Self image

Today marks another milestone along my journey of recovery. The abuse I experienced which resulted in PTSD, trauma, and many years of struggle occurred six years ago today. In some ways it feels like six decades of struggle I have walked through, but in other ways it feels like it just happened.

Each year has held milestones along my journey, but this year more than any other has been the turning point. It has been a year of big steps, significant change and healing, and moving clearly in a new direction.

  • Joined the core leadership team of a church plant, one that really wants to reach the lost and broken
  • Started actively serving with six organizations in my community (most of these organizations sought me out which was an answer to a prayer that the Lord would open doors when he felt I was ready)
  • Began networking with people in my community and all over the nation
  • Helped run a major medical/dental clinic to serve my community
  • Joined with a group addressing human trafficking and hoping to raise awareness in the church about trauma
  • Started a book about what I have learned through my journey
  • Recognized the roots of my issues come from deep shame and started that recovery journey
  • Began openly speaking about and sharing the testimony of the changes Christ has brought into my life this year+
  • Last week I was notified that the pastor from my last church is finally ready to meet and attempt to reconcile

As I move into next year I already know of two major milestones that lie ahead

  • I will be leading a recovery group for abuse and trauma
  • I will be a part of a special program. Through that I hope there are outcomes that raise awareness of trauma and recovery, and teaches that brokenness and “not being okay” are beautiful things.

Tonight I had a chance to share part of my testimony with a friend who didn’t know anything about my past. He listened and personally identified with parts of my journey of trauma and recovery.

As I left, he stopped me and going out of his way to make an impact he looked he straight in the eyes and said, “You are a hero. It is incredible to hear the story and learn more about the depth that exists. You truly are a hero.”

To those of you who are also on this journey of recovery, and who face the daily struggle to recover from abuse, I want to say “You are a hero!” You daily face challenges that others don’t understand. You find courage to keep trying. You stand up for others who face injustice. You take steps forward, even when you don’t want to. Thank you for your courage and strength. You are heroes, and you are making an impact and a difference.

There is an old hymn where the chorus says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

The hymn comes from Psalm 84:11-12. Verse 12 reads, “O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

Are you trusting and obeying? Or are you obeying and then trusting?

There is a difference!

Placing obedience before trust means we are living to try to please God through our actions, we are trying to “earn” our salvation and our identity in Christ. That just isn’t possible. It was already given to us as a gift and it is ours. We can’t earn it when we already own it. We just need to learn to walk in it.

If we do not start with trusting God, especially with trusting what he says about who we are and where our identity comes from we end up trusting in our own abilities, resources, skills, mindset, etc.

Trusting the Lord isn’t about earning our place. It isn’t about offering a sacrifice. It isn’t about performing and doing all the right things.

Trusting is about accepting, receiving, embracing, and believing.

Most of us are living this out backwards. We are living out the obedience before the trust. How would it affect your life if you switched and started living out of trust, a trust that then leads you to obedience?

One of the issues that survivors of abuse struggle with is trusting their own judgment and perceptions. This has been an especially difficult thing for me and is one that even now as I am doing really well I find I can still fall back into regularly. It is a larger issue for me because of the type of abuse I received and who abused me. I have listened to their words and taken them to heart causing me to feel that I am unacceptable and have a bad heart. It has taken a lot of work to get to the point to realize that I may have poor judgment and may not communicate my heart well, but that my heart and intentions are not corrupt and evil. Due to identity issues and insecurities I often find that when others around me question a decision I have made or actions I have taken I take their assessment and blow it up into something larger.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the condition of our heart and how important it is to look at our heart and what is going on there.

Recently I was reading in my study bible and it discussed how we need to have hearts that are open to receive instruction, discipline, and guidance not only from God, but also from others. This world teaches us to be independent, to think for ourselves, to rely on our understanding. God’s word tells us to rely on him, to seek community, to listen to the counsel of others, and to give up our rights in submission to the Lord. Through Christ we find new life, a renewed mind, and a transformed character. However, we have to learn to walk in that. It is offered to us when we receive Christ as our Lord, but we have to accept it as our new way of life. The Israelites walked through the desert for years with God in their midst and they still struggled with this, so if you are still learning and struggling to live this way don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take a deep breath, repent of your lack of faith, and turn back to God.

Our judgment is shaped and renewed as we walk with God. The more we walk with him the more we learn the Lord’s ways and become like him in character. I am learning that my judgment may not be like Christ yet, but I am confident that today I am closer to Christ’s character than I was last month and definitely more like him than I was last year. Learn to trust your heart to the Lord, and he will give you a new heart. Then your judgment comes from his heart and not your heart so you will be like him in character and you can trust your judgment because it comes from him and not from you.

