I’ve had the sad privilege of walking alongside some friends of late who are battling in some significant relationships. They teeter on the edge of breakup mainly because the other party will not tell an honest story and their painful past has caught up with them.
So many of us believe the lie that if we hide our pain or push down our story, that it will make our lives, and the lives of those we love, so much better. We’ll let others off the hook for having to carry the burdens of our narratives, and we’ll move on beautifully.
The past is the past.
Forgive and forget.
All things are new.
Except that we cannot sustain the silence or the secrets. They emerge over years of us trying to quell them through our behavior.
The glaring truth is this: an untold story never heals. It festers. And it poisons our relationships (tweet that).
The best thing you can do right now, even though it might seem counter-intuitive, is to dare to tell your story to a trusted, listening, praying person. To pray alongside that dear friend for release from your story. To let others in on your struggle NOT to become what hurt you in the past.
If you stuff it, you tend to become it.
The repercussions of stuffing your story will play out in your daily life (tweet that!)
I only know that because I’ve lived that painful reality. After suffering sexual abuse at five from neighborhood teens, I kept the secret silent for ten years. This is very normal and common because little children cannot process that kind of violation. When I met Jesus at fifteen, I had the courage to tell someone, and I started down the road to healing.
I followed my own advice and told my story in college to trusted friends who dared to listen, validate and pray for me. And then I “closed the chapter” on that part of my life. I believed I was 100% healed, that the past could stay blessedly back there.
But then I married. And then my sweet daughters reached five years old. I panicked. Nearly vomited in realizing just how small I was when the rape happened to me. Worried that my daughters would experience the same awful abuse. It immobilized me.
But instead of re-telling my story and chasing after healing, I shut down. I disconnected from my family (another common thing to do for abuse victims).
One day my husband gave me a word picture to highlight what I’d been doing. He said it was like I paced back and forth on a high dive while he and the kids splashed in the pool below. Although they beckoned me with laughter and encouragement, I could not jump into their embrace. Instead I walked down the ladder and sat on the pool’s edge, only my toes in the water.
That word picture woke me up. I realized then that we don’t heal in one fell swoop and then are henceforth free. Instead, healing takes time, and it is often accomplished in layers. And if I wanted to reconnect my heart to those I loved I had a decision to make.
I could either cherish my isolation, shove the memories way down deep, and never speak of my pain again, or I could bravely chase healing and share my story again.
For a long time I kept silent. And my family suffered.
But eventually I made the maddening choice that they were far too important than my own discomfort from opening up a wound. They were worth the pain it would take for me to tell my story with an eye toward healing.
So this time I found a counselor. And I talked. And I told my story. And I began to emerge from the haze of disconnection, which had become a very, very safe place for me. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years. But I can honestly say that my hard work has blessed my husband and family.
When I speak to people with difficult stories, I encourage them to chase healing too. So many of us don’t want to do that because it feels me-centered or selfish. But actually, it’s the most amazing loving act you can perform for others. You heal for the sake of those you love. You cannot give away what you do not have.
Your healed heart will be the greatest gift you give those you love (tweet that!)
Go ahead. For their sake. Tell your story and dare to begin the healing process.
Available now! Mary DeMuth’s latest book Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse