A clean slate for victims and abusers

Is it inevitable that a traumatic experience cause lasting damage? Today’s column explores how an understanding of one’s innate spiritual purity can bring mental peace to victims and inspire remorse and repentance in perpetrators.

Like many, I was moved by the recent surge of stories from survivors of sexual assault. The outpouring of stories made it clear to me how many people would benefit if the assumption that a traumatic experience is permanently damaging could be overturned in their lives.

Since Christian Science has shown me that we can be freed from the lingering effects of past tragedy, I longed to see others know that freedom. This isn’t to deny the problems experienced by so many trauma survivors, including victims of other violent crimes and veterans of war. Many have felt trapped in anger, anxiety, and undeserved shame, but some have found a route out of that mental maze – a spiritual liberation that doesn’t depend on the thoughts, words, or actions of others. It depends on a forever settled, spiritual fact, namely the unchanging relation we all have to our creator.

Christian Science explains that creator as God, divine Mind, and pinpoints our true identity as the manifestation of that Mind. Right where deep fear and anger might be, we can awaken to this identity, which is conscious of God’s eternal goodness, as “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy points out. It says, “Man and his Maker are correlated in divine Science, and real consciousness is cognizant only of the things of God” (p. 276).

Day by day, we can grow in grasping and evidencing our reflection of the divine Mind in a way that subdues and finally silences the relentless rehashing of traumatic events.

That was brought home to me recently by a moving account shared with me by a woman who had suffered severe childhood abuse. She had repressed memories of the abuse for decades until they resurfaced in later life, so overwhelming her that she became suicidal. (Her abuser was no longer alive, so she wasn’t able to confront him.)

She reached out to others but felt a lack of understanding in their response. So instead she sought answers directly from the Bible and Science and Health, and these had the desired impact. She said, “The concepts of a loving God and of being God’s cared-for child were a balm for me. I kept reading, and over the course of many months, the darkness lifted. Daily tears were replaced with daily prayer. I came to realize that ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (I John 1:5).”

She realized that as a child of God, her true heritage was spiritual oneness with that divine light. From that she grasped that her real being had never been touched by the evil acts of another. As she saw purity and innocence as her true history, she found full and final release from the mental turmoil.

Looking back with gratitude for the healing 25 years on, she offered this thought for anyone suffering from the ongoing impact of a past trauma: “There is hope; there is light; and they are freely yours right now and forever. And this light is strong enough to break through the darkness.”

What about the person who has caused trauma? Those who have committed wrongdoing can also attain an understanding of their spiritual nature that enables them to move beyond their past. Yet there’s a great difference between committing a crime and being its victim, and that difference plays out in what’s needed to gain freedom from guilt. It requires a moral awakening – genuine remorse and true repentance. This is a crucial step in seeking redemption from doing wrong.

We don’t all have firsthand experience of assault, terrorism, or war, nor do most of us cross the threshold into committing unlawful acts. But lesser incidents can still leave us feeling stuck in a past experience of vulnerability or regretful for having acted in unseemly ways. Whenever the recognition and acceptance of God-reflecting spiritual purity as our true nature overcomes a recurring sense of the past, it hints at the route to freedom for those facing more traumatic memories. And anyone who proves that even the darkest of memories can yield to the freedom of knowing what we truly are, is showing us all how God’s love can always wipe the slate clean.

Adapted from an editorial published in the Nov. 26, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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