Overcoming Evil (Sexual Abuse)

People have said to me, why is sexual abuse such a big deal? My immediate reaction is to wonder if the person asking that question has been abused. For how could a healthy parent envision their trusting five-year-old son or daughter being touched and sexually aroused for the pleasure and exploitation of an adult and not wonder about its impact? It takes just a moment for innocence and childhood to be lost forever, and a lifetime is spent unveiling the heart from self-protective walls. Children of abuse will never relax in their mother’s arms the same way they did before the violation, nor will they rest with the same abandon in their spouse’s embrace. The damage to the soul will eventually erupt into external realities. "The incident of shame, depression, and dissociation have been found to be primary symptoms of significant trauma, especially sexual abuse," states Dr. Allender. Other problems often associated with sexual trauma are compulsive disorders such as alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, poor self-esteem and narcissistic grandiosity, and a host of stress related disorders such as intestinal problems, lower backaches, neck and jaw pain and chronic headaches.

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An Identity that Transcends

I turned to say goodbye to my parents and gazed into their tender, loving and sad faces. I had received their blessing, yet their devotion to seeing my dreams come true would come with a piercing price—the sorrowful severing of the umbilical cord that bonds parent and child together. We embraced through the tears and for a moment time was suspended. I felt like a little girl who was suddenly struck with a panicked desire to call the whole thing off, unpack the car and say, What was I thinking? As the consequences of my decision came hurtling into focus, the fact that I was the last to leave the nest, but the first of my three siblings to relocate only inculcated the thought to reverse course and stay. Adding to the pressure was the uncomfortable prospect of having to admit defeat and move back home, if this adventure went up in flames. What helped stay the course that day was an intuitive Yes that marked the dreaming, praying and planning phases and resonated through every minute detail. I hoped a larger sovereign plan was afoot. Standing there that day in the surge of emotions was a glorious and honorable rite of passage; I was being lured away from the only family I had known into the mystery of larger open waters.

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Our Inherent Capacity for Evil

Scott Peck in The People of The Lie stresses the importance of naming evil. By its very nature evil confuses and deceives and is not what it seems. Unless we dig deep and name it, we will avoid seeing its reality in ourselves and others. Instead, we will categorize our lives as "good and ethical" because we haven't committed one of the big ten sins like murdering, stealing or committing adultery. However, evil is much more insidious. This silent killer wraps its cold, numbing tentacles around our hearts, distorting our thoughts and obscuring our motives.

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Redemption Amidst The Carnage

Tragedy sharpens the focus of what was once obscured by the cataract of fallen humanity. Monotony, boredom and addictions are the symptoms of soul deadness. As Sir William Wallace in the movie "Braveheart" exclaimed, "Every man dies, but not every man lives." Sacred to being given the privilege to walk this earth, is the opportunity to be emotionally alive and available to all life has to offer. Suffering is the gift least desired, but instrumental in delivering us from our numbed existence, while exposing our deepest longings--reminders of another home. The Apostle Peter writes: "But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:9-11)."

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Waiting For Love

To wait–the phrase is tantamount to torture for me. Few trials elicit more anguish than longing for something, only to have its fulfillment impeded. Even the Psalmist states that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Ever been dehydrated to the point of wanting to pay a ridiculous price for some cool libation? How about needing to be somewhere in a hurry only to find yourself behind a driver who feels it’s their civic duty to meander slower than the speed limit? Have you ever fallen in love and yearned to have your feelings reciprocated? To thirst, yearn, and desire all have the quality of hoping for something just beyond our reach. Often, I’d prefer to be pro-active–trying to avert the uncomfortable tension of an anticipatory situation. So I play "dodge the slowpokes" at the grocery store by detecting the fastest bagger and checkout clerk, only to be derailed by a customer who wants to write a check or has an item with no price.

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Change is a Certainty

Whether subtle or jarring, the momentum of change shifts our balance, disrupts our routines and rattles our repose. It impacts our lives and we are never the same. Our response to change can either be to submerge into lethargy or open our hearts to the breath of life, like a screaming new born baby. Change and its ensuing chaos can be less of an enemy and more of a friend for it can heighten awareness, shatter certainty, and engender perspective, while stirring our hunger for an authentic relationship with God.

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Margaret Bernhart Profile

Margaret Bernhart LMHC

Margaret Bernhart


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Tallahassee Florida
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One of the most profound desires of every human being is to be known, observed and touched by the soul of another. -MB