When a person looks at why anyone would abuse another person, it always has to do with control. Parker Palmer’s idea that violence happens when people no longer know what to do with their suffering shows that when people feel out of control, they begin to take control of others. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung reminds us that it is very often the case that tormented people, torment others. Because the Church is made up of human beings, it is not exempt from the human nature to long for control. We see throughout history that the Church struggles to give up control. For a long time, the Church endorsed slavery. We took power over Muslims in the crusades. You’d think after many years of documented failures, we would be willing to make women equals in the Church.
The beautiful thing that we see in Jesus is not a man who longs to be in control, but a man who willingly surrendered himself to a cross. For the majority of us, if we knew that we were going to get crucified, we’d probably say, “I’m getting the hell out of here.” But, in surrendering his life to an excruciating death, he gave up control and empowered others in the liberating work of his death and resurrection. This is the power of all human beings, but even more so of those who have endured the wounds of spiritual abuse, given up control and empowered others. The psyche of people who have endure these types of pain is to crave control in order to prevent even more hurt. This is the beauty of Henri Nouwen’s words on what he calls “Wounded Healers”:
“Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others”
This is the hope out of the great tragedy of spiritual abuse. We are able to incarnate a selfless glory. We are able to bring about a community of love. Our wounds can be a healing presence for others. Nouwen starts his book by saying we can either be arrogant victims or wounded healers. In learning to forgive, to give up control, we hand our wounds over to God and to others as an offering of hope, wisdom, and love.