Dear Emotionally Abused
WORDS BY GRACE ALLEN
Sept. 10, 2017: “It takes courage to say I’m not okay. It takes strength to say I’m weak. It takes self-discipline to say I’m going to keep moving forward through the pain. It takes faith to remember that seasons of sadness don’t last forever and all of this will be redeemed.”
I wrote this in my journal two weeks after the final break up of a two-year long, emotionally abusive relationship. And when it finally came to an end, I didn’t know what to do, how to feel, what to say, who to tell.
For those two weeks, I feared he would find me. I blocked his number and refused to open any Facebook or SnapChat messages. I wasn’t ready to face him.
Our relationship was always hot and cold. He had intense mood swings, and his anger and frustration were always directed at me. I never did anything right. He always required an explanation for every little thing I did; in his eyes, I didn’t have a good enough reason for cutting him out of my life.
But I did have my reasons. No longer could I bear the pain of feeling like my doubts, my struggles, my thoughts weren’t worth him listening to, weren’t worth him bearing. I had gone too long not mattering enough, and I couldn’t allow him to be apathetic toward my heart anymore. It was destroying me. I resolved to take care of myself. After one last text from him, I broke. Sitting in a gas station parking lot with a long drive home in front of me, I sobbed, screaming at my steering wheel that I was done.
As hard as they are, It’s not easy to let go of toxic relationships, not easy to pick up the pieces, not easy to live in fear that I’ll make the same compromises again in the future.
The month after severing the relationship was filled with welcome distractions. The second month, an intense anger lingered — toward the circumstances, toward unwelcome people meddling in my heartbreak, toward him for putting me through hell in the first place. I was allowed to be angry, wasn’t I? Then, in the third month, there was a turning point.
Oct. 18, 2017: “Surely I have more than enough reason to hold on to pain and misery, but there is freedom in letting it all fall away in favor of forgiveness.”
Forgiveness came in like a bandit and cleaned out all the anger that had built up to dangerous levels. Like a light switch, my heart went from black as night to light as day. Forgiving him and forgiving myself brought freedom to view the relationship in a different light. It opened my heart to evaluate every stage of the relationship and learn from it. Seeing it this way, allowed me to ask the question, “How can you prevent this from happening again, in any kind of relationship you build?”
I have asked these questions for about a month now. Every time I pray, I ask, “God, what can I do? What do I need to know?” Every time I read, I find another verse about caution or wisdom or cherishing the things God has given to me. And that last part about cherishing what God has given to me has stuck.
Every single one of His children possess something special, a gift from Him. On the surface, it is the same thing no matter which person to whom you are referring, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find something unique about this common gift.
Hearts, we all have one. Scripture tells us that much of who we are is contained within our hearts. It is the wellspring of life. It contains our characteristics, personalities, needs, wants, desires, flaws. Everything. It is what allows us to be in a relationship with God and with others. It is a precious, prized possession to be cherished. God created it and He sees every intimate detail of it, even the things we hide so well from others. He wants us to understand that since He created it, it matters to Him and it is safe in His hands. We no longer have anything to fear.
When a husband gives his wife a ring, it is not only a sign to the world that they are committed to one another, it is also a gift to her showing how much she means to him. It is a gift she wears every day. She cleans it, keeps it in a safe place when it’s not on her finger; if she ever misplaces it she’s reduced to tears. It’s precious to her. She guards it with the utmost care.
The same measure of safekeeping is due to our hearts, God’s ring to set us apart from the rest of the world.
If you’re like me, you were raised by parents who always told you, “Guard your heart.” Maybe you didn’t know what that meant until you had a situation like mine, where you realized you haven’t done a very good job guarding it.
But there’s something I strive to understand and I think it’s something you should understand too, kindred. If you have been in, or are currently in, an abusive relationship, how you’re being treated is not your fault. And even more important, it’s not too late to construct a strong guard around your heart.
So, how do we do that? How do we guard our hearts?
Spend a lot of time praying, maintaining an open line of communication with Jesus, the lover of your soul and keeper of your heart. Sometimes I petition Him, and sometimes I just talk to Him like I would a friend or my parents. Knowing that He’s listening gives His presence that much more gravity.
Find Scripture and hold onto it for dear life.
"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love" (1 Corin. 16:13-14 NKJV).
"For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10 NKJV).
To the Corinthians, Paul encouraged strength and bravery. To the Galatians, Paul encouraged priority. Abusive relationships can zap your strength and bravery; they throw your priorities so off balance that it’s hard to describe and can confuse your emotions. But since my final the breakup, these two verses have become my motivation. I don’t have to be afraid of him anymore. I only need or worry about what he thinks any longer, I need only to concern myself with pleasing my Savior.
Coming out of this relationship has been the most difficult season I've ever had to endure. If your story looks similar to mine, then you know the feeling. But I want to encourage you: be strong, be brave. It’s not always easy to take care of your heart, but believe me when I say it is a precious possession.
Don’t put it somewhere it can be lost. Don’t leave it in the hands of irresponsible caretakers. Don’t let it sit somewhere and collect dust, only taking it out every once in a while. Instead, show the Giver that you are proud of it, that you appreciate it because He certainly is and does. Take care of it. Keep it clean. Open it to the right people. When it’s hurt, give it proper time to heal. Build up healthy boundaries around it. Protect it. Fight for it.
As His daughter, I think it pleases Him to know that I’m willing to do anything to take care of my heart, including severing toxic relationships and prioritizing my relationship with Christ — something that took me far too long to do. I’m at a point in my ever-maturing relationship with Him where I recognize when He’s talking to me, when He’s moving me to obedience, and when He’s pointing out that I’m compromising once again. I know when His Spirit is leading me, invading my heart and life, and I must follow Him in order to protect my heart. It won’t ever be easy, but He enables me to do it.