|Posted by Sue Badeau on July 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM|
Hide it Under a Bushel: This Little Light of Mine, Part II
In my last blog post (http://bit.ly/10zsYIh ), I noted that some of us might be reluctant to let our little lights shine out of false humility, pride, fear or laziness. We worry our light is too small to make any difference at all, so instead of letting it shine, we hide it under the proverbial bushel, waiting for it to grow bigger and better, but where in reality all it can do in such a dark, airless place is to smolder or even die out.
Today, I would like to turn our attention back to children who have experienced trauma. They too often hide their lights under the bushel, fearful or incapable of letting it shine, unable to achieve their God-given potential, harness their gifts and talents or share them with the world around them.
Their reasons, however, for hiding their light, are much different than the reasons of those who have not experienced significant trauma. Any or all of these factors may be true:
1. They don’t believe they have a light. Children who have experienced trauma have often been conditioned from infancy to believe that they are insignificant or even worthless, have little or nothing to offer and in many cases they may believe they are the cause of the abuse or neglect they experience or the violence they witness around them. This is not just negative thinking; this is the worldview that has developed in their brain in response to the circumstances and messages bombarding them on a daily basis. One boy who had experienced significant abuse early in life was asked by his foster mother if he’d like to help her make cookies. “No,” he said, “I’m too stupid to do that. I’d mess them up and everyone would hate me.”
2. They don’t believe their light will be valued. Some children who have experienced trauma may have enough self-esteem to believe that they do, indeed, have some light – talents, gifts and strengths within them. For these children, the problem is that they have learned that no one cares. No one will value or appreciate their gifts, and worse, if they dare to let them shine, they may face terrible consequences. “I used to like art class,” one teenager said during a focus group for youth who were in foster care, “I’d bring home my artwork and it would be thrown away. One day, I went to a friend’s house and I saw her artwork and her sister’s on the refrigerator. I felt like I had been punched in the chest. I almost couldn’t breathe for a minute. I hated art class after that day.”
3. They don’t believe there is any reason to share their light. One of the most terrible impacts of trauma on the developing child is the loss of a sense of hope, the inability to imagine a positive future. I was once leading a group of 3rd graders in an art project. These children lived in a neighborhood where gunshots and violence was an everyday occurrence and every child in the class had seen multiple examples of violence and lost at least one close family member to gun violence. The assignment was to draw a picture of what the city of Philadelphia would look like when they grow up. One little girl sat staring at a blank piece of paper for long moments. Quietly, I knelt next to her and asked if she needed help. “No,” she said, “I don’t need help, I just don’t think I will live to grow up, so it I can’t really do this assignment.” The loss of hope is a terrible thing.
4. They don’t have enough energy to remove the bushel basket and let their light shine. Children who have experienced trauma are constantly watching for danger. Their brains have learned that they have to be hyper-alert, ready at any moment to spring into the “fight, flight or freeze” response. In addition, they are frequently staving off trauma triggers – sights, sounds, smells, and events – reminders that cause them not only to remember but also to re-live past traumatic experiences. All of this takes a tremendous amount of brainpower and energy, leaving very little left for the exploration and development of their unique gifts and talents.
As devastating as the consequences of trauma can be, the most important thing to know is that it is never too late, there is always hope. Children who have experienced trauma can heal. Positive, lasting, meaningful relationships with adults who genuinely care can make a world of difference.
YOU can be the person who ever-so-gently helps to lift the heavy bushel-basket off the shoulders of a child who has experienced trauma so that the light within can truly shine.
HIDE IT UNDER A BUSHEL?
All children deserve a chance to shine.
Here are two resources to learn more about this topic:
Categories: Building Bridges of Hope