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4 Essentail Skills Needed To Love Those In Pain

Recently I was reminded of the story “Unbroken”, an amazing true story of Luis Zamperini who suffered enormously from Japanese captors during WWII, and after the end of the war sought to love and forgive his enemies.  But in sharp contrast to his Christlike overtures was his one particular Japanese enemy who because of shame, could not forgive his American enemy, and though repeatedly was sought by the soldier for reconciliation, the former brutal guard could not see Louis other than an enemy and one to avoid.  His shame and the wounds he carried blinded him from finding peace.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the level of anger and hatred around us grows each day.  The media, the political rhetoric, the threat of war, road rage, the tolerance for violence, lack of gentleness… it feels overwhelming sometimes.   Even the slightest comments and innocent behaviors are interpreted negatively, and people are seen as enemies.   What a contrast to the shalom peace of the Kingdom of God.

By His teaching and example, Jesus forgave and showed love to all His enemies, even me.  Loving our enemies may be the single most uniquely Christlike thing we can do for a world that has so much hatred.

Survivors of sexual violence and other traumas often see themselves in light of those that have hurt them, carrying fear and shame that keeps them from doing what they desperately need to do… get on the Recovery Road..  Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to get close enough to love them, because they see you are an enemy, rather than a pathway out of their bondage.

Do we have the strength and courage to love those who may be hurting us, or who see us as enemies?  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, Mark 12:28.  Jesus says this commandment is like the first one, where we are told to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.

Upwards of 50%+ (Diane Russell, Littaurs, etc), of sexual violence survivors never tell anyone about what happened, and are locked in their shame and fear of being corrected, admonished or dismissed.  What might it look like to be with a soemone who desperately needs someone to be with them, hear their story, feel heard and understood?  Might such an opportunity to be with this person be an invitation from God to love them as our neighbor even if they may first see us as an enemy?

Let me suggest a few things to do to start this process.  Here are 4 essentials for the above to happen:

  1. Validate their feelings; recognizing someone else’s feelings and acknowledging them as important.  Listen and respond in simple terms that express you are listening.  Then empathize as much as you can.  Join them. Jesus wept with those who wept.  Feeling someone else’s pain even just a little is being like Jesus.  Life Model Works identifies this skill as God sight.
  2. Offer “full attention” comfort…You yourself are a comfort when you are fully present for others.  If Jesus became physically present to a person in pain would His presence alone be comforting?  You yourself can be Him to others when you are like Him and be fully present for someone.  The 4 essentials that I offer here are part of being like Him.  You become part of their healing without being able to fix anything!
  3. Left eye to left eye contact.  Why?  When you talk and make eye contactwith others, you look at them left eye to left eye, which means that you’re being very open. Your left eyeis the one that goes to the emotions.
  4. Tongue management: Avoid telling someone else what they should or shouldn’t do or feel (e.g. I had someone tell me 2 or 3 days after I was raped that I should feel grateful I hadn’t been beaten up).   Finding gratitude is part of a healing journey, but we need to avoid telling others how they should feel.  We are acting like we are God if we say these sorts of things.

“Our words need to harmonize with what God would say….”  As Dr. James Wilder writes in the Pandora Problem….”we will need excellent control of our tongues.”  Proverbs 17:28..”Even fools are thought wise if they remain silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Dr. wilder also writes in the above book that we cannot speak words that come from God until we humble ourselves and refrain from thinking we can fix someone, take the pain away, assume we have the right advice, etc.

So, a heart-felt two-way conversation with God is a must before if we are going to be able to promote healing for a survivor, and anyone who is in pain.

If 50% of survivors have told no one, it is reasonable to assume there are some around us, who may even see us as an “enemy” because of their shame.  Perhaps you are one of these yourself.  I invite you to ‘connect the dots’, love them as you have learned to love yourself and be a pathway for starting recovery for someone else.

These traumas can be healed.  This a great hope for all of us.











  1. Thank you for sharing this.

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