ‘no one looks good in black’ thing was really true.

Turns out, it is a well-known fact that most women look far worse in black; not better. Black washes out most skin tones, wrinkles and blemishes become more pronounced, one’s personality will come across as severe, aloof, and lacking joy. The perfect little black dress revenge theory works simply because the woman is often trying to look haughty, unapproachable, cold, and powerful.

I think of the tendency for people who follow religious sects to wear a lot of black or muted clothing (The Amish, The Hutterites, Nuns, Monks, the standard black shirt and pants outfit of a Catholic priest when he goes out and about during the week), and it all fits. Black is also a way to show we are in mourning or fasting or making some kind of strong statement:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the time

I wear the black for those who’ve never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said
About the road to happiness through love and charity
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose
In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men

And I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believing that the Lord was on their side
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
Believing that we all were on their side

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
‘Til things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black

Johnny Cash, Lyrics to ‘Man in Black’

Holy Week is one time I can find myself missing parts of the Protestant tradition, in which I was raised. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were such moving events. We had communion together on Thursday evening of Holy Week, and then at the end of the service, with dusk darkening the stained glass windows, women of the church would go forward, somberly removing the elements, taking down all the colorful banners, and wordlessly covering the gold cross on the altar and the lecterns in shrouds of black fabric. Ushers turned off the lights in the church, one by one, and when the de-coloring/darkening process was finished the congregants led themselves out one by one, in silence.

To leave a darkened church in mourning and grief and somber reflection of sins, and come back again early on Easter Sunday with great joy and anticipation, seeing the sanctuary completely washed in bright color and sunlight: purples, golds, greens, and lots of whites, the sun rising brightly again through the stained glass windows–with the scent of Easter lilies and the drift of strong coffee and iced cinnamon rolls from the basement–was enlivening to the senses. The yearly tradition: of first shrouding in black, followed by a burst of colors, was enriching to my childhood faith, in part because I could see Jesus’ death and resurrection unfold through rich representations of color.

All of which made Jesus’ death, suffering, and resurrection even more real to me. The black was as needed a reminder in that regeneration process as the bright colors of Easter Morning.

I was never a big fan of the color black growing up, or in my younger years. I had friends who just loved black sports cars and black leather jackets. I wanted mine in red! Or yellow or pink…I simply preferred fun colors. Considering what I went through, mid-life, in finally walking through the cloud of childhood abuse and it’s long recovery (made longer since it came without any real support from my birth family), I can see why I willingly turned my own closet into a Maundy Thursday church service. Wherein I was drawn to black, grey, and muted shades; as I grieved and lived with the full damage and effects of buried pain.

In adulthood, it was a slow but steady de-coloring process as reality unfolded. Many childhood friends moved to ‘the city’ and I stayed put in Middle America, seemingly stuck here. I remember feeling a very real clash ‘of color’ at times. Before my visit to a big city on the West Coast, my hosting friend warned, ‘Just wear muted clothes. Locals always spot the tourists from the Midwest because they show up in such bright, colorful clothes.’

My closet, at the time, was full of bright colors! I didn’t want to look like I didn’t belong somewhere, like a clueless midwesterner, and I dutifully shopped for muted accessories, packing all the taupe, brown, and muted pink tones I had at the time.

But now?

Now I laugh at myself for ever trying to fit in; in a city. Why would I want to look like a city dweller? Black denotes suffering, in the Bible. Indeed, it is suffering, for me, to be in a city now. I no longer enjoy even short visits there, where I can feel the oppressive ‘sameness’ literally making me depressed and feel like I’ve landed in a dystopian nightmare.

I have little hope or joy, when I am in the city. In part because I see the endless grey and black everywhere and it affects my mood. And not surprisingly, the most popular cloth face mask…in the city…seems to be black.

I want to avoid the city these days; all the while I subsequently turn my hidden closet in the country into Easter Sunday.

I want to be the giant kid at heart that the joy of Jesus can restore again. Or, as Proverbs 31: 22 says: the woman who clothes myself in fine linen and purple. And so I mean no disrespect here to Johnny Cash, but Jesus already won; so I think that means we CAN wear colors. I mean, I ‘get it’, why some wear black, and likely always will. I went through a black phase too, and so I plan to keep the black bits in my closet, even as I add more color to it. But I fear that to ‘stay there’, muted and washed out and suffering, past the point of the needed time spent in abuse recovery, would be to fall for the devil’s lies. Because it is the One, and the ones, robed in white/riding white horses who is/are victorious.

In Middle America a lot of people have big, joy-filled, colorful personalities and often wear clothing to match their unique character; too. The vast green fields which surround me, denote blooming where one is planted, growth and fruitfulness in Jesus, as well as peacefulness and tranquility

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8 KJV

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:2-3 KJV

The unobstructed blue of our prairie sky represents the nearness of God Himself as well as the heavenly realm. While the bright yellow sun, brings joy and also testifies to the purity and refinement of solid gold, of God Himself.

And so begins my personal renewal process of turning my closet back into the Easter morning church services I so loved as a kid. With being happy with the place, the family, and the life which God has given me; instead of viewing it as some punishment with which I am stuck.

As noted already: I will keep the grey and black, of course. Because resurrection and new life is far more meaningful and powerful when one has first gone through, and still remembers now and then, the death and grieving process, the suffering and weeping which lasted for a night, before the joy came in the morning.

Thankfully it is not about me at all here, or my closet… It is Jesus who turns our mourning into the bright colors of Resurrection Morning!

Footnote: The biblical color references used in this post were taken from the following post about color in the Bible, at the Reasons For Hope Jesus website.

Leprosy, Baptism, and Being Healed as We Go

A local church is planning to do baptisms this Easter Sunday. Seems a good time for it. The weeks and days prior to Passover, and Holy Week itself, are a sobering time for self-reflection, confession of sin, and repentance, culminating in great hope and renewal as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Historians theorize that it was the Jewish religious tradition of deep cleaning, wiping every cupboard and cranny of potential leaven (leaven or yeast represents sin), prior to passover/feast of unleavened bread, that led to the widely adapted practice of ‘spring cleaning.’

A thorough house cleaning sums up baptism too: making our faith public by undergoing a literal, though symbolic, purifying/cleansing act of bathing. ‘Dying’ to sin, as we go under that water, thereby renouncing and putting to death the old man: the world, the flesh and the devil, and then coming up from that temporary burial a new person: cleansed and trusting Jesus entirely for new life, for eternal life and the ultimate bodily resurrection to come.

I hear Bill Randles mention this detail frequently in sermons: Jesus had water gush from His side when He died on the cross; and there is always water involved in a birth process too. Water is a very important element in a baptism, and in our new life in Jesus.

I have been reflecting back on my own desire to be baptized by immersion, which, as I may have already shared here on this blog, was the crux point which began the total unraveling of my former life. The former life wherein I wrote nice sounding Christian-ese things and covered up any bits of ugly.

Then I entered, haltingly and messily, and not always very Christ-like, into a new life wherein I could no longer cover up truth, hide abuse, and still retain any peace in my heart. I found that post-baptism I needed, instead, to call the truth to light, in order to keep my internal peace. And I didn’t like doing that as it caused issues with others, and I liked to ‘keep the peace’; even at the cost of personal peace. But doing so was also costing me my own right standing with God. I had to change that.

To paraphrase something I think Anne Lamott wrote (not a recommendation or an endorsement of her, as I find her too new age for my tastes): if people wanted me to write nice things about them, then they ought to have behaved better…I didn’t fully understand such statements prior to being baptized. I once thought it WAS Christian to cover up other people’s sins. Not to reveal them. If you don’t have something nice to say: don’t say anything at all. Which I cannot find in the Bible even though it sounded Christian to me. Actually, I made it sound Christian in my head since that helped me justify why I was so willing to avoid conflict; and willing to live in a state of learned helplessness, where I just let ongoing pain happen to me and no longer attempted to move out of its way.

Being baptized is what ultimately empowered me to own up to the truth of my own past abuse, to feel and grieve the true cost of victimhood to myself and others: my spouse, my children, my in laws, many friends I’d burned–there was a lot of damage done, and not just to me, but through me and by me too. Sexual abuse of a child is never a single bullet sniper attack on the victim. It’s more like a mass shooting with many casualties and injuries of varying degrees.

