Summary: Jesus carries wounds in heaven so that we can show his healing power on earth.
“The Wounded Identity”
Larry D. Kettle
I have spent a lifetime grappling with a “wounded identity”. I know what it means to be victimized and I know what it means to “be the victim”. I was wounded by a sense of abandonment from my mother. I was seven when my father passed away and it left me with a sense of loneliness and insecurity. I was wounded by ridicule and humiliation from students on the school grounds. The physical abuse that I endured when I was eight and nine years old further solidified my wounded psyche.
At ten and eleven I was tasked with raising my younger sister while my mother escaped to her job. (I know that is not what she meant to do it is how I felt about it.) In my early teens I was sexually abused by someone close to me and ended up lonely, confused, angry and isolated. Furthermore, I was emotionally trapped by guilt. Anger was a sin, forgiveness was an absolute, and I could not be forgiven and be angry according to “my perception”. Hypocrisy was a way of escape but it was not a way of fulfillment. I hoped that I could “act” my way to personal reality. I hoped that I could “impress” my way into acceptance and popularity and bury the “wounded child”. The wounded child followed me into my adult life and continued to plague me with insecurity, over-sensitivity, and overwhelming guilt. The goals that I had set to prove my worth and value included getting married, becoming a Pastor, becoming a recording artist, and songwriter. The goals were met but the results were unsatisfactory.
The ways that I chose to deal with my issues were quite different from the way that others chose to deal with theirs. I tended to be aggressive in trying to win the recognition and approval of others. I wanted to prove to others that I was valuable and that I was not what “others were thinking of me”. The thing I didn’t understand is that people were not necessarily thinking more or less; the fact is they weren’t really thinking about me at all. My attempts to make myself feel better usually had the opposite affect. I would try to fix what I perceived to be “someone else’s false perception”, and then I would find myself in the middle of a real mess. As a grade-schooler I thought of myself as a “little sissy” and a “momma’s boy”. My brother told me that was the case and he usually would prove it to me by hitting me in the arm or giving me an “Indian burn”. He usually succeeded in bringing me to tears. I set out one day to prove to my self and to my class that I was not a momma’s boy. I ended up picking a fight with a classmate who I thought I could whip. I threw a few punches at him and he ran away crying. My classmates that came with me didn’t cheer for me as I had imagined. They turned away in disgust and now I had two problems. I thought of myself as a momma’s boy and they thought of me as a “bully”. The truth was that I had a wounded identity. I was defensive, insecure, and obnoxious. I used to think that I was the only one who had these kinds of problems.
Adulthood doesn’t necessarily bring automatic healing to a wounded identity. Time does not heal all wounds. Sticks and stones break your bones and so do words! Perception is reality to the one perceiving. As Grandma used to say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder!” Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves but unfortunately I did not love myself. Therefore I was self-absorbed, self-centered and I was a self-fulfilling prophet. I had an incurable wound. It was incurable because the way that I went about healing the wound was the method of its infection. I would try to gain approval and would receive disapproval. I would try to gain admiration and would gain disdain. I would try to impress someone and would end up depressed. As long as I tried
to heal my wounds this way my wounds only grew deeper and became more serious. One day I had a dear pastor friend and colleague in ministry say to me, “physician heal thyself”. I was taken back at his lack of tact. I was offended at his insensitivity. After all he should, of all people, understand what it is like to be a pastor! And then I got it; he was challenging me to apply the medicine to myself that I was giving to others.
Do I get wounded still? Yes! Do I experience disappointment? Absolutely! Do I still have a wounded identity? No! I have the healer living on the inside of me. When I am wounded I can go to the word and find the affirmation that I need. When I receive disapproval I can go to Jesus and find approval. When someone reminds me of how “unimpressed” they are with me I can go to Jesus and be reminded that people weren’t impressed with him either. And furthermore I am impressive to the one who will ultimately evaluate my worth and value!