When I was seven years old and all the letters had finally come together, I was reading my paper in church when my father took my stories away. He told me to be quiet, but since I had a short attention span, I forgot and whispered to my younger sister. Strong arms pulled me to the other end of the church.
In the children’s room where I got the stories, in the very place I met with Jesus, he took off his belt and holding it by the middle, he belted my legs, hitting me with the buckle end as well as the other. I cried out in pain, but no one came to my rescue–not even Jesus. He told me to be quiet or he would give me something more to cry about. Then we went back to the sanctuary while my white fuzzy tights hid the 27 bruises forming on my legs that I would later count in my bedroom.
No one saw those bruises but my mom and me. If her wounds had been visible, I might have seen the sadness on her face when she brought my lunch to my room and allowed me to eat my dessert first. If my father’s wounds were visible, perhaps someone would have offered him some help. Maybe they would have told him. “Your kids don’t have to have perfectly quiet in church for you to be a good dad.” I know he loved me back then and I don’t think he planned to harm me. He thought he was doing his religious duty to be a good father and discipline his children to be quiet in church.
My physical wounds faded like bruises often do, but the hidden wounds on my heart in relation to God and using power-over me would fester for another thirty years. And that was in part because I hid my spiritual wounds.
Oh, how many wounds have been hidden in church? How many people hide their pain, addictions, envy, lust, and revenge behind the façade of being a good Christian? At the heart of the most damage often lies a term that is loosely used and often misunderstood–narcissism.
Have you ever heard someone jokingly say, “My work is so secret, I don’t even know what I’m doing?” Well, the narcissist’s pain is so obscure they don’t always know what they are feeling. Sure, some do, but for many, their wounds have been hidden so long they can’t even access the ability to clean them out. Many narcissistic people have buried their own shame so deep that they try to diffuse it by shaming and harming others. This is why invisible wounds are so damaging. Those once damaged often hide their wounds and inflict more pain on others.
For narcissistic abuse awareness, survivors have been asked to use the words, “If my wounds were visible…” to tell how our lives might have been different.
If my wounds were visible, I wouldn’t have had to lie to cover up for my abuser.
If my wounds were visible, relatives, teachers and church members might’ve noticed my pain and stood up for me.
If my wounds were visible, someone might have told me it’s OK to say no and that I don’t have to people please or apologize until I feel sick.
If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve taken me away and allowed me to go to high school.
If my wounds were visible, my advisers in college might’ve realized that I only had a sixth-grade education, was sheltered and naive and had no clue how to act around other people.
If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve helped me figure out how to use food for strength instead of medicating with it like a drug to numb the pain.
If my wounds were visible, people probably wouldn’t ask me why it’s taken so long for me to find healing.
If my wounds were visible, I might’ve remembered every time I looked in the mirror instead of going back for more abuse.
If my wounds were visible, the teller at the bank might have put a hold on my account, so I would stop giving all my money away to buy self-worth from my abuser.
If my wounds were visible, I might have been sent to a counselor years ago instead of waiting until I felt no hope for my life.
If my wounds were visible, people wouldn’t mistake me for a victim; they would recognize that I am a survivor and they would admire my wounds because they reveal the strength it took to get through the battles I’ve endured to learn to thrive and enjoy life today.
If my wounds were visible, I would open up and show you my worst scar because it would reveal just how strong I had to be to get this far.
If my wounds were visible, you would see them and know that I am safe for you to show your own wounds to me. Kindred spirits, we would be.
If your wounds were visible, I’d gently caress them and tell you to remember that you are stronger than you think, then I’d whisper, “Be strong and carry on warrior. You are worthy of revealing and healing your wounds.”