Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thoughts on Abuse

I have been reflecting lately on "abuse", in the light of the recent scandals, as well as in light of events in my own life.

So here are a few thoughts ...

  • From one point of view, it's easy to imagine people abusing one another.  In a way that's almost "natural".  We love power and we're all damaged in some way.  What is really inconceivable is people loving one another, people being good.  Love is supernatural, transcendent.  And you see that when you realize what our true natural "baseline" is.

  • If an abuser is a family member or a close friend, things are infinitely harder on the victim.  Separating the knot of affection and abuse is almost impossible.  And yet only when you begin to see with clarity the evil involved, can you begin to regain some sanity.  This is how the knot gets untangled.  There comes a point where you see with horror the deliberate damage the abuser was doing all along, and you see with shame your own role in it (if you were an adult) or with terror your helplessness (if you were a child).  

  • A great and awful truth of fallen human nature: we hate those we hurt.  We don't first hate them and then hurt them; we first hurt them and then we hate them.  This is actually the result of the workings of conscience.  We can't stand to be faced with the harm we have done, and so we retreat to a feeling of contempt.  I once had a client owe me $600 for six months running, and by the end of it they hated, loathed and despised me for collecting it from them.  I was the bad guy, even though I was the victim. 

  • If we could ever eliminate from our relationships our neurotic agendas, we'd have the insight to realize who is and who is not worth knowing.  Every single person who's treated me with contempt - and there have been many over the years - has done so because I've invited him or her in and enabled a situation in which I'm hoping to get my own stroking, to get my own selfish agenda satisfied.  An independent observer could say, "What the hell do you have fill in the blank in your life for?  That friend / employee / client is a total mess.  Can't you see it?"  

  • Abusers have themselves been abused.  This is almost a cardinal rule.  Part of our job as Christians is to stop the cycle.  Don't pass on the evil that is done to us.  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - (Rom. 12:21)

  • Neglect is a form of abuse.

  • Cults are institutionalized forms of abuse.  They take advantage of our religious urges, of our desire to serve God, of the greatest good in us, and turn it toward their own advantage.  Recovering from being in a cult is very difficult.

  • "Self-abuse" ends up becoming one of the worst symptoms victims deal with.  Victims become convinced that they are worthless, and so they behave accordingly.  


Anonymous said...

I'm coming out of a cult-like Catholic group at the moment, and although I haven't suffered sexual abuse, some of my fellow members have.
Your posts on this subject, and all the work you've done on Lying for Jesus and Unreality and so on, have helped me to start to acknowledge the web of deception that I have been living in.
After following someone for 17 years who seemed so great and wise, who said he loved me and was making me a saint and an Apostle of the Last Days, I found out that this was a cover for repeated sexual abuse of his spiritual children and that I was a willing prop in his religious charade.
This sort of sin cannot be an isolated fact outbalanced by airy good "intentions." I'm seeing more and more how it poisoned everything, especially the people and things that were apparently the "best" in the group.
I'm starting to realize that I actually became part of the violence, internalized the abuse. I realize now that the "Community" made it possible to avoid living by grace through faith while preserving the best appearances of orthodox and devout religion.
As a priest coming out of something like this, I have found it is easy to get sympathy but hard to get help, because the institutional Church sees you as damaged goods, an actuarial risk. Which I understand, because honestly I don't know what is going to become of me. But I'm praying and trying to get to a better place where I can heal and discern.
Thanks for your work and your prayers.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Father, a friend of mine has a resource that might help you. Email me if you'd like me to put you in touch.

Anonymous said...

Good Job Man!