by sarahmfry, September 23, 2007
Today was the worst example yet. Kayla is 5. She’s strong. She’s fast. She’s smart. She can climb trees with the best of them and often thinks deeper than many adults. But she lets her dingbat 3-year old sister beat the tar out of her. I have several choices as a parent: I can ignore the situation and let the fittest survive. I can encourage Kayla to punch back. I can help her to sit there meekly through the beating, praying for her enemy and loving her through it. Or I can help her to take care of herself.

Allowing survival of the fittest is not an option. I cannot ignore the situation. And Karissa (love her heart) obviously received a fitting and unpleasant reward for her meanness.

But what about the strong, smart girl cowering in the laundry basket with red marks on her arms?

I try to help her realize that she needs to protect herself – not by being mean in turn, but by getting up, getting out of there, getting help. But she won’t do it. And my melancholy personality is afraid for her. It’s too much like life.

When we get hurt, we all react in our own way. Some of us get mean. Some of us think we’re more spiritual if we take no action but to pray for the mean ones while they pulverize us. Some do nothing, but cower in the laundry basket feeling sorry for ourselves. Some of us run – but it seems we’re always running, always the victim. So why is it so hard for us to balance between all of these?

The first step is obviously safety – get out of the immediate danger if at all possible. Sometimes that means avoiding a particular office or person or group or parsonage because we always leave wounded and confused. Sometimes it even means making a big change to protect our family. Obviously, loving our neighbors and praying for them is hugely important to God. In fact, He requires it. But that does not mean that we cannot protect ourselves from those who hurt us.

Abuse victims often struggle with this. There are many reasons: fear, not knowing what to do, the habit of being the victim, etc. But forgiving does NOT mean forgetting. And it certainly does not mean that we should continue to make ourselves vulnerable to be hurt.

Boundaries are such a hard part of this. Standing up for ourselves in light of who God has made us. Getting to a safe place and getting help. Treating ourselves like we don’t deserve to be beat up over and over. Forgiving and loving them because God does – not because they deserve it.

This is turning into more than I expected. Maybe I’ll revisit my soapbox another day. But for now, I’ll keep trying to help Kayla make that step that first seems to be so hard for her – to just stand up on her own two feet and step out of the laundry basket!

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