I had to also acknowledge the personal sin pattern my childhood had set me on (and for that part: I was fully responsible). In time I was no longer afraid to openly admit my status as a clergy abuse survivor, and therein I think I finally could walk as a restored child of God, accepting that while it wasn’t my fault that what had happened to me had happened…it was, nonetheless, my own responsibility to break bad habits and to try and make right the collateral damage I had caused on my own, too.

Or rather, I should say, to let God right it for me as I continued to just confess and repent of my own indwelling sin–of which I knew I had no excuse. I was beginning to see that even if I had a valid excuse, making an excuse instead of promptly confessing my real state of sinfulness, would just keep me from walking in the light of Jesus, myself.

Baptism, quite literally, changed everything for me. Seemingly for the worse, at first, and then ultimately: likely being the very thing to keep me in God’s protection and power, through an ensuing fiery trial.

I was sprinkled as a baby, per the Protestant tradition I was born into. For a long while I felt that baby baptism sufficed, and also protected me somehow or other, and I didn’t question it. Until I came to fully believe that a baby baptism didn’t mean anything. I even suspected that my sprinkling as an infant may actually have been damaging to me, keeping me from something better, in some way I couldn’t fully understand at the time. That part was fuzzy for years. Eventually I saw how damaging it had been to have no real choice in such an intimate and life changing event, like deciding to follow Jesus for my own self, as our free will choice toward baptism testifies.

However, one part of it all was very clear. Prior to my baptism, I yearned, with all my being, to be dunked in water in the way the Bible exemplifies.

I was besotted with such a strong desire for it, that it was hard to wait for warm enough weather or a proper setting in order to do just that. Once those details were worked out, God put a particular Bible story in my heart that I am still reflecting on years later.

That Bible story involved a sick man dipping into some muddy water, just as the water I felt called to for my own immersion was pretty muddy. There were certainly cleaner lakes than the one to which I was so drawn…but that muddy water part certainly matched the story I was pondering in the Bible, which was a story of a physical healing taking place in a muddy river, and therein the even greater miracle: the finding of real faith in the true God. And so I came to believe that my own adult baptism would eventually lead to some kind of a physical healing for me, as well as become a representation of my own death to sin and new life in Jesus. (I should note that I was rapidly descending into chronic illness and pain, at the time of my baptism and therefore I was also seeking God’s healing.)

It was the Old Testament account of Naaman being healed of leprosy that was so strongly on my heart during those weeks preceding my baptism. Naaman was a Syrian army commander who came down with leprosy. A slave girl in his household told Naaman’s wife that if only her master were in Israel, (where the slave girl had come from), there was a prophet of God there who could heal him. (Takeaway: an unnamed slave girl’s boldness in giving glory to God, is what led someone to God. Be bold. Share your faith!!).

Naaman heard that she’d said this, went to see the King of Israel, and ultimately ended up at the house of Elisha, the prophet. Where he was met at the door and was promptly instructed, by a mere messenger “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” Naaman was offended, felt there were far cleaner rivers in his own homeland that he could go wash himself in, and almost didn’t even listen. (take away: do NOT question the direct instructions of God; rather, obey them, and when we obey, then is when we will receive healing).

Naaman consented and was instantly healed, and his conversion to God, which seemed to coincide with his healing, was solid and real. Like yeast/leaven, leprosy also represented sin, (as well as the ritual uncleanness that comes from our descent into sin/evil), in the Bible. Getting rid of his leprosy denoted something had also been cleansed in him in a spiritual sense, as well. As is evidenced by Naaman’s immediate understanding that it would be very wrong to ever again offer sacrifices to other gods. He then asks for permission to still be able to help his aging king, whom he served, kneel in the temple before the god Rimmon. To do so Naaman would end up kneeling in reverence, himself.

But, after his life altering dips in the Jordan, and thereby seeing the God of Israel AS God, Naaman now knew that to kneel in a false gods temple would be idolatrous and adulterous behavior. And since he was himself but a servant of an earthly king, he wanted to make sure it was ok to have an allowance there. Clearly, after his conversion/healing: his heart belonged to Elisha’s God, no longer to the false gods of his home country.

Elisha responded by telling him to go in peace, and I’m assuming that meant he was given an allowance to help his master kneel in the temple without compromising his own newfound faith to the one true God.

