I believe one of the best things a survivor of abuse can do to help with her* healing is to get out of the house and be among loving, caring friends.
You might agree . . . in theory. However, the people who you thought were your friends when you were with your abuser may not be acting all that friendly these days. You might even be struggling with depression.
Why Might Your Old Friends Act This Way?
Domestic violence is a hard topic for many to discuss. Some people may not know what to say to you, and others may have strong opinions about your life decisions. You may be surprised at how little emotional support you have received from family and friends if you have left your abuser. They may have never seen your ex-partner behave badly, and may believe you should take him back. Many Christians may believe you have “no right to divorce,” and won’t hesitate to let you know it. Experiencing situations like these may make you hesitate to leave the house for fear of who you might bump into, or make you afraid to open up to people because of the hurtful responses you have already received.
If You Have Experienced Cruelty from Old “Friends,” What Should You Do?
I don’t recommend hiding out in your home. Instead, prepare a gentle but firm response to use the next time someone feels they have a right to comment on your decisions. You might say something like, “I am sure you have my best interest at heart, and I thank you for your concern. However, you didn’t experience what I did, so you can’t understand what I went through. I made the best decisions I could, based on what happened in my life. I know you will honor my right to decide what is best for me, just as I allow you to decide what is best for you.” If they continue to harass you after you say this, smile and walk away. Part of the healing process is learning to make, and stand by, your decisions. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Tweet This
Alternatively, you may find many who support you and your decision to leave your abuser. You will not know if you’re hiding out at home. Many people today satisfy themselves with “cyber” friends, i.e., friends they find via their computer, as with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the like. Now, I love my Facebook friends. Some of them have become incredibly dear to me, and are amazingly supportive. A few have even become real live “in person” friends! Nevertheless, I strongly believe cyber friends cannot take the place of the real flesh and blood friends we can see and touch. A hug from a friend is incredibly healing.
What if you don’t have supportive friends?
Here are some ideas on how to find some:
- Try finding a domestic violence support group. Contact your nearest women’s crisis center and ask them to recommend one. Churches in your area may also offer them. I have experienced great healing from support groups in both places. You might be surprised how similar your new friends’ stories of abuse sound to yours. You will realize you are not the only person who has suffered in this way.
- Another great source of healing may come from finding a mentor. Many churches will match older women with younger women. I asked my church for a mentor when I was escaping my abusive ex-husband. She met with me every week for years. Even though we no longer live near each other, I still call her whenever I struggle with a problem. She helps me focus on the Lord, and I always feel better after I talk to her. Each mentor/mentee relationship will look different. You may feel comfortable sharing your past abuse, or you may not. Your mentor may or may not have experience with abuse in her past. Hopefully, she will be someone with healthy boundaries, is mature in her relationship with the Lord, and will pray for and with you.
- My friend Laurie looks for people in her life she respects, and thinks of them as role models. They could be friends, coworkers, relatives, or church members. These people usually handle stress well, have a positive attitude, and display a good work ethic. Laurie learns from them as she observes and interacts with them. Doing this encourages her to associate with people she respects and admires rather than only choosing friends who will tell her what she wants to hear.
You may think you don’t need people, but only God, for your healing. God disagrees. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.
God gave us each other to be His hands and feet. We are each a part of Christ’s body, the church, as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:14-21:
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
No, we cannot say to one another, “I don’t need you.” We do need one another, just as our bodies need our hands, feet, and eyes. Spending time alone with God reading our Bibles, in private worship and prayer, is important. But it isn’t enough. We need to hear our pastors preach the word to gain new insights. We need to pray for others and have them pray for us. We need to serve others and be served to fully grasp how Christ serves us. The love of God is best felt through the arms and love of His people.
So because of this, I encourage you not to isolate yourself. Get the courage to leave your home and make friends who will support and love you for who you are now. God will work through them, and you will be the better for it.
Have you experienced this in your own life? Have you tried to find a support group, mentor or role model? If so, what happened?
May God bless you today.
The above is an excerpt from my book A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse, pages 48 – 50.
* In this blog, the survivor of abuse is female, and the abuser male. Note that abusers and survivors can be male or female.