“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17
The hurt and loss from my first eight years never showed itself too much—I think my mother would say that I was a happy, well-adjusted child. I continued to excel in school and music, became incredibly involved in my church and youth group, and contributed to my community through volunteering and other fun activities. On the surface, everything seemed to be going extremely well for me, despite the deteriorating relationship with my father; despite a sister who was beginning to show signs of instability (requiring most of my mother’s attention); despite feeling like a bold, loud “ugly duckling” that no one desired. But soon, the hurt and loss I had experienced manifested itself through a dirty little secret.
It started innocently, really. My uncle had a satellite dish installed in my grandfather’s home because we lived outside the town limits and didn’t have cable television. Little did anyone know that there were some not-so-innocent pornographic channels streaming from the dish for free—not-so-innocent porn that a very innocent 10-year-old me saw and found intriguing. Before long, I was watching it as much as I possibly could. When the satellite dish stopped streaming, I switched to magazines I had found hidden in my grandfather’s house. My brain was filled with images and thoughts that I couldn’t keep inside, so in middle school and high school, I began writing my own pornographic novels, passing them around to my friends and filling their minds with the images and filth that saturated my own. I began experimenting sexually with boys, and I also developed an active fantasy life: an escape from reality—one in which I had control and felt loved and desired. When my sister was losing control or I was feeling rejected by boys or my father or I felt completely alone, I had a “safe place” to go—deep inside my head to fantasy land. On the outside, I was at the top of my class, excelling in music and academics with plenty of friends and an active church life. On the inside, I was struggling to keep it together.
The second eight years of my life reminds me of an important lesson: we should never overestimate the resiliency of children. We often say “kids are resilient” in hopes that the traumas they experience will just roll off them like water off a duck’s back. However, children are still humans with feelings, and even more importantly, they do not always know how to express what they are feeling. And when they do not know how to express their feelings, they will act out—and acting out looks different to each kid. For me, I acted out in secret. To everyone, including my mother, I was the “good Christian kid.” I played well by myself, could spend infinite amounts of time alone, got great grades, was incredibly responsible, and was a model child for the most part. My mom had no trouble with me because I was very good at hiding my pornography addiction, fantasy life, and sexual sins. But those were just the symptoms of a deeper issue: the hurt, rejection, and loss I had experienced in the first eight years of my life. And instead of addressing those issues, I developed other problems and addictions to cope. We notice when adults do this, but we don’t always recognize when it happens with children because we assume they will “get over it” easier. I can tell you from my own personal experience that this is not the case.
The Bible says in Luke 8:17 that all things that are in secret will eventually be brought into the light. Whether it comes to light through confession or a “symptom” like addiction, the truth is simple: we cannot outrun or overlook our hurt and pain at any age.
What hurt have you been trying to overlook or outrun?