I have a metaphor to share with you that explains how I feel about the differences between being a survivor (whether it be sexual abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, etc) and remaining a victim. This metaphor materialized in my imagination fully formed and was so inspiring to me, I had to share it. I’m sure it’s not a unique vision, but it was an “aha” moment for me.
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A potter labored many painstaking hours over the vase. Crafting it just so. Rounding the corners so no sharp edges remained. Glazing and firing it so the the shape and color would hold fast and its inner beauty would be displayed outwardly. The finished vessel was given as a gift and helped fill a room with warmth and color.
One day, in anger, this vessel was broken and left to lie on the floor in pieces. The vessel believed its beauty and usefulness to be forever at an end. Eventually, it was swept up with the other debris that remained from that horrible event and discarded. The vessel wasn’t sure how long it lay there, in the trash heap, trying in vain to put itself back together, hoping it could still find some purpose. But though the vessel had spent hours admiring the beautiful curves and hues its maker had bestowed upon it, it didn’t have the knowledge or the skill to repair itself. And so it fell into despair again.
And one day, the potter happened upon that broken vessel. He recognized his work and mourned the damage to his creation, but he knew he could make it useful again. He smoothed off the jagged edges that were a result of its brokenness. Oh, how the vessel hated to endure more pain! It begged the potter to spare it. But the potter, in his wisdom, knew the vessel could not be fixed without remembering the pain, without having the rough edges smoothed away so the broken pieces could be brought back together and repaired. So the bowl could once again be useful and help other broken vessels. The scars of brokenness and repair would always be there, but they would fade over time and would soon be but a memory to the bowl, replaced by happier memories of service. And eventually, after much painstaking work, the vessel, scarred but wiser and full of gratitude for another chance, was renewed and beautiful once more.
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When we’re broken, we cannot fix ourselves. No matter how much we know – or think we know. No matter that we may know ourselves better than anyone else. We’re not equipped to handle our own healing. We MUST seek help from the professionals – whether that means medication or therapy or spiritual or holistic. Or a combination of treatments. Even professionals seek help in their illnesses, their brokenness. Survivors seek to reassemble our fragmented lives so we can be strong – if not completely whole – again.
Victims are caught in a loop of their missing pieces. And sometimes, of their own stubbornness. They retreat within and refuse all offers of help. They see the outward healing of fellow broken vessels, the scars that remain, and think they can heal and replace their own pieces just as well; don’t need the assistance of a “potter.” But they don’t see the inside of that healing vessel. They don’t see past the survivor vessel’s scars to understand that the scarred vessel, the survivor vessel, has learned from its brokenness. It has learned to give, to help others, to have compassion, to support and encourage other broken vessels on their road to healing.
So. Are you a survivor, or are you determined to remain a victim?