Like many, I was moved by the recent surge of stories from survivors of sexual assault—generally, though not exclusively, women. Many were speaking out for the first time.
These recent revelations were prompted by a high-stakes political drama, and like others watching around the world, I was focused on the practical and moral ramifications of what was unfolding. Yet I increasingly noticed something else that concerned me quietly threading itself through the entire debate, which was the broad acceptance that a traumatic experience is permanently damaging. The outpouring of stories made it clear to me how many people would benefit if that single assumption could be overturned in their lives. Since Christian Science has shown me we can be freed from the consequences of past tragedy, I longed to see others know that freedom.
This isn’t to deny the longevity of problems experienced by so many trauma survivors, including victims of other violent crimes and terrorist acts and veterans of war. Many have felt trapped in an exitless maze of anger, anxiety, and undeserved shame, but some have found a route out of that mental maze—a spiritual liberation that doesn’t depend on the thoughts, words, or actions of others. It depends on a forever settled, spiritual fact, namely the unchanging relation we all have to our creator. Christian Science explains that creator as divine Mind and pinpoints our true identity as the manifestation of that Mind. Right where deep fear and anger might seem to be, we can awaken to this identity, which is conscious of God’s eternal goodness, as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, authored by Mary Baker Eddy, points out. It says, “Man and his Maker are correlated in divine Science, and real consciousness is cognizant only of the things of God” (p. 276).
As we come to understand that our true consciousness is the awareness of eternal goodness, we see that there’s no place within that spiritual thinking for temporal memories to take root. Day by day, we can grow in grasping and evidencing our reflection of Mind in a way that subdues and finally silences the relentless rehashing of traumatic events.
That was brought home to me recently by a moving account shared with me by a woman who had suffered severe childhood abuse. She shared how she had repressed memories of the abuse for decades, until they resurfaced in later life, overwhelming her. This was so painful to her that she became suicidal. (Her abuser was no longer alive, so she wasn’t able to confront him with what he had done.) As she put it, there were “better days and worse days, and days when I longed to never again see the sunrise.”
Whenever the recognition and acceptance of our true, God-reflecting purity overcomes a recurring sense of the past, it hints at the route to freedom.
She reached out to others, including church members, but felt a lack of understanding in their response. So instead, she sought answers directly from the Bible and Science and Health, and these had the desired impact. She said, “The concepts of a loving God and of being God’s cared-for child were a balm for me. I kept reading, and over the course of many months, the darkness lifted. Daily tears were replaced with daily prayer. I came to realize that ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (I John 1:5).”
She realized that, as a child of God, her true heritage was spiritual oneness with that divine light. From that she grasped that her real being was solely spiritual, and had never been touched by the evil acts of another. As she saw purity and innocence as her true history, she knew she could live accordingly, and she found full and final release from the memories and mental turmoil.
Looking back with gratitude for the healing, 25 years on, she offered a thought for anyone suffering from the ongoing impact of a past trauma: “There is hope; there is light; and they are freely yours right now and forever. And this light is strong enough to break through the darkness.”
What about the person who has caused a traumatic history? It has occurred to me that this spiritual message, so important to the survivors, also applies to those who have committed wrongdoing. They, too, can attain an understanding of their spiritual nature that enables them to move beyond their past. Yet there’s a great difference between committing a crime and being its victim, and that difference plays out in what’s needed to gain freedom from guilt. It requires a moral awakening, feeling—and, where appropriate, expressing—genuine remorse, and true repentance. Awakening to, and admitting, the error of one’s motives and acts is a crucial step in seeking redemption from doing wrong. Victims, on the other hand, awake to the illegitimacy of thoughts telling them they’re to blame for what occurred.
The power that brings change is identical in both cases. It’s an understanding of the spiritual idea Christ Jesus proved, that God is the only Mind. This exposes the unreality of a sinning or sinned-against mortal nature that seems to be materially formed and governed by a limited mentality, which the Bible calls the carnal mind. It’s in this mortal mentality—which isn’t our mind—that memories of a sorrowful or sinful past abide. The falsity of this material sense of ourselves was exposed in the very different mentality, or Christliness, that Jesus showed we all embody by his healing words and works. From his example, we can understand how our expression of Mind’s spiritual purity, understood and accepted as our true nature, throws off the fetters of feeling tied to a tragic past.
We don’t all have firsthand experience of assault, terrorism, or war, nor do most of us cross the threshold into committing unlawful acts. But lesser incidents can still leave us rehearsing a past experience of vulnerability, or regretful for having acted in unseemly ways. Whenever the recognition and acceptance of our true, God-reflecting purity overcomes a recurring sense of the past, it hints at the route to freedom for those facing more traumatic memories. And anyone who proves that even the darkest of memories can yield to the freedom of knowing what we truly are, is showing us all how God’s love can always wipe the slate clean.
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