Whether our sexuality was stolen from us or we gave it away, we experience a loss. But unfortunately many of us don’t allow ourselves to grieve those losses. Psychologists tell us that there are five stages of grieving; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Writing out our life map begins to move us beyond denial to truth. That can make us angry. And it should. When we’ve been used and abused, or have fallen victim to wrong choices in our life, we experience anger. But often we direct our anger inward, causing anxiety and depression, or outward to the wrong people. Broken people intentionally and unintentionally hurt other people. Processing our anger in a healthy way is asking God to show us who shares responsibility for all that’s happened to us and the choices we’ve made.
The goal of this exercise isn’t to make us angrier, but instead to allow God to show us that we alone are not to blame. And then to surrender our hurts and anger to Him. One way we do this is to write anger letters to everyone God reveals who shares blame for what’s happened in our past, including our own choices. We didn’t have sex alone. We didn’t perform our own abortion. Although God wants us to acknowledge our part in wrong choices, there are others who need to bear some of the responsibility.
The goal of this exercise is to surrender our anger to God. To honestly express how other’s choices have hurt us. I encourage people to use ‘I’ statements when they write their letters. For example: “I was hurt, angry, sad, etc., when you ___________. Rather than make it a list of behaviors, it’s important to acknowledge how others’ choices hurt us and how that makes us feel.
But one word of caution. These letters are between us and God and not meant to be given out. The goal is not revenge or retribution, but healing and restoration. In some cases if God leads, we may give our letter to the intended person. But only after prayerful consideration.
Following anger, people often experience sadness or grief. This is normal. Anger is a huge emotion, and can be draining. When God removes our anger, the emptiness can leave us sad, resigned, empty. Don’t worry, this is normal. This is part of God breaking our hearts so that He can heal us. One caution for those who’ve struggled with depression, or are currently on medication for depression — please get medical advice if you feel that you’re slipping back under that deep, dark cloud. Or if the depression lasts longer than a few weeks. I know, I’ve been there. If so, you may need to get on medication, or increase an existing dose.
God uses the next step — forgiveness, to lift us out of our grief or sadness and move us towards acceptance. In addition to acknowledging where we need to ask for forgiveness from God for our part, we need to forgive others for theirs. I find it interesting that in the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to forgive us and forgiving others are related… as if one is contingent on the other… “and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). Miraculously, God uses this step of forgiving others to set us free from their hold on us. Forgiveness is the gateway to healing, and to the final step of grieving — acceptance.