“Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.” Psalm 15:2
As a young woman, I carried the shame of being sexually abused with me into nearly everything I did. Pia Mellody, founder of The Meadows, developed the concept of “carried shame,” that which we bring into our adult life from events that occurred in your childhood. These are the events over which we had no power and that sets the stage for negative behavior in our adulthood. Until we can acknowledge this shame, we are somewhat powerless over our behavior. Without validation for what has happened to us, we may think we are worthless and therefore not allowed to be in respected or valued.
The shame I carried with me stemmed from my abuse and the reaction of those who knew back when it occurred. My memories are fuzzy, but I do know that in that era the victim was usually held at least partially responsible for what happened. It didn’t matter that I was only 8 years old. And there was nothing really done to the perpetrator other than to separate them from the child. To this day I am not sure if anyone really understood, including myself. I do know that I went from being one of the girls that the neighborhood boys treated like a princess to the butt of their jokes and sexual harassment. From then on I came to believe my body and my life was of little value. And for the next 40 years I acted that way too.
And then, at The Meadows I found out that this was not my fault. I was not protected by the people who should have protected me. I was a naïve young girl, desperate for someone to notice me, who was noticed and taken advantage of by someone we all trusted and admired. I did not understand how that period of time had polluted my thinking about myself. And in the desert of Arizona I found that God loved me and would rescue me from the shame others inflicted upon me. I could make the decision right then and there to accept God’s love as an incredible gift and to remove the hooks that held me to this carried shame. The shame was that of the man who hurt me. It was the shame of the parents who neglected me. It was the shame of the friends who turned their back on me. It was not mine anymore. God created a new person that day. I began to walk without shame, having sought forgiveness for my own behavior and a willingness to live a different lifestyle.
I was freed.