This is the last in a series of posts about abuse, beginning here.
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Prov. 18:21)
I spent a month writing and rewriting my previous three posts about abuse. I am writing this one because I think it’s also important, but it’s a last-minute add-on. I didn’t think of it until I had written the others. I have a lot of thoughts buzzing around that I have to sort through but I wanted to get it posted before the New Year so I’m writing quickly. There are a lot of approaches I could take, but I’ve decided on this one:
I think words are extremely powerful.
Words can bring hope or despair, strength or weakness, bravery or cowardice, life or death.
Words can actually change reality: Hitler, for example, didn’t have super-human physical strength, he wasn’t even a soldier, but with his words, he inspired people to horrendous cruelty, he caused the death of millions, and he reshaped the world. Conversely, I think England might have fallen during WW2 if Winston Churchill had not spoken words that brought courage:
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
God created the universe with words. He speaks the truth and gives life with words. Jesus is called “The Living Word” who is the Light, the way, the truth, and the life. Conversely, Jesus said that Satan is a liar and a murderer. Liars destroy truth and people.
I think that one of the most terrible weapons of abusers are words. With words, abusers attack the core identity of a person so that she forgets who she is. With their words, abusers weave a false reality that drains the life from their victims, turning strong, intelligent, creative individuals into someone who believes s/he is damaged, stupid, without gifts or value. With their words, abusers can drive a person to despair, hopelessness, self-hatred, and even suicide.
I think that the hardest part of recovery involves the struggle to replace lies with the truth, rejecting the false reality that brings destruction and holding fast to the true reality that gives life. Because the abuser has destroyed his/her victims’ core identity, recovery takes time and struggle.
Whenever I have encounters with a toxic/abusive person, I have to talk and/or write about it. I have told EJ several times that I feel as if the abuser has ripped and torn the fabric of truth–of who I am, of my value–and I have to reweave the truth by recognizing the lies and re-remembering the truth.
This makes me think of two Jewish phrases. One is a statement in the Talmud: “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” I think this statement has a lot of truth in it. When a wicked person destroys a person, he is destroying her entire world, he is often destroying families, and this destruction can ripple on to affect communities, societies, the world. I’ve read an article about a scientific study that showed that trauma can even change DNA and be passed down the generations.
The second phrase is Tikkun Olam, which in Hebrew means “repair of the world.” It is a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. The phrase is found in the Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings. It is often used when discussing issues of social policy, insuring a safeguard to those who may be at a disadvantage. When you give comfort, strength, courage, support, healing, and justice to others, you are helping to save their world as well as working to repair the world.
I think that repairing the world involves kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. I think it also involves seeking justice and resisting and standing against evil.
Now I’ve kind of gone full-circle and ended where I began–because in order to speak up, judge fairly, correct oppression, a person has to identify who is the wicked one and who is the innocent, which isn’t easy when the wicked person is covertly deceptive. Another question to ask is how to help the innocent victim. I think people have different talents and ways of helping. Some “helpers” are lawyers, some are pastors, some are bloggers, some are friends who help friends. Some work to change laws, some work at abuse shelters or hotlines, some write blogs, some generously give to those in need, some encourage hurting friends in their lives. Whether the help affects many or few, it contributes to the repair of the world.
No matter what the help looks like, I think there are a few basic things to keep in mind, which underlie all the others:
I’ll end with Bene Brown’s wonderful video about empathy. I’ll get back to my enchanted forest in my next post. 🙂