Where it all gets interesting, to me, is Naaman’s request to load up two mules– with dirt from Israel. He wanted to take some of God’s holy ground back home with him!

In my own baptism one detail I remember is how muddy the lake bottom was when I entered it, squishing between my toes and sinking nearly to my ankles. Whereas, when I exited the water again after being dipped under: the ground had seemed almost unnaturally hard and smooth under my feet, as if it had somehow turned to stone instead.

While water signifies birth and new life in Jesus, perhaps dirt, and/or standing on the holy ground of God, is what represents healing? I think of how Jesus mixed dirt with spit and healed the blind man. Or of how Jesus didn’t even touch, but merely sent the ten lepers, who’d come near Him seeking healing, away again on a walk–to go show themselves to the priest. Those lepers were healed on their way (see Luke 17). I’m not sure if it was them seeking Jesus, or their obedience to Jesus instructions, which healed them. Likely both.

Another leper was healed by Jesus touch (Matthew 8), and then was told to tell no one but go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift Moses had commanded; as a testimony to them. I’m also not sure why we are given that detail. Why would a priest of God need to be shown a testimony about God?

Perhaps for a similar reason as to why the minister who abused me also needs to see the testimony of my own changed life, and my new found ability to walk in truth and confront him for his actions against me, and thereby truly show myself as I really am, once badly damaged by sin and evil, held silent by shame, but healed again too and no longer bound by shame. My life is now able to be as a testimony to others; of the power of God. What other chance might some have, themselves, to repent and follow God– if they are not also called to account for their own hidden sins when they see the testimony that is someone’s formerly incurable and unclean condition, like leprosy (or the sexual abuse of a child?) just up and leaving them by Jesus’s power?

Another rich detail of Naaman’s story is how Elisha’s duplicitous servant, Gehazi, went out and collected payment from Naaman. Elisha had refused Naaman’s offers of a gift. And so Elisha confronted Gehazi, “Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. (2 Kings 5: 26- 27)

When I ponder that part of the story: I can see how many of my own physical and spiritual ailments are now lifted, just like Naaman’s leprosy. And how those who attempted to profit in any way, from my own healing process, brought injury to themselves. On a spiritual level, I am far less likely to cover my real self up in shame, like a lepor, outcast from the camp. While those on the peripheral of my story, went into hiding; as if they are leprous.

Others come close sometimes, but seem to just want in on the good stuff of God, the money and clothes, olive groves and flocks…and slaves to do their bidding… yet they shirk from the whole counsel of God, fail to grasp the full gospel (grace AND truth), and do not stand firm when it comes to the ongoing problem of workers of God profiting from other people’s sickness and miraculous healings. It’s no wonder why so many of us who profess Jesus are not well, or remain bound to shame, failing to walk in real life changing power.

Only one leper, of the ten who were healed ‘as they went’ (on their way to show themselves to the priest), returned to Jesus giving thanks to Him and praising Him for the healing. Perhaps that one desired another experience of standing on the Holy Ground that emanated from Jesus’ presence here on earth? Similar as to how Naaman wanted to take two mules full of dirt with him?

If so, then Jesus question to the one thankful leper is even more profound: where are the other nine lepers who were also healed? Perhaps they did not realize, as the Samaritan Leper had, that Jesus, not the priests, or the temple, is the Holy Ground which had healed them. And so perhaps the two mule fulls of dirt that Naaman took home represented Jesus Himself and the desire of a new convert to return to Him again and again for another healing and life changing experience of standing on Holy Ground.

If we are willing to be cleansed by the water of God, and we are also willing to sink our bare toes down into that holy ground of God, to not shy from the mud and the mess which is the ongoing sanctification process — then surely there is great blessing to be had in these acts of obedience. Because it sure seems that ‘dirt’ which Jesus makes holy, can change one’s life too, just as can the clean water of baptism: the healing water which flows from Jesus, poured out for our behalf.

Whether or not my take on ‘holy ground’ and why Naaman loaded up two mules with dirt and only one leper returned to thank Jesus is proper biblical exegesis or not…

Showing ourselves as we really are, to others, as a testimony to God, is a very good thing. As is giving all praise for a changed and/or a healed life right back to Jesus, and refusing to accept earthly rewards, nor to put up with others willing to accept that kind of thing, when God heals another in our midst. These seem to be solid takeaways, both as we ponder our own baptism, and as we also reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection.

