Past Trauma is no excuse for Current Rebellion
In many recovery ministries there is a focus on trauma. This is good in that powerful past events have had powerful negative affects upon my present. As such, I cannot fully heal unless I deal with the messages and ideas I carry with me that originated from that event. However, this is but “part” of the healing process, and not its “whole”. Specifically, while ministering to trauma has its place, that place must be in context of personal responsibility for my current behavior.
I will try to clearly address my concerns with “trauma healing” as a central focus for recovery.
There is no scriptural concept of dealing with past trauma as a means to sanctification. This concept is foreign to scripture. The closest parallel is the command to forgive others, which gives me the clear outline for my forward actions. As I stated before, it’s not that I haven’t found a need in addicts to deal with past trauma, but rather that the dealing with past trauma is more akin to dealing with a current thinking error: we are address lies that I utilize to justify my rebellious behavior. Ultimately, I must address of my rebellious choices against God.
If anyone had an excuse to claim “trauma” it was Israel during Exodus. Having spent their entire lives as slaves of Egypt, they faced awesome trials in the wilderness, full of uncertainty and difficult that most can barely imagine (ever been in the desert with no water to drink? Now imagine you’re there with your elderly grandfather, and pregnant wife.). When they came to the promised land and refused to obey the Lord, God did not respond with great kindness due to the obvious trauma that motivated their behavior. He judged their current rebellion against him (A great book about this is “The Land Between” by Jeff Manion).
Past Trauma is not an excuse for Current Rebellion
Knowing that God’s love is perfect, I wish to see the example he provided of Israel in Exodus (a great recovery journey parallel) and act accordingly. If God does not give credibility to past trauma as an excuse for current rebellion, then neither should we. Healing comes through submission, there is no other way.
Note: I could continue in addressing God’s awesome patience, kindness and love towards Israel, but will refrain as those are not necessary to making this point.
If my focus on trauma supersedes my focus on personal responsibility, I am in grave error. Healing of traumatic events does not occur as a first step in changing behavior: change of behavior is the first step. Logically: healing of trauma only occurs as at the heart, the heart can only be healed by God, God heals those who repent (1 John 1:9) and repentance is a behavior change. I don’t mean to say that until my behaviors are perfect, my trauma will remain unaddressed, but rather that dealing with Trauma is a future step after repenting. As such, a focus on traumatic past before the rebellious present is putting the cart before the horse.
A focus on traumatic past before rebellious present is putting the cart before the horse
Why do so many Christian ministries desire to apply a trauma focus recovery then? Although I cannot speak to inner motives of others, I believe I can accurately see several potential motives that I know powerful influence me and have seen influence others.
Assuming trauma as the cause of another’s unhealthy behavior I gain: (1) an ability to be their friend; (2) an easy means to talk with them about their behavior; and (3) a feeling of love for them.
I can be their friend for I am not actually confronting their unhealthy behavior as wrong but emphasizing the pain of some past event as the current cause. I am able to immediately remove personal responsibility by applying emphasis on trauma. Most people in American culture are open to entertaining this emphasis, as opposed to personal responsibility.
I can speak with them about their behavior because I am not confronting their actions, instead I avoid the defensive measures with an emphasis on their victimhood. This “root cause” focus makes me the “good guy” in caring for them. I don’t see them as a perpetrator, but as a victim. Some Christians take this so far as to see them as a victim of sin, as if sin were an outside force rather than a rebellious choice.
Primarily though, I get to “feel” loving towards them. It is much easier to have the “love feeling” when I see others as victims. But this is not actually love: it is pity. Love is pity when I must focus on harm cause to them rather than God’s value of them.
Love is pity when I must focus on harm cause to them rather than God’s value of them.
As a result, let us always be careful to never minimize our rebellion against the ever-loving God who is and always has been ready, able and willing to transform my life for the good, if I am willing to repent. This repentance may seem impossible, but we have found God to be so gracious that if we but take our best efforts and humbly do what we know to be right this time and place, He faithfully guides our steps forwards: one step at a time. It is in this manner that we heal.
If you are reading this and struggle with sexual addiction or are the spouse of a man who struggles with sexual addiction, we encourage you to reach out. If you are in the DFW area, attend one of our meetings. If not, send us an email, find a local group, get connected and do the next right thing. Praise God, I do not have to walk this path alone.
We are not the victims of our sin.
This means great freedom: in Christ I have the ability to be choice life. This also means great responsibility: I must make the choice.
As I often say to men I work with: it’s your life, so it’s your choice.
1 Peter 3:17-18
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.