Her Face Lit Up
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:40PM
John Strain

I talk to people every day. They come in with problems and hope we can offer some help. My job is to figure out what is wrong and provide what help I can. This covers a wide scope, but the variety of it keeps me both interested and on my toes.

It is a special thing to have someone's trust, and to be the one they momentarily place their faith in. Many of these folks have given up already, but have somehow mustered one more smidgen of hope for one more try. They take the risk to hope, to believe once again things can get better. Too often the things on which they placed their hope did not deliver.

The other day, I had a moment with someone. I could tell I got through to her, and that I said something to lift her spirits a bit. It happened like this:

I will call her Donna. Donna had a rough childhood. She tried to escape it by getting married young, but she only left one abusive circumstance for another. Donna has been very depressed for a long time. She lacks support. She is not physically abused by her husband, but she is often ridiculed, demeaned, belittled, threatened, discounted, and called names with a voice of disdain. Her steady diet was contempt with only occasional morsels of support, or compliment, and those never from him.

In the assessment I ask a lot of questions and try to gain an understanding of the individual's life - the Reader's Digest version. As Donna revealed her life to me her mood was down, her face expressionless, and her voice was quiet and passive. Then she talked about her children. As she did, her face brightened. The frown was a smile. Pride and affection washed across a previously depressed face. I made a mental note of that and continued to gather the information I needed. 

As we talked, I began to discuss her abuse. I explained that a steady diet of abuse slowly chips away at one's dignity and self-image. It is a strange phenomenon, but the abused accepts the ridicule of the abuser. "You are no damn good, you are fat, you are ugly, you are stupid, you are lucky I even stay around. No one else would ever have you." These things are pounded and pounded until there are no defenses left.

After I gathered the information I needed, it was time to explain what I thought was wrong and give her guidance to fix it. "Donna," I said, "Do you love your children?" She responded quickly, "Of course I do, more than anything."

I asked her, "What would you do if someone talked to one of your children the way your husband talks to you?" The very suggestion stirred anger in her and it was evident in her face. "I would . . . I would. . .well, it wouldn't be pretty," she said. 

"Well then," I responded, "Why do you put up with it? Are you not as worthy as they to be loved, to be respected, to be treated with dignity?" "Try this," I told her, "I saw your face light up when you talked about your children. Focus on that feeling for a moment. Now take that love welled up inside you that is so easy to feel for your kids, and then give it to yourself." "You need to begin protecting yourself the way you would one of your girls."

She got it.

I had to call her the next day for something and she sounded better. She thanked me for talking to her. She is off to a good start and we can only pray she sticks with it.

Love is a powerful thing especially if we learn to turn it on ourselves.

Until the next time

John Strain

Article originally appeared on John's Online Journal (http://www.johnstrain.net/).
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