When You are Little, You Notice the Little Things.

girl lying on road in front of cart
Photo by Collin Guernsey on Pexels.com

I have a little blog with little traffic. Some times, I can tell when someone has liked a post but hasn’t actually read it; or made a decision to follow me based on actual content. (Since they clearly didn’t read any.)

I know, I know, some existing subscribers like to read posts directly in their emails and when they do that; it won’t generate any traffic…

But when the blogger who just liked several posts, without seeming to have read them, is not a follower and is also the owner of a ‘marketing’ blog… or happens to have just posted about a (fee-based) guest blogger opportunity…I call it click bait. And I presume that little blogs with few likes and few followers are more likely to become targeted by the big blogs who naturally think us little blogs can’t wait to grow up and be big blogs; just like them! And so we will be indebted to their ‘like’ or their ‘follow’ and thereby like and follow them right back, increasing their own following and likes…or maybe we might even buy what they are selling.

This actually doesn’t happen all that much anymore, although a few recent likes did give me some pause…but back when I was very little, my earliest ‘fans’ all had very large blog followings of their own, and most of them dropped off liking my posts after it was clear I had become a regular follower of theirs. Coincidence? Or am I just jaded?

Well, jade is a favorite color; so there’s that. Sometimes I wish that WordPress was a tiny bit more like twitter wherein you could clearly see the follower/following ratios. That would make it all far more interesting. All of which has me pondering what exactly Jesus meant by His comment that in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven we must change and become as little children. Are we jaded; and need to return to being trusting children? Do we need to regain our innocence? What is truly meant by this comment  that Jesus made anyway?

Little children are still sinful- innocent as we might like to make them out to be- they aren’t. Little children are not exactly trusting by nature either–babies reach a certain age and are often scared to go into the arms of strangers. But, little children are aware of the little things, far more so than grown ups. They are more honest too. They know that darkness is inherently creepy and light is much better. Little children take in the little things in ways that grown ups tend to brush off or rationalize. They haven’t learned to posture themselves and be fake. They are real. They like what they like and ignore what they do not.

And so it is the little things, when you are little… Like comments! That is where it is at; for me. Show me you actually read my stuff with a thoughtful comment, and then I will be intrigued about you, will inevitably read YOURS and probably will comment back. Though I completely understand why someone would be content with a blog with a little OR large following; without feeling the need to comment back or follow back or ‘like’ back. I’m good with it ALL, really. Except, well, being click bait. It’s fake, for one. Plus, it’s kind of voyeuristic when you think about it. To view a mere title on a new post and then click like or follow simply in order to use something you know nothing about for your own purposes…

YUK.

When I was a child, I definitely noticed the little things. It frequently terrified me, being so hyper-aware. Sometimes that hyper awareness saved me from further abuse, other times I was made to feel even smaller and was abused because of having those natural intuitions and fears. Regardless, the way some men would stare at me when I was wearing a swimsuit was never lost on me. I noticed the way adults in my family talked or laughed like a villain from a movie I shouldn’t have been allowed to watch. And I still shudder at how certain grown ups, and one dentist, carefully gauged my mom’s reactions while winking at me right in front of her.

I decided who was trustworthy, and who was not, by the little things. I didn’t figure out how to guard my time and talents from those who would drain it, though, until I was older. Other than that, though: Not much has changed.

I hope to stay little in as many ways as I can; including blogging.

 

 

 

 

The Golden Rule Can’t Be About Me.

smiling woman holding black smartphone
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

I have an agnostic, leaning-toward-atheist, friend who believes all you need to do in life is to follow ‘The Golden Rule’. Always treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. She asserts that if you do that, you will get back out of life what you put into it. Furthermore, she’s been known to say that if everyone simply followed The Golden Rule, the world would not be the world as we know it (I think she meant ‘bad’ in general. But, IMHO: the world as we know it is increasingly narcissistic– we have become ‘lovers of self’, just as was prophesied by Paul to Timothy).

