Saturday, December 18, 2010

Infliction: Childhood Wounds

I've been sitting on the fence after the thoughts of "Old Spice Can't Help You", and the posts prior to that, especially "Broken Love". In the midst of all my realization of the sinfulness and brokenness of my own heart, I find myself looking back at what I've written, and hesitating. Hesitating, because things have been converging to this for some time, and I didn't realize it. Hesitating, because it forces me to get personal and frank, and I really don't want to. Hesitating, because the rubber of my theology must meet the road of reality and I'm suddenly recalling a quote from my favourite movie:

"Remember what Bilbo used to say: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Frodo Baggins, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

I think I'll step out onto the road, and trust God to guide my thoughts for the next few posts.

In the cognizance of all that I've been running from, I've had to acknowledge the hurtful experiences of childhood and see their effects through new lenses. In some cases, I've needed to admit that they happened, that it mattered, and that neither could be conveniently swept under the rug.

A lot of the wounds I've had to process are from school. Being the youngest in my class, I was 'different' in many ways that I couldn't really explain. I guess I still am. For other reasons that I've never understood, the bullying began after I shifted classes in Grade 6 - first verbal and then the physical beating. This went on for years, all the way to my final year of high school.

Writing this now and feeling a familiar sharp pain coming on, I suddenly feel like shrugging it off, saying it wasn't a big deal, didn't matter and changing the subject. I mean, everyone gets beaten in school, right? So what? '"Stiff upper lip, be tough and take it like a man!", I feel like telling myself, just as I did as a child. But there was the problem in trying to "be tough" - I took it all silently and said nothing. Picked myself up quietly for years, after getting ganged up on, insulted, pushed around and beaten up, and went back to class after lunch recess, or home after school as if nothing had happened. I suppressed the pain of abandonment and rejection because I wanted to be "strong", and vowed never to cry. And so I did, proceeding to build walls around my heart and layering on the "emotional armor". Even though I accepted Christ as my Saviour in 9th grade, I didn't know how to deal with the underlying hurt and anguish. The wounds festered under the surface and during high school, led to another unconscious vow:

No one would ever be allowed to hurt me or lay a finger on me again.

Initially, that translated into picking fights with the same people who had started the bullying years ago in sixth grade. But after high school, things proceeded on a different front with silently shutting people out in different ways for the next 11 years, trying to keep people from getting emotionally close enough to figure out where to "aim the arrow". When they did hurt me, it became an immense battle to forget; a close friend of mine recently made the observation that my mind is simultaneously my greatest gift and my worst enemy. I had no problem admitting that he was absolutely right. The pattern of hurt, suppression, building emotional armor and shutting people out was one of the contributing factors culminating in the events described in my previous post, "Family Matters".

There was one glaring problem with all the emotional armor and walls that I was building:

No matter how thick the armor, how high the wall, or repeated vows to "be strong" and "never cry", the heart stubbornly rebels with all its might in the desire to be genuinely loved and keeps hammering back against the barriers, demanding to be let out.

During my time in school and for almost a decade after, that desire led my heart to some strange and curious people in search of rescue and freedom. I will keep that for the next post. Writing this one has taken the longest and been the most draining of any that I have ever written. I suppose that's what happens when the rubber meets the road in attempting to "walk the walk, not just talking the talk". It's tough to be honest and face the brokenness.

Till next time, then!

- The Wisdom Seeker

   This post was the first that led to a four-part series on childhood hurts, heroes, and realizations about both. The full series is listed below: