By now we’ve become used to the reality that when bad things happen in our pasts, they can impact our present and futures. When seeking emotional therapy and counsel, we are often asked about our relationships with our parents as well as traumas that might have occurred in our childhoods. One of the reasons for this is because children who endure abuse, neglect, and dysfunction within their homes begin to struggle as early as kindergarten. As they physically mature through adolescence and adulthood, they can become stunted emotionally, and cease to mature beyond the trauma they’ve experienced. Although many of us that have endured domestic violence and have been in abusive relationships may not link it to a childhood event, often challenges with recognizing or breaking negative patterns is a symptom of a traumatic childhood experience.
Spiritual growth through the Lord Jesus Christ requires us to shift out of a mind-and-heart-set of fear and into one of faith. The very nature of spiritual living is to believe in what we cannot see—to trust our spiritual sight more than our physical sight. Our flesh is a temporary house for our spirits and souls. It isn’t an eternal temple, and only allows us to dwell on earth for a season. We’re supposed to use life’s lessons to release our fears and cling to our faith. This is the only way to embrace our true identities. It is the only way that love will become anchored in the very core of our highest spiritual self in Christ. Then, we will be prepared for the next chapter of life in the Spirit after we leave this place.
A childhood trauma like domestic violence and abuse is a disruption in our emotional growth, and if unaddressed, it can prevent us from growing spiritually. Impressionable and vulnerable, children don’t have the necessary tools to discern the truth and make the right choices about what to believe. When a trauma occurs in their young lives, it profoundly impacts their emotions and responses to life. It can make fear, and not faith, the governing emotion of their existences.
1John 4:18(NLT) says, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” God’s love has no fear, and in truth, it kicks fear to the curb. This gives us a clue about how we should be handling fear; we must let God’s love into our hearts, and we also have to recognize when we’re allowing fear to run the show. Because of trauma, our minds can become stuck on trying to protect ourselves from danger and fear habitually. We don’t often realize we’re doing this, and it can do a number on adult relationships and social interactions. Of course, we all want to be loved by a quality individual, but a mind-and-heart-set of fear can keep us from recognizing exactly when a quality individual is in our midst; and furthermore, we don’t have an appropriate blueprint for what we ought to expect from him or her.
The ‘Empty Container’ Syndrome
One of the habit patterns of many victims of domestic violence is choosing partners that are not equipped for healthy relationships. When we’re stunted emotionally, in some ways we don’t mature. The radar isn’t all the way up when a rachet’ individual is lurking around, trying to run a serious manipulation game on us. We can’t tell when someone is just an empty container, so we begin to invest our hopes in them. The program running in our minds computes that they might rescue us from the fear we still haven’t addressed through the love of Christ. This person doesn’t give us nearly enough to hang our hats on, but we cast our anchors anyway. Incapable of loving us in the way we deserve, the empty container accommodates our insecurities, expands them, and then moves on to the next willing vessel.
A New Blueprint
Proverbs 4:23(NKJV) warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Our hearts can be magnets for people who keep us comfortable in fear, and this is why Heavenly Father tells us to stand guard—to watch what goes in our hearts and watch what comes out of them. One of the first things we must do as good ‘watchers’ is to interrupt the program of fear that is running in our hearts and minds. And we can know the extent to which this fear is imbedded by what we are willing to accept. Love doesn’t hurt us, harm us, tell us lies, play games, keep secrets, manipulate our fears, exploit our insecurities, keep us in the dark, or make us feel less than the treasure God says we are. We must reject this treatment and nip it in the bud immediately, because if crumbs is what we’ll accept, crumbs is most likely all we’ll get.
When we love ourselves enough to interrupt fear’s programming, we can change the way we think so that we wear God’s love like a second skin. In 1Corinthians 13:4-7(NLT), Heavenly Father tells us exactly what love is, how it behaves, and what we can expect from it. This passage says, “4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Renewing our minds and hearts to God’s standard of love allows us to draw a fresh blueprint with new expectations. It gives us the wisdom to make sure that only a truly loving person can follow them.■
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“A Blueprint of What to Expect” written for Overcomingdomesticviolenceorg.wordpress.com. Copyright ©2022. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!