I agreed with her but added some thoughts of my own too. Since I believe all people are capable of evil, by nature–we need help keeping The Golden Rule. Such help comes in the form of Jesus, specifically His Word (Jesus IS the word!).

By the way, friend, God’s word/AKA Jesus is what gave us The Golden Rule…

And, not surprisingly, she didn’t believe The Golden Rule originated in the Bible. Citing chapter and verse did nothing. I’m not one to argue, I’d rather let the seed do what seeds do (die, or, lie dormant and sprout when least expected– six years later, in a crack that developed on hard cement). My Golden Rule friend is actually basing her life on two Biblical principles, without realizing it. The Golden Rule is one, and the idea that we get back what we give out is number two, i.e. we reap what we sow. (I didn’t even ‘go there’ on that point–seeing how the Golden Rule Bible verse played out!)

Anyway, I believe the key to understanding Mathew 7:12 (the famous ‘golden rule’ precept) lies in Matthew 7:11.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 that though we are evil, we still know how to give good things to those we love. How much more, then, does God the Father, (in Whom NO evil resides), KNOW how to give good gifts?

Sadly, I know the sin nature of people, myself included. We are capable of committing evil under the right (wrong?) circumstances. And I’ve also experienced what the devil is capable of as well–so there’s no doubt in my mind that the dark dude would LOVE it–say, for instance, if the recent earthquake in California had resulted in total annihilation instead of the fairly serious damage that was caused (sadly). The fact that this world is still, for the most part, orderly, and that many people enjoy long lives relatively free of major devastations, is one of those ‘good gifts of a righteous God.’ His hand still has sway over this world and is undoubtedly keeping order, IMHO. When that restraint is lifted, I believe it will get very ugly indeed–I just hope I’m not here to witness that!

But back to The Golden Rule. It struck me recently that we, in our selfish nature, have twisted even that genius summation of all the law and prophets. Time and again as I’ve been attempting to heal from PTSD, I have received advice and responses from professionals, friends, and family that have come from a place of ‘their experience’ instead of truly trying to understand, and respect, mine.

All too often, when we are faced with another person’s pain, we respond exactly as we presume we would want to be responded to (with all of our personal quirks, belief systems, dislikes and affinities) instead of listening and then selflessly responding as that person would like us to respond (or outright needs us to respond in truth, whether they want the truth or not).

I think we err in this way because treating others as we would want to be treated seems so noble and good. So… without reproach. So… Golden Rule-y! But if we overlook our own ability to be fallen and sinful (and self-focused), we could cause others more damage than help.

  • You are feeling sick and so I’ll just give you space, because I just want to be left alone when I’m not feeling well. (Perhaps the hurting person wants and/or needs someone to bring breakfast in bed–and then lunch and dinner too!)
  • I don’t like it when people talk bad about my family so I am not going to say anything bad to you about yours. (Perhaps the person recovering from abuse desperately wants to hear someone say her parents/siblings/uncles/grandparents are given over to evil!)
  • I don’t like physical affection so I will listen to you cry about this but I am NOT going to hug you. (Perhaps thats person wants a hug, or someone holding their hand).
  • Prayer makes everything better for me so I am going to stop on this sidewalk and pray right here, right now, over you. (Does the person even want to be prayed over right now, let alone in public?)
  • My minister said forgiveness heals and so you just need to forgive it. (even though David spent chapters of the psalms calling down curses on his enemies in order to purge and deal with his emotions!)

I could go on, and on, but perhaps others can add their own thoughts and examples of ways we respond to hurting people based on our experiences; not theirs.

I suggest we get better about asking.

  • What can I do for you?
  • What do you need right now?
  • Do you want a hug?
  • A prayer?
  • Some space?          

Honor the responses to those questions. Get to know someone who is hurting and treat them as they want to be treated. And please stop telling abuse survivors they just ‘need to forgive’. Most of the time they need to get good and angry before forgiveness can happen.

The Golden Rule is a wonderful precept! Yet it can go really sideways when we start seeing everyone else exactly as we view ourselves. Which leads me back to where I started: humans are becoming increasingly narcissistic. And it’s the ultimate narcissistic foible to forget that we are still…self-focused humans ourselves.

All of which makes me want to close with a word the early church used often:

Maranatha!