Not stuck as victims or victimizers

A Christian Science perspective: A woman who had chronic depression after experiencing sexual abuse writes about the power of forgiveness to heal and reform.

Two periods of sexual molestation left me dealing with chronic depression in early adulthood. My coping method had been to try to forget the abuse, but this didn’t bring freedom from the depression.

I had seen before how deepening my understanding of God’s true nature as good brought healing. So I strove to understand what it meant for God – the one Spirit – to be truly good, and to be the source of all good and only good. Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “God is natural good, and is represented only by the idea of goodness; while evil should be regarded as unnatural, because it is opposed to the nature of Spirit, God” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 119).

Over the course of several weeks, prayer and Bible study helped me see that we all have a permanent relation to God as the expression of the divine Spirit’s inviolable goodness.

Then suddenly memories of the earlier abuse again came to me with force. Yet the spiritual insights I’d gained during the previous weeks of prayer enabled me to rise above the thoughts of fear, hatred, shame, disgust, and self-blame. In the calm aftermath I recognized that my life is, and always has been, grounded in God’s love, not in abuse. The abuse did not define me. It was not in me. It couldn’t change what God created me as – the expression of divine good.

In the Revised English Bible, a verse from Proverbs reads, “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, groundless abuse gets nowhere” (26:2). To me, this explains that evil, having no foundation in God, has no actual power over any of God’s children. Spiritual identity – the true essence and substance of being – can’t be touched by evil.

I could no longer be silently complicit with evil by claiming or accepting that victimhood was truly part of me. This was a revolutionary thought, because it also changed how I considered the abusers. Science and Health explains: “God could never impart an element of evil, and man possesses nothing which he has not derived from God. How then has man a basis for wrong-doing?” (p. 539).

This challenged me to see that these men had been acting in a way that was inconsistent with their true, spiritual identity, but that no one can actually be dispossessed of their natural goodness. I certainly wasn’t excusing bad acts, which needed to be seen as wrong, repented of, and stopped. But I also didn’t want to be perpetuating the belief that we are destined by some human cause to be perpetrators and victims. This depressing thought proceeds from a misunderstanding of God’s goodness and the permanent intactness of good in His creation. God knows each one of us as His spiritual children, possessing neither the impulse, capacity, nor inclination to do harm. Everyone is capable of being reformed and living up to his or her true nature as inherently good.

With this realization I felt compassion, and ultimately forgiveness, for the men who had mistreated me. And with that came complete freedom from the haunted feelings and depression that had undermined my health.

Sometime afterward I saw one of the men, who was no longer in a position to be of physical harm to others. He was ill and asked me to pray for him, which I found myself very willing to do. While I never saw the man again, I later learned that his life had turned around and that forgiveness had played a part in that.

Not one person is out of the reach of God’s love. Evil is unnatural in us. It is not to be tolerated, and its effects can be healed. Pure goodness springing from the divine Spirit that is infinite Love can cast them out.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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