Putting the past behind you

  • Friday, April 25, 2014

Added a new bumper sticker on my car: “got goats?” I welcome two additions to my therapeutic and oh so funny farm, MerryGoat2 and Rio. I had a bumper sticker that I had printed saying, “Don't let yesterday use up today!”

Think about how often we hang on to grudges, hurt and resentment. Research and common sense tells us that it is simply not good for us (US!) and that if you are a Christian, especially in the Easter season, you are ignoring the commandment to forgive. Just for your information, when Jesus prayed in agony in Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, he took on the sins of the world – not just ours, but those who hurt us as well.

To not forgive is literally an insult to what the Savior did for us all. Religious, spiritual or not – it is important to know that forgiveness does not mean you condone the actions of the offending party.

Dear Liz,

My sisters and I are all just uncovering a long-time family secret that two of us were sexually abused as children by our stepfather. We are in our 40s now. We've all had bouts of depression and anxiety and issues in our marriages.

It came out during counseling of our youngest sister. Luckily, her counselor helped us sit down together and piece together that part of our past. As painful as that was (and we are all seeking counseling now), it has been worth it. Our biggest issue that we agree is keeping us stuck, however, is the forgiveness part. Help.


Dear “Stuck,”

Congratulations on facing one of life's greatest, hurtful, confusing challenges and seeking help through counseling and support from one another. One out of every four girls and one out of every five boys have been sexually abused in some manner or another before the age of 18. And it IS fixable.

The prognosis is really good when you seek help with a competent, licensed professional who is experienced in this issue and knows how to walk you through to wholeness – including what to do with certain family relationships and how to protect others who may still be at risk. (For great information, go to “From Darkness to Light” at www.d2l.org. Or simply google the name). About forgiveness. It is a process, just like your counseling, and it involves having the faith to slowly remove the power that person had to hurt you. As I said above, belief in God is a huge help, because it gives you comfort, hope, direction – a more stable future. Forgiveness – true forgiveness – involves letting go of the bitterness, fear, “they should haves” and all the other internal dialogue that keeps us stuck. An issue like sexual abuse is huge and obvious. People question, “Why forgive a person who can do such a horrible thing?”

Holding onto that negative energy is BAD for YOUR mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Hatred doesn't hurt the other person, it only eats you alive. And, as mentioned above, it is a commandment (for our own good and a test of faith that the Lord will deal with the offending person). In Mark 11:26, it says, “But, if you don't forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.” Some would say, “Yeah, but, I don't go around sexually abusing innocent children.” Understood. Google the “power of forgiveness” and you will find countless inspiration. It is a final point to freedom from the past. Again, it helps you succeed at the healthy goal of “Don't let yesterday use up today!” Best wishes as you unravel all that this entails and embrace healing and wholeness!

Dear Liz,

My husband never says, “I'm sorry,” for hardly anything. Is it so hard? His rationale is “Why do I need to apologize when what I did was an accident? I didn't mean to hurt you.” Or worse, he claims that what he said couldn't have hurt me. How can I tell him how much that hurts extra? I want him to care about my feelings at least a little.


Dear “Hurt,”

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Women need to feel heard – and especially that their feelings matter (whether you feel the same way or not). Things escalate when you don't extend a simple, “I'm sorry that hurt your feelings.” And learn to mean it. You both will be so much happier! And you won't create the scenario where the woman gets louder and louder just to get a really simple, loving statement from you! “Sorry honey” goes a long way. And then we, the injured party, have to let it go unless we are in true danger. Please seek help. It sounds like your husband is discounting you, which is one of the underpinnings of an abusive relationship.

Please send questions to asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Masters-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health including serving as a school counselor and mediator.

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