Have you heart of personality and temperament tests and the corresponding profiles? There are a variety of them in existence, but one of the best known is the Myers-Briggs assessment.

This test is based on research that started with Carl Jung. He theorized that every individual had a psychological type that formed the base of their personality. That type is comprised of four components and each of these had two sides to the component. Introversion and Extroversion, Intuition and Sensation, Feeling and Thinking, and Perceiving and Judging. Although there are only two sides to each component things are assessed on a continuum that is split down the middle. In other words two people might both fall on the continuum on the 50% side of being extroverted, but one person might be 56% extroverted while another person might score at 89%.

Jung defined eight personality types. Here are links to some descriptions of them and a link to descriptions of the various profiles.

  • ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers
  • ESTJ – The Guardians
  • ISFJ – The Nurturers
  • ESFJ – The Caregivers
  • ISTP – The Mechanics
  • ESTP – The Doers
  • ESFP – The Performers
  • ISFP – The Artists
  • ENTJ – The Executives
  • INTJ – The Scientists
  • ENTP – The Visionaries
  • INTP – The Thinkers
  • ENFJ – The Givers
  • INFJ – The Protectors
  • ENFP – The Inspirers
  • INFP – The Idealists

Knowing and understanding something about your personality, your temperament, and your relational styles can help you understand and put conflict, trauma, and struggle into perspective. It can show you things about yourself that might help you understand why others responded to you in certain ways, or why you are thinking and feeling in the ways you are.

For example, I am an INFJ. This is the least common personality type. Therefore 99% of people are not like me in personality, and in a gathering of 100 people there is only one that is similar to me, however they might be scoring different on the continuum and still falling in the same four areas. INFJs are very sensitive to conflict. That is a key to me in  processing the struggles I have had in the two churches where I had problems because the situations started with some conflict that I didn’t know how to work through but I was stressed and troubled just because of the presence of conflict. INFJs are highly intuitive and therefore trust their own instincts above all else. After I was abused five years ago I completely doubted my instincts. This left me in a place of conflict within myself that hit me at the deepest levels and as INFJs are not common I had trouble finding another others who could understand or help me through the process.

Personality types are not the end all of understanding ourselves. The Bible does not directly speak about them, and they are based on humanitarian theories and beliefs. As such, I advise looking at them with discernment and caution, but also with eyes and a heart to see and learn something new. This tool can help you understand yourself, others, and relationships in new and insightful ways.

Have any of you seen others ways that tools like personality tests can help in the recovery process from trauma, abuse, and spiritual conflict?

magnificentHave you seen the Narnia movie Prince Caspian? In that movie Peter Pevensie travels to Narnia and after saving one of the dwarfs, Trumpkin, he introduces himself. He doesn’t just say Peter, or Peter Pevensie but instead he introduces himself as High King Peter the Magnificent.

How do you introduce yourself? Do you just say your first name, or do you communicate something more? Are you expressing something you might not even be aware of? How do you really feel about yourself and how is that expressed to others?

A few years ago a dear friend of mine was attending Toastmasters, a group that helps you learn public speaking skills. Through that group and some counseling she was attending she created a document that answered the question “Who am I?”

I can start to answer that question, but how would you answer it?
I am Sherie, a tender-hearted and passionate woman who loves God with all her heart and seeks to live in a way that honors others and shows them genuine and authentic love, true Christian love. I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, aunt, niece, cousin, neighbor, co-worker, leader, mentor, and volunteer. I am dedicated, loyal, committed and a person of integrity and character. I am a survivor of spiritual abuse and spiritual rape. I am a grandchild of divorce and alcoholism. I am a preachers kid. I am a college graduate. I am a lover of adventure. I am a musician, a life-long learner, a photographer, and a people lover. I am beautiful, chosen, special, anointed, empowered, gifted, and blessed. I am a daughter of the King!

I recently read this story by Steve Brown which also reminded me of the movie Seabiscuit. These stories remind me of those of who have been hurt, abused, broken, disillusioned, and battered in the church. Because of our experiences are we now believing we are bad or broken? Have we forgotten what God has made us for? This was definitely part of my story for the last four years, and at times I could even see it in myself but I couldn’t escape from it until others walked along side me and helped me out of my entrapment. Are you believing you are bad or broken? There is a way out! Are you at a point to help others out so they can find the freedom, love, grace, and healing power of God? If you are, please reach out to those around you because you are desperately needed. There are far more people around you who need your help than you probably realize.

“I once had a German shepherd. His previous owner had beaten him.  His name was Calvin, and he was one big, strong dog.  He just didn’t know it.  I gave him the name Calvin because I thought it would help him with his extremely bad self-image.  It didn’t.  In fact I’ve never seen a dog expect punishment more than Calvin.  It wasn’t that he had done anything wrong; it was just that he had somehow gotten the idea he was a bad dog and that my sole purpose in life was to beat up on him because he was such a bad dog.  No, I never hit Calvin.  I didn’t raise my voice to him.  I praised him, petted him, scratched behind his ears, gave him treats, and did everything I know to foster a good self-image.  Nevertheless, Calvin flinched every time I came near him.  Do you know what happened?  He became the bad dog he thought he was.  German shepherds are supposed to protect and defend their owners – Calvin ran and hid under the bed.  German shepherds are supposed to lie at the master’s feet – Calvin wouldn’t come near me.  German shepherds are supposed to be strong and courageous – Calvin was a weenie.  I really believe Calvin felt sort of uncomfortable and abnormal because I didn’t do what he expected me to do – punish him.” (Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown, p222-223)

Seabiscuit is one of my favorite movies because it represents such a real image of life, especially for anyone who has been abused, rejected, or battered emotionally. I am not a horse racing fan, but the overall message of hope and promise in the movie really touches me. It is a story about three men and a horse who are all banged up and broken. Like us, these men and this horse have walked through hardships and they show the scars and pain of that. Seabiscuit had been bought and sold repeatedly, had failed to perform, and had taken to heart that failure and worthlessness. He was actually trained to lose so he would help others win. He was frightened, bruised, and defiant until trainer Tom Smith and jockey Red Pollack come along.

Here are some quotes from Tom about Seabiscuit.
Tom Smith: “You don’t throw away a whole life just ’cause it’s banged up a little.”
Tom Smith: “You don’t throw away a whole life just because it has a few bumps.”
Tom Smith: “He just needs to learn how to be a horse, again.”
Tom Smith: “He’s so beat up it’s hard to tell what he’s like. He’s forgotten what he was born to do. He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.”

All of us get beaten up, bruised and damaged in the course of life. We need to believe that we are not defined by that. We may be misunderstood and mishandled, we may even lose our way for a time, but God has created us with purpose. God doesn’t “throw away a whole life just ’cause it’s banged up a little.” He believes our lives are worth redeeming. He believes we are worth another chance. We may have to learn how to be a man/woman again, but he is willing to walk through that with us.

I recently finished reading Identity Crisis: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Frank Santora. It is a great book to readjust your image of yourself so that you have a Godly perspective. God created each of us with purpose, desire, and love in his heart. He made us to accomplish something, and he loves us deeply, but we walk around doubting, questioning, and failing to embrace these truths. This world speaks so many messages against us, and leaves us feeling like we are insignificant and unimportant. Due to that many of us will develop what Santora describes as the “grasshopper mentality”. This comes from the story of Joshua and Caleb where 12 scouts were sent into the promised land, but only two came back with good reports. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)

Let me define “grasshopper mentality.” Here are its symptoms:

  • Having a small view of yourself
  • Seeing yourself as insignificant and unimportant
  • Having to acute a concern for your shortcomings and difficulties
  • Having a feeling of inferiority which causes you to perceive everything that happens in your life as a reflection of what you cannot do or what you cannot be
  • Thinking of yourself as a person who can’t do something even before you try
  • Viewing yourself as an individual who doesn’t have what it takes to be more than average or, even worse, to be only average
  • Looking in the mirror and seeing a reflection of someone you don’t like very much
  • Sizing things up and determining that you’ll never get beyond where you are right now
  • Being satisfied with the lifestyle in which mediocrity (being no more than average) is your goal
  • A destructive second-rate feeling the makes you feel unqualified to be a vessel of God’s goodness

Here is why this kind of mentality is unacceptable to God:

  • He created you in his image
  • He has empowered you with his strength
  • He has given you personal talents and abilities to reflect his image
  • He unhesitatingly sacrificed his only Son to redeem you.  He turned his back on Jesus on the cross, so he wouldn’t have to turn his back on you.

 Do you have a “grasshopper mentality”? I expect you do in some ways, most if not all of us do. What can you start doing today to change your mentality so you will see yourself as a “more than conqueror” which is who God created you to be?