Trauma

Traumatized people are all around us.  They are in all of our congregations, our places of work, our neighborhoods.  (And sometimes we are the ones walking around with the unseen wounds.)  On this particular day, there are . . .

  • Thousands of people for whom today brings heart-pounding memories.
  • Thousands of people evacuating their homes while Hurricane Florence threatens to pound the Atlantic Coast.
  • Parishioners who have experienced betrayal by their spouses.
  • Parents who have lost children.
  • Children who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes.
  • Homeless children who – unbeknownst to their teachers – live in the family car.

Today’s most effective physicians get to know their new patients by starting with: “Tell me about your childhood” – looking for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs.)  You can read about ACEs  here.

Research shows that children who experience one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences before their 18th birthday have a higher incidence of mental and physical consequences as adults.  The ten most traumatic ACEs are:

  • physical abuse,
  • verbal abuse,
  • sexual abuse,
  • physical neglect,
  • emotional neglect,
  • a parent who’s an alcoholic,
  • a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence,
  • a family member in jail,
  • a family member diagnosed with a mental illness,
  • the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment

According to this article “With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; attempted suicide, 1,220 percent.”

A high incidence of childhood trauma doesn’t condemn someone to a miserable adulthood.  A high incidence of adult trauma doesn’t condemn someone to misery either.  But it’s good to know what we are dealing with.

Congregations are filled with traumatized people and seminaries generally do not teach pastors to wonder why people in our churches are the way they are in terms of their life stories.  One of the beautiful parts of Church, though, is that we have ample opportunities to share our stories with each other – the ugly, the difficult, the traumatic – along with the glorious and beautiful.  A healthy church is the one that makes it not only possible but okay to share our imperfect lives with each other.

To all those broken by terrorism and natural disasters and childhood traumas and adult traumas, today is a good day to be the Church with and for each other.

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