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Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is important to many. Our Faith column is a place to discuss how faith (of any kind) positively affects mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
I recently attended a women’s conference where one of the seminars was about raising daughters in a hyper-sexualized world. The seminar was hosted by the founder of The Daughter Project, which is a Christian organisation.
Their goal is to help girls learn the warning signs of sex trafficking and helping those escaping it heal.
The topic stirred something up inside me I hadn’t faced in nearly ten years.
It was something I chose to bury from my college years because dealing with it meant facing reality.
The seminar was on preparing girls ‘and daughters’ for the hyper-sexualized world of today. I expected the talk to be around purity and modesty culture but it wasn’t.
I began feeling uncomfortable as she spoke, describing some methods traffickers use to trick girls and young women. While she spoke, feelings and memories of my own experiences came back.
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I wasn’t trafficked, but I came close. For a brief time early in college, I worked at a place acting as a front for trafficking.
The signs had been there but I was young and naive and saw them as something else.
It wasn’t until my boss made his intentions clear to me when I clued in and I ran.
At the seminar, I was forced to face something I had never spoken of to anyone. I had two choices: I could run away again, bury it, and forget or I could face it. I chose to confide in my sister and my aunt, share what happened and let the healing begin.
As much as I have tried over the past several years, there have been several things holding me back: shame, a feeling of inadequacy, and fear of what people think of me. Those three things were what held me back from ever sharing in the first place.
Shame over how dense I had been, over how easily I was manipulated, and over the prospect of what I was expected to do. Inadequacy because it made me wonder how low my self-esteem was to make me an easy target. And finally, fear of what people may think of me because I was afraid I would be seen as putting myself in harm’s way.
Following the seminar, I met with the speaker, shared my story between sobs and heartbreaking tears, and let her pray for me. Sharing my story and listening to the words from this woman, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
Confessing a deep, buried hurt isn’t the key to defeating it, but it is the first and most important step towards letting go and healing.
Making a confession to someone who is a leader in ministry or a person of faith you consider to be a mentor is wise. Having someone impartial who can is unbiased and can share in your pain and pray with you for direction will help you in your healing journey.
The next step is figuring out if there is anyone you need to talk with.
In my situation, it was important to share with my husband. The repercussions of my buried hurt seeped into my young adult life. They led me into situations that went from bad to worse, increasing my self-deprecation. Even worse, these hurts were teaching me to view sex in an unhealthy manner.
It took confessing this hurt to realize it but it also meant my husband needed to be aware, both to help me recover and understand why some things in our relationship seemed to always be a struggle.
You need someone who can help keep you accountable for healing, but you also need to confront people who are somehow affecting or affected by it.
Finally, the rest is all about prayer.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (ESV)
Prayer can mean anything from sitting down and talking casually to God, to journaling to Him, or praying in a group. Ultimately, it means giving Him the thing hurting the most and praying for Him to take it from you.
Facing a deep hurt is important because the longer we bury it, the bigger an impact it has in our lives.
It will find ways to affect everything from relationships, self-image, and even our faith. It eats away at you, often causing you to participate in behaviours contrary to your nature, and without realizing it.
In our faith, we never receive a promise our lives will be easy, without conflict, or without suffering. But what we do know is we will never have to walk through these things alone. The pain may not fully go away but the healing is what helps us move forward.
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