January 21, 1997?
Events of the past few weeks shock and sadden sports fans as one player after another confesses to being a victim of abuse. Counseling services report this is only the beginning.
As sport organizers work to put structures in place that may help prevent future occurrences, they are also concerned that pain-filled victims are properly treated. We know they do need to come forward and acknowledge their ugly memories to someone who can help them. The goal is not to sensationalize their situation but that healing may begin. While most realize healing requires more than telling someone, saying it out loud is the first step.
Along with the pain of being a victim, abused people often feel guilty. Some argue it is a false guilt because these people were not willing participants so they should not feel guilty. On the other hand, a person unfamiliar with the power of emotional and psychological manipulation might suggest that “victims” have will of their own and should have said “no.”
Whether or not that is true is not for us to judge. However, even there is some truth in it, the principle of “telling someone” works for real and false guilt as well as for healing emotional damage.
If the problems were purely physical ailments such as coughing blood, or dizzy spells, or constant knee pain, few people would insist that they are not sick. To do so practically guarantees they will remain unhealthy. Unless we acknowledge something is wrong, we cannot or will not take steps to make it right.
If the pain is emotional, acknowledgment is also vital. If I am angry and someone asks me about it, the way to ensure continued pain is by snapping, “I’m not mad.” However, if I want to change my emotional state, I need to admit it exists, to own it.
This principle is important for crisis counseling. An emotionally upset person has difficulty thinking clearly and making decisions. A wise counselor will defuse those emotions by helping the upset person say, or own up to, how he or she feels. Often just expressing emotions robs them of much of their power.
Guilt works in a similar way. For instance, if the speed limit is 90 kph and I drive 120 kph, I am guilty of exceeding the speed limit. It does not matter if I make an excuse or claim extenuating circumstances or did not notice I was speeding. Being ignorant of the law or its violation does not change the facts. I drove over the limit and am therefore guilty. Admitting it is the first step toward an end to that problem.
Moral guilt usually means breaking the laws of God. For example, God says I must not covet or want something that rightfully does not or cannot belong to me. If I do, I have broken the law of God. As long as I will not admit it, there is no hope of change and the act of coveting will begin to damage me and other people.
That is why the Bible says, “He who covers his sin shall not prosper.” In the case of coveting, I could obsessed with the forbidden thing, even to my ruin. I would be far better to face the fact of my guilt and admit the problem. When I do, God begins to heal me of my sin.
In some cases, a victimized person tells all to get even, to hurt the perpetrator, but those injured by emotional manipulation and sexual abuse often try to cover it up. They feel unclean, dirty, as if they were guilty themselves. Perhaps in such cases, rather than trying to assess those emotions or decide if those feelings of guilt are warranted, it would be better to simply confess they exist.
When we tell God about our feelings of guilt, He honors our honesty. He also knows the difference between true and false guilt so at the point of our telling, He offers us whatever we need.