Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
You are also not the worst thing that has been done to you.
The things we have done, and the things that have been done to us, exert real force on our minds. They shape and mold our thinking and our reactions, and over time, can become either constructive habits of thinking and action that lead us into a good way of living, or destructive habits of thinking and action that lead us to destroy both ourselves and those around us.
There is a geometric force between the things we do and the things that have been done to us. What was done to us leads us to do things that don’t make sense, not even to ourselves.
Doing these things, over and over again, hardens them into something more than habits. They deform us into something we never wanted to be and usually pretend that we are not.
You are not the worst thing that you have done. You are not the worst thing that has been done to you.
Life has a lot of worst things it can toss at people. The worst worst things are those that cause shame.
The shame walk is the hardest walk there is. Shame burns like acid in our souls. Shame isolates us. The shame walk is a life in the nether world inhabited by those who feel unknown.
The greatest harm shame inflicts is that the isolation it creates can grow so overwhelming that we isolate ourselves from God. Shame can create a kind of despair in which we feel unworthy to approach God. Or, it can stoke rage and anger that feeds rejection of God because He didn’t save us. At best, shame leaves us uneasy in our relationship with Him, feeling like the stepchild no one loves.
Shame because of what we have done is relatively easy to heal compared to shame because of what was done to us. There’s a kind of helplessness that cripples efforts to deal with the things that we suffered at the hands of others.
Healing from the things that we have done begins by simply saying “I was wrong,” and trusting Christ. But saying “I was wrong” when the thing that’s tearing you apart is what has been done to you can actually impede healing.
Blame-the-victim is a vicious game that works to the advantage of the perpetrator. It is a weapon used to silence victims and stop them from burdening the rest of us with emotions and responsibilities we don’t want to have.
Blame-the-victim pushes people deeper into the self-blame that almost everyone feels after a major trauma. Blame-the-victim, and the silence it forces on people who have been harmed, can trap them in a box whose walls are silence, self-blame, alienation and shame.
Our society encourages this, especially, but not exclusively with victims of sexual assault. Blame-the-victim is a disowning projection that seeks to insulate others from their responsibility to heal and help. It is also a weapon in the hands of those who hurt and harm people, a way for them to avoid responsibility for what they have done.
The book of Job goes into this phenomena in depth. It’s a must-read for those who are dealing with the shame and humiliated rage of what has been done to them. It speaks especially well to rape victims and victims of sexual assault.
Shame because of what was done to us is a jabbering accuser that constantly picks at the wounds and makes them fester. It makes healing impossible.
If the person or entity who hurt us is someone we love, it becomes even more complicated. How do soldiers, who were used as cannon fodder in a senseless war, deal with the things they were forced to do, things that in a real way were done to them, in the name of a country they love?
How does a child who was raped by her own father, a father she now both hates and loves, deal with the grief and shame of what has been done to her? How does a child who was molested by a priest rebuild trust in God?
How does a young woman who is told she shouldn’t have worn that dress, gone to that party or walked down that road at night deal with the humiliated rage and loss of self that is rape?
People beat, rape, murder one another with ruthless abandon in our world. The world can hit you hard. It can shatter you like a crystal vase.
But you are not the worst thing you have done. You are not the worst thing that has been done to you.
God has not forgotten you. And He has not abandoned you.
It does not matter if other people turn on you and avoid you. It does not matter if they blame you for what was done to you. It does not matter if you feel like a wounded animal, if the human monsters who did this to you continue to strut and prosper even though they didn’t see you as a human being, didn’t care what they did to you, actually enjoyed the pain you suffered.
You are not the nothing that other people try to make of you. You are not the repository of their filth.
You are not the worst thing you have done. You are also not the worst thing that was done to you.
You are a human being, and you are made in the Image and Likeness of the God Who made everything, everywhere. You are an immortal soul, and you are clean as only He can make clean.
You do not have to suffer alone. You have a brother God Who knows all there is to know about what it means to fall into the hands of human monsters.
Jesus was beaten, humiliated and treated as less than human. He was abandoned. His friends denied they had ever known Him.
He was mocked, spat on and tortured for sport. He was beaten almost to the point of death, lied about and condemned by the crowd.
His murderers jeered and mocked Him, even as He was dying; naked, humiliated and in agony.
You are a child of the living God. You are also a co-sufferer with Him. You do not have to be afraid to approach Jesus. You can let your shame drop away and fall into His arms and cry your heart out.
Because He knows. Because He was not the worst things that were done to Him, either.
In our successes, we kneel before the mighty and all powerful God Who made us and all there is. In our disgrace and shame, in our own passion, we walk with our Brother God, our Jesus, Who has walked the same way Himself.
You are not the worst thing you have done. And you are also not the worst thing that was done to you.
You are an immortal soul whose light shines through eternity. You are God’s own child, and you are the sister or brother of Jesus Christ, Who suffered as you have suffered and knows what you feel.
God became human and humans did to Him what they do to one another. They taunted Him, baited Him, hectored Him, falsely arrested Him, put Him through a mock trial, beat Him, tortured Him, jeered at Him in His agony, and ultimately, murdered Him.
I imagine that if you had asked His murderers why they did what they did, they would have answered with some version of “He asked for it,” followed by an explanation as to how they really did the “right” thing. They would never have said, “We were monsters.”
But Jesus triumphed over his accusers in the Resurrection. It wasn’t just that He overcame death. He overcame shame and disregard for human beings. He demonstrated in an act that forms the fulcrum of history, that human beings — all human beings — matter. We matter so much that God suffered death and then undid death in order to give us a way out of the traps of our own devising.
We try to pretty up the Passion, to dignify the Crucifixion. We hang crosses on our walls, around our necks and from our earlobes. They are pretty things, jewelry designed to decorate.
But the reality was and is a bloody, humiliating, shameful disgrace. A lot of people both then and now deny the real Jesus because of the disgrace, shame and ultimate meaning of the Crucifixion.
This Jesus we know as God plumbed the depths of what it means to be the object of human depravity. He felt what humans feel. He knows what you feel now.
His Passion and death are proof that you are not the worst thing that was done to you.
If God can endure such shame and still be God, then you can survive your shame and still be His child. He was not diminished by what they did to Him. He was lifted up. And everyone Who looks to Him will be cured of the poisons of this world.
You are not the worst thing that you have done. You are also not the worst thing that has been done to you.
You have a God Who has walked the way you walk, Who knows what you know, feels what you feel and Who understands.
Think about that.
When you stand before God and try to stutter out your grief and shame over what has been done to you, He will answer, “I understand.” You will not be alone. You are not alone now. And you were not alone in your darkest hour.
Corrie ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that He is not there.”
There is no pit so deep, no shame so scorching, no dehumanizing act so humiliating that He will turn His face away from you. You are God’s precious child. You are the co-sufferer of His Passion.
And He understands.