Unmasking Abuse: Releasing the Shame
Rev. Iris Knapp, Life Coach
Back in the 70s, when I first started in ministry, I worked with what was known then as
street people, the inner city poor and homeless, women coming out of prison, and women struggling with life controlling problems and addictions. I helped start a Christian women's rehab center and a mom’s support group at church. I've been in countless churches, and I can never remember anyone ever talking about abuse. When I think of all the training and countless sessions I had with different women from various backgrounds, I can only remember abuse coming up one time. What is sad is that I didn't know or understand what I didn't know. I never even knew to ask the right questions, let alone have helpful resources other than for domestic violence support and shelter which was the only type of abuse I had some familiarity with. Looking back, I now know that many if not most of these women experienced some form of abuse. Likely abuse they may not have acknowledged but they were still living with the wounds and false beliefs that many victims carry throughout their lives, bleeding into all of their relationships.
So why are we talking about abuse now?
The thing is, abuse has been around since the beginning of time and it is all throughout the Bible. Just a few of the examples out of many in God's word:
Physical & Psychological Abuse:
Cain murdered Able (Genesis)
Saul & David's relationship (1 Samuel)
Tamer by her half brother Amnon (2 Samuel)
Dinah by Shechem (Genesis)
Psychological, Emotional, Sexual Abuse
Misuse of power: King David having sex with Bathsheba and the intentional planning of
her husbands death (2 Samuel)
Sexual and Physical Abuse
Human Trafficking: Joseph (Genesis )
Jesus whipped & crucified (Matthew, Mark Luke & John)
Paul torturing and killing Christians (Acts)
There is so much more but you get the picture.
Unfortunately, in some churches and Christian communities women are stigmatized by being asked about their role or part in the abuse assuming she has some blame. She may be told to submit more, stop arguing, don't give an opinion, or have more sex. (These are not the solutions! )
I think the new culture that encourages us to feel our feelings and talk about our hurts, ex: “Me Too” has forced the world to see out in the open what has traditionally been kept secret.
But why the secrecy???
Not my shame but the false, toxic shame and embarrassment many abuse victims feel for what was and is being done to them.
Because they've been told...
It's your fault.
You made me do this.
You deserve consequences.
They second guess their actions.
...I didn't go here.
...I kept my mouth shut.
...I had done something different.
...I listened to my parents/pastor/friend/teacher.
Our SHAME leads to SECRECY.
If I tell someone, they'll think it was my fault.
They will think I'm exaggerating, or that I started it.
They will think less of me (especially if the abuser was a respected husband, pastor,
parent, elder, fill in the blank).
It's not abuse, is it? It's just rules/standards/scripture. I deserve the consequences.
This is normal, isn't it?
I should have said something sooner.
It's less painful if I don't think about it
It's in the past. Nothing will change what happened
What’s the point? I just want to let it go.
There are many categories of abuse.
Verbal / emotional / psychological
Physical / Domestic Violence
Spiritual / Religious
I've learned that using these subcategories allows room for clarity and makes us better able to recognize what is happening and acknowledge the existence of abuse.
Calling abuse by its name opens the door to release and free us from the deep wounds that have been carried for many years. These wounds often cause us to have false beliefs that leak into our interactions and relationships.
We must uncover them, acknowledge them, and allow the Lord to make us whole.
So when our pastors, Sam and Angie Woods, were new to my church, Pastor Angie started a small group called “Mending the Soul”. A small group of ladies participated each semester. By this time I was already familiar with “Called to Peace,” which is a wonderful ministry and resource for those who are currently or have recently suffered from abuse and for those helping people who want to help survivors. But Mending The Soul was new to me. As women I knew completed the group, I asked how it was. I heard things like “life changing,” “healing,” “helped my marriage,” “hard but worth it.” For some, healing began in areas they had buried and forgotten about. I was impressed and started looking through their website.
What is Mending the Soul?
“Mending the Soul groups are a theologically precise, psychologically informed, and research-driven resource to begin the process of restoration. It's Christian based support for those who have experienced any type of abuse and they provide training for those who desire to be facilitators” -Mending the Soul
The curriculum is facilitated in small group settings for 11-15 sessions Participation can be online or in person. The curriculum takes you through exercises and questions designed to help you remember, name, and process what has taken place in your life. This begins to break the chains that for many are buried deep. You are with a group of people who are supportive and understand. We learn (or re-learn) what God says about who we are and open up to the healing He desires for us.
Remember, Jesus bore our sin, shame, and pain by the abuse He experienced on the cross. Mending the Soul groups begin a process of restoration and healing that is powerful and life changing. You finish equipped with what you need for chains to be broken and healing to
Mending MY SOUL
When I participated in Mending the Soul I was surprised to uncover damage from being
neglected as a child. I learned as a child to do everything myself. I became a woman who, because of my insecurities, had to try to control everything. My belief was “if it is going to get done and be right, I need to do it.” I passed this unhealthy belief on as normal to my adult daughter and son. Even as a Christian woman, my unhealthy thinking set me up to accept abuse in my marriage. It's taken me time to acknowledge these patterns and allow the Lord to restore my heart. Some of that is still taking place even as I'm writing this. I completed Mending the Soul Ministries training and my first online group was for Neurotypical ladies in complex marriages or separated or divorced from Neurodiverse men. A few dropped out right at the beginning. The wounds were too fresh for some and, to be honest, I did not do a good job of screening. This is a program for those who have already begun the work of healing and are separated from the abuse. It's not for those who are in the middle of the storm. Called to Peace Ministries is a great resource if you need to know what first steps are needed if abuse is active in your life. Both Mending the Soul and Called to Peace Ministries are solid and biblically based.
I will be offering an online MTS Group this Winter for those in complex NT/ND marriages and those pre-, mid- or post-divorce, and those who have had any type of abuse in your past.
Please subscribe for updates on my web page to be the first to know when we will be offering
Mending the Soul again. Space will be limited.
It's made of shame and built with lies, the mask I found I wear
It keeps me happy, laughing, safe the truth too hard to bear
It shows the world my choice for me, not really where I've been
Those things are unacceptable; they're drenched with hurt and sin
But then my journey takes a turn. God says, "It's time to heal
It's time to face the ugliness, it's time for you to feel"
My laughter turns to mourning, as I miss what could have been
Emotions are not those I choose as the healing begins
Little did I know that it would somehow set me free
To start again and find out who God wanted me to be
I know in time and by His grace, joy and laughter will be mine
God wants to show the world and me His original design
Dagny, Mending the Soul Workbook
Rev. Iris Knapp
Resources for those in or recovering from abuse
Healing from abuse
Resources for victims, families & people helpers