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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Healing the Wounded Heart" (Dan B. Allender)

TITLE: Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation
AUTHOR: Dan B. Allender
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (288 pages).

This world is more broken than some of us may have thought. For all the nice commercials and happy faces on social media, there is a hidden world of pain and despair due to shame and abuse. As the saying goes, hurt people will tend to hurt other people. Healed people will help others along their own paths of healing. If that is the case, then there are lots of incentives to be agents of healing. If we want to change the world, we start by touching one life at a time. In order to do this, we need to recognize the wounded and to be empowered to travel the healing path.

Dan Allender is Professor of Counseling Psychology and Former President of Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Fifteen years ago, he wrote The Wounded Heart which gave many readers the vocabulary and language needed to express their pain of being victims of sexual abuse. This book is a sequel that not only updates the new face of sexual abuse, it also contains more material on what it takes to move from hurting to healing. Using his own pain of being hit by a drunken driver, which left him with permanent scars mentally and physically, he gained a unique perspective of being able to listen into the hurts of those who suffered from sexual abuse. Such abuses include rape, unwanted sexual approaches, molestations, groping, date rape, sex while intoxicated, sexual harassment, and so on. Working with the Allender Center for Abuse and Trauma, Allender has come across many cases of people suffering and struggling with the whole matter of abuse. As the culture and environment changes, the types of abuses also changes.

Part One of the book looks at the Wounded Heart again. He argues that sex is more than mere sex. There are lots of subtle things happening inside the person. Being abused makes it much worse as it carries with it guilt, shame, anger, helplessness, and every form of difficult emotion. It is a terrible thing that something created to be so beautiful and profound can become corrupted. Worse, based on recent statistics, about 15% of website visits in America were to sex related sites. Both girls and boys can be victims. Alcohol impairment constitutes 62% of unwanted sexual advances. An alarming statistic is that the number of men being abused has increased dramatically. In 1988, it takes two or three years to get enough men to fill up a class of ten. More than 20 years later, it easily fills up every year. The abuses have also become more complex, with not only the conventional male hurting females, there are abuses of all kinds of combinations. Men hurting both male and female; and women hurting both sexes. The dangers of remaining unhealed are many. From recycling abuses to warped relationships, addictions to refusal to change, the feelings of helplessness are compounded by powerlessness and indifference. Sexual abuse is a vicious result of evil. The hurt person finds it hard to recover without help. Evil can be deceptive, making one respond inappropriately. Without guidance, one can get lost or makes wrong decisions about their own lives. Many end up cursing their own bodies or further abuse themselves unnecessarily.

Thankfully, there is Part Two to bring some hope to the whole book. The path to healing includes the power of kindness, to move the victim from a position of ambivalence to genuine openness. There is the promise of joy to help them move forward. Through gratitude, one learns to bless others. Through forgiveness, one is freed to live without enslavement to the past. Through healing, one learns to care for another person who has been abused. Allender cautions us from adopting simplistic methods that only scratches the surface. One needs to remember the cost of entering the stories and lives of people. There is a chapter on marriage which is not necessarily violent aggression. It covers subtle things like guilt when one partner desires sex more than the other; or performing sex in an obligatory fashion. Others struggle with pornography and masturbation. Healing includes growing in wisdom and understanding about oneself and one's loved ones. Allender leaves the seven stages of transformation to chapter 12. It summarizes the need to recognize the different stages of recovery.

  1. Going into Exile
  2. Wandering
  3. Entering the Dark Woods
  4. Crossing the River
  5. Climbing Out of the Valley
  6. Walking on Level Ground
  7. Following Your Kingdom Calling

Interestingly, included in the Appendix is Linda Royster's "The Implications for African-American Women." It shows us the unique struggles African American women had to go through as they had a difficult and troubled history.

Do not expect this book to give you techniques or methods to heal sexual abuses. Rather, see this book as a journey through the valley of darkness and how to walk together with those suffering from the abuses. By admitting that there are no easy answers, one is better able to walk or just be present with the hurting. Allender's seven stages of transformation is about making this journey from darkness to light. Before that can be done, care and understanding must happen first. Before any healing can take place, recognize the wounds and deep pains. Some are obvious. Others remain hidden. Still, there are emotions tucked away so deep in that only time will reveal them. What is most valuable in this book is the keen understanding the author has of people going through the dark times. For those who have been hurt, just to know that there is someone who can at least see or feel what they are going through is already good enough. The path of transformation must start there. This is followed by stopping the negativity and turning around toward what is helpful, and that which is hopeful. The gospel and the promise of God remain the key hopes for recovery. Even as we call evil and give it the harshest condemnations we can ever give, remember that there is beauty of healing and to be in the place that God has called us to go to. Each of us need a promise land of hope, especially those who are going through the valley of darkness of sexual abuse. Thankfully, the LORD is our Shepherd who is there to lead and to guide us.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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