The comfort of victim-blaming

When people find a need to blame, even if only slightly and indirectly, the victims of sexual trauma, it can be for a variety of reasons. One motive in particular stood out to me recently: we engage in victim-blaming because doing so provides us with comfort.

There are two different areas in which we comfort ourselves by insisting on finding some fault with the victim’s behavior or attitude:

1. Finding fault with the victim gives us an excuse for withholding our compassion. Weeping with those who weep is uncomfortable. So is bearing one another’s burdens. Compassion does not sit well with us and, if we are Americans, we are impatient with grief, whether our own or others’. So, even if we cannot blame the victim for what we perceive to be problematic conduct before or during her sexual assault, we can surely withdraw our sympathies if she doesn’t handle her victimhood according to our standards, or if she doesn’t “snap out of it” quickly enough. Pointing out her failings and sins enables us to hold her at arm’s length, thus carefully shielding ourselves from having our hearts broken by truly loving her.

2. Finding fault with the victim helps us maintain our illusions and wishful thinking that sexual trauma will never visit us or our loved ones. Sometimes people will even admit this is behind their “Monday morning quarterbacking” of someone else’s rape, when they announce almost triumphantly, “That’s why that would never happen to me or my daughter! We don’t dress immodestly / talk to strangers / threaten that easily / get intimidated by armed men / let anyone overpower us / have male friends / go on dates / trust any man besides our husbands / go anywhere alone / smile in public / laugh at a man’s jokes / sleep without a gun beside us / marry child molesters / have rapists as fathers / attend a church like that / know any pedophiles / allow women and girls to have jobs / etc.”

Even survivors can do this. I know this all too well because I did it to myself for years, until pain and desperation drove me into therapy. There, despite my best attempts to convince my therapist that I was an “accomplice in my own rape”, despite my pointing out every sinful act and every foolish thing I had done leading up to my rape and afterward, he steadfastly refused to buy into my self-blame. It seems that the only difference between the night of my rape and other nights in which I may have been equally — or far more — sinful and foolish is that, on that fateful night there were two rapists nearby with evil plans.

It was a struggle to accept my therapist’s “theory” because I preferred to think that a frumpy wardrobe, a bunch of legalistic rules, an untrusting attitude, and my martial arts skills and/or arsenal of weapons would guarantee my safety, now that I was no longer that “stupid” young, reckless, trusting, taken-for-a-sucker, woman who “put herself in that position”. Therefore, I tried to tell myself, it could never happen to me again. For years before entering therapy, I had so desperately needed to cling to my “never again” comfort that, when I read other women’s accounts of rape, I found myself accusing silently, “Obviously married a creep…what a fool, trusting her pastor like that…why didn’t she fight harder?…where was her cell phone?…she should have run away from home…only idiots go to frat parties…why did she rent that crummy apartment?…she should have gotten a different job…” My self-directed anger, and the shame I heaped on myself, spilled over onto how I viewed other survivors. Thankfully, I avoided them like the plague during this time, or who knows what harm my toxic attitude may have caused.

The problem is that any comfort built on lies only serves to perpetuates more lies, and cannot protect us. Whatever false sense of safety or control it gives us is a sham, a vapor. The truth is that no woman is so powerful that  — simply by her attire, behavior, and location — she can turn good, decent men into rapists. Nor is any woman so wise, so all-knowing, and so powerful that she can discern the hearts and motives of men, avoid all the bad guys, and fight off the ones she can’t avoid.

Even worse than offering false comfort, these lies harm survivors by interfering with their healing. Blame is toxic. So is shame. It holds us prisoner. It is so corrosive that it eats away at our very soul.

I know this all too well.

At the risk of oversimplifying a long, painful, arduous process, my healing journey can be summed up as the task of replacing lies with truth. As a Christian, I already knew of the gospel and had availed myself of its truth, but I discovered a greater depth of personal meaning, a wonderfully healing theological reality, in the Cross. To me, this is the most precious and significant part of any true gospel for victims: Jesus bore our shame. Whether the shame was put there by our own sin or slimed onto us by the sins of others against us, whether the shame was deservedly ours or not, whether we could sort out the difference or not, Jesus bore our shame on the Cross. He took it all away. It was no longer mine to carry. Wow. That is news so good, so marvelous, so life-transforming, that my puny words are woefully inadequate.

The gospel saved my life. Literally.

There were other healing truths as well: No rape victim ever “asked for it”, or it would have been consensual sex and not rape. No one deserves to be raped, no matter who claims otherwise. It wasn’t my fault. God despised what these men did to me even more than I did. He cared. He loved me — real love, not some fake “tough love” substitute. Christ didn’t just take my shame on Himself, but He carried my grief. He understood, truly understood, and He identified with my suffering. I could go on and on…truth after freeing truth.

It was not until I stopped believing the lies of blame and condemnation that I was able to embrace the truths that brought healing and freedom — and real comfort, rather than its deceptive and damaging counterfeit.

Allowing others to define us | Survivor Saturday

Recently I was listening to a podcast that discussed, among other things, the difference between guilt and shame. It gave the example:

  • Guilt says, “What I did was bad.”
  • Shame says, “Who I am is bad.”

As I listened, I was contemplating the place in my healing journey when I began realizing that I am not my actions. I may fail at something, but that does not mean my identity is “Failure”.

Much of my healing has involved dismantling lies and replacing them with truth. Sometimes those lies were told to me by others, but sometimes they were things I told myself. As I was reflecting over this, I was reminded of some of my previous blog posts, especially one titled We are not fragile or weak. I ended that post with the following:

We can’t help the blindness of others. But it is important that we open our eyes to who we truly are. We are survivors. We are the ones who cling to hope. We are the ones who bend, but never truly break. We are the ones who put back together the pieces of our lives that are broken, and emerge even better than before. We are not fragile, or we could not endure. We are not weak, or we could not do the hard work of healing. We are survivors. We are overcomers. We are strong.

Looking back over my healing journey, it’s obvious that I didn’t act like a strong, brave, victorious, conquering Super-Survivor every step of the way. Sometimes I felt like I kept getting knocked down, over and over again, and could barely pull myself up to stand one more time. I felt weak. Sometimes I felt like the most dismally frail and weak failure of all time. I would drag myself up the stairs to my therapist’s office and whine, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much for me.”

He would point out that I was, in fact, “handling this”. I had managed to climb the stairs once again, had managed to sit myself down on his couch yet another time, had managed to continue to bring to light the most terrible of my terrible secrets…and I did this week after week after week. As we were winding things down, and I was getting ready to “graduate” from therapy, Donny let me know that he had asked me the most difficult questions that he could, and that I had bravely faced every single one. We left no stone unturned.

Healing from trauma is messy. Sometimes it’s kind of like being stuck in a time warp. We may find ourselves feeling, acting, and being like our much younger selves. It would be funny if it wasn’t so disconcerting. Other times, it’s not even remotely funny, but simply raw and ugly. None of that looks particularly admirable to those who don’t understand the healing process. So, when they attempt to label and define us — even if they don’t mean to be insulting or belittling — they tend to accentuate the negative. Often, it’s all they see.

When people define and label us…even if they are using positive labels…they are attempting to speak into our identity, to tell us who we are. I am not sure anyone really has the right to do that. Even if they refuse to separate what they observe about us from who we are — our actions from our identity — we need to insist on doing so.

We are not our sins. We are not our failures. We are not our trauma. We are not our pasts. We are not what people did to us. We need to be very clear on this. We will not be freed from the burden of shame — the burden that Christ bore for us on the Cross — until we stop allowing the lies of shame to define us.

Guilt should lead us to conviction and repentance — and that’s a good thing, because it heals our relationship with God and makes intimacy with Him possible. Shame, however, leads to condemnation, and that never leads us to anything or anywhere that is good.

One of the most powerful parts of my healing took place this past year, when I received some intensive inner healing ministry. Probably the most beneficial aspect was examining the whole concept of identity, and getting rid of the false beliefs — and the resulting shame — that had plagued me for far, far too long. Only God, my Creator, has the authority to define me, to speak the definitive and enduring truth about my identity, and to tell me my worth. And I need to remember that the same applies to other people: it is not my place to label or define. It’s time we agreed with God about who we really are. Our truest identity is found in Him, and in Him alone.

Why it’s neither kind nor helpful to respond to PTSD sufferers with “grow up” | Trauma Tuesday

Recently I watched a video which I don’t care to identify or link to, because I don’t want to to carelessly indulge, even in the slightest way, a possible attention glutton. Besides, this really isn’t about that particular person; it’s about an attitude he shares with far too many other people.

But before I get to that, let me offer my thoughts and understanding of what it means to be “triggered”. I may step on a few toes here, and I want to make it clear that I am speaking for myself and not for all survivors.

For those unfamiliar with PTSD, or needing a quick review, here is a fairly concise explanation. When those of us who suffer with PTSD talk about being “triggered”, we tend to mean that something brought on an episode of emotional and physical PTSD symptoms. In other words, we were forced to relive our trauma. Maybe it was “just” that our emotions, heart rate, endocrine glands, and nervous systems reacted as if the trauma were happening again, right at that very minute. Maybe we dissociated. Maybe we had a flashback, during which our bodies and minds were convinced the trauma was happening again. Maybe all this was followed by night after night of terrorizing nightmares, and days of anxiety, during which we constantly felt as if about to jump out of our own skin, until we were utterly exhausted and spent.

What we experience can be far, far worse than I am describing.

If you have ever undergone something truly horrific, devastating, life threatening, or terrifying — torture, a violent assault, a particularly frightening accident, or something similar — you no doubt remember how you didn’t just “get over it” the instant things stopped. Even if you didn’t end up with PTSD, you felt shaken and distressed for quite some time. When those of us with PTSD are triggered, we don’t suddenly feel back to normal once we realize, “Haha, it wasn’t a real threat after all, and my nightmarish assault wasn’t happening all over again! Silly me!” (No, I don’t think it’s silly to be triggered. Nor is it a sign of weakness or fragility, despite what some may think.) It can take us a while to recover, and for our bodies, instincts, thoughts, emotions, hormones, digestive systems, cardio-vascular systems, brain chemistry, and nerves to catch up with present reality.

Now I realize that not everyone uses the word “triggered” in that way. Some non-survivors have co-opted it for their own use. However, when they say they are “triggered”, they mean that they are reminded of something sad or painful. A smell of perfume may prompt someone to feel grief over the loss of their beloved grandmother, or even to remember her death quite vividly, but that is part of almost everyone’s life in our world. Remembering and being upset over bad memories is a far cry from feeling like you have been pulled back into and forced to relive the most traumatizing, dehumanizing, terrifying experiences of your life. When those of us with PTSD are triggered, it’s as if our trauma is happening all over again. Past and present collide.

At the risk of offending survivors who disagree with me, I think the word may have been misused and overused by some of us. But, whether I am right about that or not, the thing we need to remember is that we are all at different places in our healing journey, and we all have different triggers. So we should be careful not to judge or belittle other survivors for being triggered “more easily” or by different things. (And, yes, mere words can be triggering.)

To make things more complicated, what might be triggering one time may not be triggering another time. It’s the seemingly unpredictable nature of PTSD that made many of us feel like we were teetering on the edge of “going crazy” until we were finally diagnosed  and given tools to help cope with the aftermath of our trauma.

Many of us in various survivor communities become fiercely protective of one another, not because we view each other as fragile, but because we place such a high priority on healing. Part of that process is learning self-care, and “trigger warnings” are a way of helping each other with that. My friends and I don’t avoid using the word “rape” or talking frankly and even graphically amongst ourselves, often to a far greater degree than we can with most non-survivors. However, if we are heading into potentially difficult territory, we will caution each other along the lines of, “Make sure you are in a good place, and be prepared, before you read this…before you watch this movie…before you go to this place…before you listen to what I am about to say…” In other words, we’ve got each other’s backs.

My healing journey has involved a lot of hard, painful work on my part. I was blessed with a wonderful therapist who shares my faith, some amazing survivors I call my “tribe”, and some truly remarkable people who have loved, encouraged and taught me along the way. Some of those people have done so in person, and others through books, art, music, sermons, and the online world. Most of all, it has been the grace of God and His love as my Heavenly Father that has brought me to where I am today. I am thankful that things that used to trigger me no longer do. In fact, it’s been quite some time since I’ve had any noticeable symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety. Even the recurring nightmares are gone, as are the flashbacks. I’m able to go places, do things, and minister in ways that would have been unthinkable as recently as two years ago. (I’m hoping my symptoms are gone forever but recognize that may not be the case.)

I didn’t suddenly “grow up”. It was a long, hard road to get here, and the people who dismissively urged me to “get over it” were not only unhelpful and unkind — I believe that the enemy of my soul tried to use them as roadblocks to my healing. After all, the Bible says that Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy. He hates having his damage undone. He hates redemption and reconciliation. He hates God.

Does that mean I think that anyone who fails at loving survivors is someone who hates God? No. However, as I used to tell my kids, when we don’t treat others with love and compassion, it’s as if we are playing on the wrong team in this battle of good versus evil.

In my more idealistic days, I used to think that if I could just explain this sort of stuff, people would treat trauma survivors with more compassion. I saw the main problem as a lack of knowledge. Perhaps I’m becoming cynical, but I’m realizing that more and more people simply do not care — and that includes some of the very people who should be setting the examples for compassion, gentleness, and kindness. Sadly, not everyone wants to love as Jesus does…or maybe they just don’t want to love us that way.

That brings me back to the video that inspired this post. In it, a man mimics and ridicules those who say, “That’s triggering”, and responds with a dismissive smirk, “Well, grow up.” I fully recognize that there are people who, while they are right to value freedom of speech, mistakenly think it should be best expressed and protected by saying anything they want, no matter how cruel or offensive, and refusing to be held accountable or to apologize. I know all too well that there are people who mock the very idea of compassion and who accuse anyone encouraging kindness and gentleness as being overwrought and overcome with emotions. I know that there are men who will grow irate if anyone objects to their “jokes” about rape, and that there are people who seem to make a sport of threatening, intimidating, mocking, and harassing sexual trauma survivors. I know that there are also people who aren’t malicious, but are simply lacking in empathy. I know that there are some people who mean well, but are unfortunately clueless and oblivious.

To be clear: I’m not arguing that we should legislate away free speech or legally mandate trigger warnings. To put it another way, as much as I might feel like outlawing shock jocks and blasphemers, I’m not sure I’d like to live in a society (at least not here on earth) where they are outlawed. At the same time, of all the things I’m willing to advocate for, being an insulting jerk without being called out for it is certainly not one of them.

And, I’d like to add, if you are going to insist on being an insensitive clod, please confine yourself to a line of work where that is an asset and not a liability. In other words, stay out of the helping professions and out of any sort of ministry where people might actually think you are supposed to represent Jesus. (Perhaps, if you are that fond of and prone to offensive speech, consider becoming a shock jock. Then my friends and I will know not to listen to you.)

It seems that I can’t bring myself to end this post without including my two favorite stories about PTSD.

The first one was told to me by a Viet Nam vet. After a tour of duty, he was taking an afternoon nap at his grandparents’ house when something triggered a flashback, during which he ran outside and shot up the backyard. His grandfather had been watching the whole scene from his easy chair. I suppose some would think that the grandfather should have, at the very least, urged, “grow up!” But he was himself a combat veteran, having fought in World War 2, and he understood what used to be called “shell shock”. Very calmly he asked, “Well? Did you get ’em?”

“That’s why I loved my grandfather so much,” this tough former Marine told me years later, his eyes shining with tears. “He understood. I shot the heck out of his nice backyard and he never said a word about it…just sat with me and calmed me down.”

My second favorite story is one I read in a book somewhere, and it also involved a Viet Nam vet. He was at the dry cleaner’s when a car backfired out front. Next thing he knew, he was face down on the floor. To his surprise, so was the young woman who had been waiting on him. Rather sheepishly, he said, “Saigon,” followed by the year he had been there. She nodded and replied, “Beirut,” followed by the year she had left. They both got up, brushed off their clothes, and tried to go on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. (And, by the way, I’m fairly certain neither of them urged the other to “grow up”.)

Maybe it’s because I have a weird sense of humor, but both stories crack me up…at the same time that I find them sweet and endearing. Those of us with PTSD, whether our symptoms are in the past or not, want what most people want — compassion and understanding. We are glad when those things are extended to other trauma survivors, and disheartened when such human kindness is withheld.

There was a time, some years back, when I felt compelled to explain to someone why I had an overreactive startle reflex, why I was hyper-vigilant in certain settings, why I acted “wacky” sometimes, and why I had a weird set of “quirks”. I offered this explanation: “You know how some people who fight in wars get PTSD? Well, I fought in a different war, a private one, and I lost.” I didn’t want pity, or to be treated with kid gloves. What I hoped for was understanding: I’m not this way on purpose. It’s a boatload of fear and pain that caused this. If I could be any other way, trust me, I would. 

It’s always a risk when we disclose the trauma in our past. We don’t always know what to expect. Sometimes we get a dismissive, “well, grow up!” — or far worse. Sometimes we get shrugs. Sometimes we get awkward silence. Sometimes we get a “me too”. And sometimes we get someone who views us as their neighbor and loves us, as much as humanly possible, the way Jesus taught.

That last type of person? They are the ones who God can use to “bind up the broken-hearted” and to “comfort those who mourn”. They are the ones who do what the Church should be doing. They are the ones who help us heal.

And they are the ones who would never dismiss a PTSD sufferer with, “Well, grow up.”

Why it’s hard to believe us

Spend any time around those of us who are sexual trauma survivors, and you will hear account after account of how people — even our own families and loved ones — disbelieved us and sometimes went so far as to take up the side of the predators, rapists, pedophiles, and abusers who perpetrated against us. It is such a common occurrence that, when I encounter the opposite, I am deeply moved. Once when I met parents who stood by their daughter even when others insisted she was just “crying rape”, I was so touched by their family’s story that I hugged them, thanked them profusely, and started crying!

Today I read something that was linked to in the comments on one of my previous posts. It is an open letter from a pastor, a humble admission of his serious error, that says, among other things: “Though I never doubted that Jamin was guilty, I trusted his account of the circumstances more readily and longer than I should have, and conversely I disbelieved the victim’s parents.” He describes the sex offender as, “deceptive and highly manipulative”.

It’s hard to believe us when our perpetrators and predators are accomplished manipulators. After all, unless our abuser was a complete stranger who jumped out at us from the bushes, he first somehow gained entry into our lives, and usually managed to deceive enough people to gain a position of trust. Those who prey on children need to be somewhat accomplished con artists in order to deceive not only the child, but everyone around the child.

We, on the other hand, usually are not skilled liars and manipulators. Furthermore, we are traumatized, and traumatized people don’t always behave in a way that others might find credible, reasonable, understandable, or even likable. We are trying to piece together horrible events, trying to make sense of them, trying to sort them out in our minds, trying to deal with the horror of it all, or perhaps trying to escape thinking about our nightmarish ordeal at all. That’s bad enough, but then there are everyone else’s reactions to what happened to us, and not all of those reactions are helpful or healing. In fact, all too often, the reactions of others only adds to our trauma.

Our abusers, on the other hand, are not traumatized. They seem calm and rational, with a well thought out and plausible-sounding answer to every question. If they are serial predators, they have honed their “act”, and know just what to say or do in order to manipulate, and play on the sympathies of others.

In the immediate aftermath of trauma, we don’t always “make sense” to other people. Our stories don’t always sound believable. Usually we can’t bring ourselves to say much, and what comes out may be a chaotic jumble. We may get things out of order, remember things differently a few days or weeks later, only let a few details out in dribs and drabs, and be afraid to talk about major aspects of what happened to us. We may try to protect our abuser, if he is a family member or loved one. We may feel intimidated into silence. We may be too upset to admit the most shameful aspects of our abuse.

Years after my rape, when I finally told as complete an account of it as I could to my therapist, I halfway expected him to say that it sounded too unbelievable, too weird, too unlikely. I expected questions like, “How bad could it have been if you went to work the next day?” or “What do you mean, you have no idea of the extent of your injuries?” or “How convenient that there are those gaps in your memory!” or “What on earth is that nonsense that you supposedly ‘went away’?” I expected him to poke holes in my story, to cross-examine me as if I were on the witness stand, and to tell me that mine was the fishiest-sounding rape story he had ever heard. I was shocked that he believed me, shocked that he never cast one suspicious look in my direction, shocked that he didn’t try to blame me in the slightest for anything that happened that night.

Then again, he was a therapist. My anguished telling of what had happened to me wasn’t the first, or tenth, or even hundredth sexual trauma account he’d ever heard, and he knew all too well what trauma does to us, even years later.

Pastors don’t know these things, nor do they have the experience and training of my therapist. Ordinary people don’t either. But, unfortunately, many are arrogant and assume they know things that they don’t. They sit judge and jury over survivors and their families and judge us less than credible, because we cannot make them understand. Sometimes they are even joined by other survivors — who have not walked far enough in their healing to have enough empathy and wisdom to do otherwise — who help rub the salt of skepticism and disbelief into our wounds.

We understand that our predators seem believable and trustworthy. After all, they had to dupe us and set us up before they could betray us. But you will probably never understand how deeply you wound us when you believe them over us.

Please believe us. Please.

And, if you’re reading this, and you have any reason to think that you may have added to a survivor’s trauma by your lack of support, please — in the name of all that is good and holy — humble yourself and apologize. Let your words be a healing balm. You may never know how desperately that survivor has longed to hear you ask forgiveness.

There are those not strong enough to partner fully with us | Trauma Tuesday

We see it in your eyes: pity, sorrow, pain, cluelessness. You mean well, but you have no idea.

We feel for you, really we do — far more than you realize — but we struggle with impatience at your naïvety and ignorance. We do not have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand. While you may succeed at silencing us because our truth is too inconvenient and too painful for your sensitive ears, you cannot silence the painful screams deep in our souls. You can plug those sensitive ears of yours; we cannot plug ours. You can drown us out or refuse to hear our stories; we cannot escape our pasts.

PTSD brings the past to the present. It makes you indignant. “I am not your rapist!” you protest self-righteously with the same mouth that we have heard make rape jokes and defend those who would hand women over to rapists, the same mouth that has spoken words proving how little our consent means to you, the same mouth that has defended your body’s right to test and push against our boundaries. You expect us to forget your careless words, words that you consider trivial and light-hearted, words you pretend are not damaging or betraying…and you cannot understand why we are so uptight, so unyielding, so humorless. I mean, why is rape such a big deal to us, just because we have been raped? Why are we so weak that we can’t get over it already?

You expect us to pat you on the back, perhaps even applaud you, because you announce, almost as if it were a grand gesture on your part, that you do not blame us for being raped. You act as if this is a great and selfless act on your part, to absolve us from the guilt of causing our rapes. You act as if you cannot understand why we do not fall all over ourselves with gratitude and why we are not overcome with relief that you do not hold us accountable for our rapist’s actions.

You tell us that we are weak and broken. You say this with great patience, as if you are doing us a favor by letting us know that, despite looking down at us from your position of superiority, you nonetheless still choose to grace our wounded lives with your presence. You are the strong, the un-raped, the unbroken, the undefiled. You remind us of this continually.

However, you have no idea that, the further we go on our healing journey, the more we view you as being the broken one, the more we pity you.

You have no idea.

We used to envy your innocence. We may have remembered when we were in your shoes, full of ignorance and clinging to myths. Or maybe we were robbed of innocence so early in our lives that we cannot even identify with you. At any rate, whether we remember it or not, we were once you. You have never been us.

You are weak and untested. We recognize that now, and we no longer envy you, no longer wish to return to your state of denial and cluelessness, no longer wish to be the type of person who prefers personal comfort and fantasy over truth and justice.

We no longer want your life of ease and privilege. It is a jail worse than the one we have broken out of and triumphed over. You find your chains comforting and familiar, even while pretending you are not bound; we have conquered ours, seen them smashed and broken, and have tasted the exhilaration of running into freedom, of dancing upon injustice.

We know victory; you know avoidance and hiding. We wouldn’t trade places with you for anything in the world, not anymore.

We protect you from the truth, knowing you are the weak one, the broken one, the incomplete one.

We pity you…far more than you pity us. You have no idea — and you prefer it that way. We are your shield and your safe haven in the storm. We treat you gently and cautiously. After all, unlike us, you are fragile and weak, and cannot quite handle the real world.


Over the past few years, I have talked with other survivors about our husbands, boyfriends, friends, and family members. Some of these handle our trauma history better than others. What I wrote here is compiled from what I have heard as well as experienced firsthand. This is not about abusive relationships. This is about mostly well-meaning but flawed and clueless people who just don’t know enough, aren’t sensitive enough, and aren’t strong enough. This is about trying to navigate relationships with partners who grew up in rape culture. This is about people who don’t want to face the truth. This is about people who may want to come alongside us, but only as long as it doesn’t force them to be less selfish or step outside their comfort zones. Often, in the beginning of our healing journey, we may have tried to lean on them. As time progresses, we begin to realize that we are much stronger than we had realized, and they don’t really have what it takes to be our allies. We don’t pity these partners and friends for not having experienced trauma. We pity them for not having healed from their own issues — everyone has them — and for not having seized their own opportunities to wake up, learn, grow and flourish.