“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13
Have you ever felt like something is hampering your progress as a Leader? Do you feel as if you are being held back? Could something from your past be keeping you from going forward?
If you have experienced childhood abuse or neglect, you know about shame. You have likely been plagued by it all your life without identifying it as shame. You may feel shame because you blame yourself for the abuse itself (“My father wouldn’t have hit me if I had kept to myself when he was drunk”) and you felt such humiliation at not having defended yourself. In the African context, many of us were beaten by our parents as a form of discipline; and it worked. There is discipline and outright abuse and this is what I am speaking to.
On the other hand, those who were sexually abused tend to suffer from the most shame whereas those who suffered from physical, verbal, or emotional abuse blame themselves as well. In the case of child sexual abuse, no matter how many times you’ve heard the words “It’s not your fault,” chances are high that you still blame yourself in some way for being submissive, for not telling someone and having the abuse continue, for “enticing” the abuser with your behavior or dress, or because you felt some physical pleasure.
You may also feel shame because of things you have done as an adult to hurt yourself and others, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, becoming overly sexually promiscuous, breaking the law, physically abusing your wife, not realizing that these behaviors were a result of the abuse you suffered.
As a leader, you have to make a decision to let go of the past pain. You have got to decide not to listen to that voice of guilt that seems to be on loop in your head. I am not telling you to pretend that the hurt caused you did not happen. What I am saying is that you need to face that hurt, the pain, the rejection, the shame and then let go of it. You cannot hold on to the past and want to walk into the future. Your body will be physically here but your mind will still stuck back there.
You have got to stop using the shame of having an abortion, the guilt of a broken marriage, the sadness of a departed child, spouse, loved one, the condemnation that you are not good enough as excuses for not moving into your future. You have believed the lie of the enemy that you are messed up, you are a wounded soul, damaged and unwanted. You have believed the lie of the devil that you don’t deserve happiness. I want to remind you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You cannot change your past but you can seek help, embrace the pain and walk into your future. Don’t let the negative words of your parents define you. You carry these words with you everywhere and in doing so, you limit God. I know, I know, the experts, the teachers, your parents; they all said you are not qualified and these words always play back when you make a mistake or receive negative feedback. My friend, you need to be equipped on how to dull that inner critic and not base your potential on the words said by others.
I am in no way trying to minimize your pain or tell you that it is easy to get through. What I want to tell you is that it is possible to heal. It is possible to start again. It is possible to live a full life because what is impossible for man is possible for God. You have to fight the lie of the enemy. Stop focusing on the mistakes you have made and minimizing the power of God. Look to God, look up and not at your pain or the size of your problems. Remember, your past can give others a future. Work on rescuing others instead of feeling sorry for yourself.
You must have the courage to let go and embrace the pain of recovery. It is not easy but it is possible. It is a process of letting go day by day. The degree to which you are willing to embrace the pain is the degree to which you will recover. I say this because the pain of recovery is usually much worse than the pain of the injury. I have been through surgery and I can tell you that going under the knife is the easy part. Working towards full recovery means that you have to get up, feel the pain, but keep going anyway. I had to constantly wrestle with the pain and constantly engage with it but the fruit was amazing. No more pain.
There is nothing you can do to change your past but you can work hard and trust God to change your future. You must make a decision – it ends with me. You have to draw a bloodline on the sand and say “I have a future beyond my past”.
You have the power of God inside of you and your future has no room in your past. No matter how much you feel you have messed up, there is always a second chance. I know how it feels to put a lot of time, prayer and effort into something and then it fails – it hurts bad and you feel as though its your fault, as though you are a failure. There is always a way out but you must rise up, stand up and decide to move on. It does you absolutely no good to mourn over something you cannot change. How long are you going to live in regret, shame, guilt?
There are some things only you can do for yourself. No matter how much I want you to get well, to be healed, to be rid of the pain, you have to do the work yourself. You must come forward, ask for help and be willing to pay the price to be healed. No one can fix someone who does not want to be fixed. Not even God! If you make bad choices in life, don’t blame others for that. Own your problem. Take responsibility for your role in the issue and stop blaming others.
My friends, forgiving yourself is tough. It means striking a deal with yourself to let the past be the past and live in the present. I am here to walk this journey of healing as a Leader with you because I believe that you have a future beyond your past. Reach out to us.