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Trauma + Honesty = Healing

Addiction is the mask worn by trauma and honesty is the light which tears both apart and exposes them for what they are.


Someone recently called me out.

I don’t remember what they said because it was a small blip last week which sort of lingered in my mind, but they were talking about my writing, my internet presence, and my real self. The real Ethan Renoe.

“You have written really honestly in the past, but lately your writing has become more sweeping and theoretical than honest and open, like the way you used to write.”

Something like that.

Then yesterday I was checking in with my man Brad, whom I talk to on the phone a couple times a week. He’s one of the few people I consistently check in with on a deep level. I mean, really deep. I think that many people (especially guys) flee from questions as cutting and deep as “How are you feeling today?” It seems like a simple query, but how often do you answer that question honestly? And then from there, how often to you take the time to analyze what brought you to feeling that way?

Years ago, Pascal said that the hardest thing for any human to do is sit alone in a quiet room for ten minutes.

Today I read an incredibly interesting article by Tucker Max which I intended to just skim and take a few pointers from, but ended up spending half an hour digging deeply into the whole thing. I was surprised because the premise of the article is Max sharing his experience with MDMA, colloquially known as Molly, in a therapeutic way.

What he ended up talking about for most of the article, however, was his healing from a lifetime buildup of trauma and pain, and the gateway to opening this healing was the drug. I don’t have firm opinions yet on treatments like these (supposedly they will be legalized in the next five years) but I think that what Max brings up in the article is very worth examining as Christians.

I think many of us recoil from the idea of trauma and any sort of therapy that rings of New-Agey vibrations (even if it’s not chemical in nature) simply because humans are scared of the Other. We feel like you can only embrace Christ and to open ourselves up to any sort of ‘therapy’ to heal from our ‘trauma’ is to abandon our savior.

I think that in this way, many of us become trapped within our own language and this is detrimental to Christian growth. What if you simply replaced the word ‘trauma’ with sin? While the word itself has become more broad and ubiquitous in recent years, it is undeniably married to the Christian idea of sin. Trauma, put simply, is any sort of wound or pain and it can come from a myriad of sources. Perhaps you have trauma from neglect and not receiving what you needed. Maybe your trauma comes rather from a place of commission, meaning someone did something to you they should not have.

Whatever the root, all of us have trauma and the question is, will you address it or run from it? Will you be honest with yourself or keep wearing a mask? It’s easy for us to conceptualize the idea of wearing a mask in public, but what I mean here is wearing one before yourself.

Yesterday on the phone with Brad, he began gently calling me out for making excuses for my behavior. If you’re familiar with what I’ve written in the past, you probably know that lust, pornography and masturbation have been the behemoths I’ve wrestled throughout my life. Add to those the occasional angry outburst and you basically have my complete laundry list of vices.

The difference is, historically I’ve written about these things from a predominantly [dishonest] triumphant angle, making it sound as if I’ve conquered this angle of lust and my issues are now buried in the past. In reality, they are still very present demons I’m wrestling.

“I wonder if I’ll ever be fixed.”

Brad and I began talking about how difficult it is to be honest with yourself and how most of us make so many excuses that we begin to believe them ourselves.

It is so ridiculously easy to become glaringly blind to reality.

As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the future is opaque. You are not guaranteed a better tomorrow so begin taking hold of your life today. When applied to addiction (Porn, alcohol, weed, social media, Netflix), it means don’t keep telling yourself that there will be a magical time in the future when this issue will be resolved. Either you deal with it or you don’t and in only one of those circumstances you’re being honest with yourself.

I wrote this in The New Lonely, but being honest with God is essentially the same as being honest with yourself. When you’re alone in your room, are you able to pray with raw honesty to God, or do you clean up your prayers as if He doesn’t already know? Most likely, this reflects the fact that you’re not being honest with yourself or God. People who can approach the foot of the cross and just dump out their guts are those who are able to honestly examine themselves and take whatever they find to Christ.

How else do you expect to find healing?

Max described his first session of MDMA as taking a giant [crap] which left him feeling hollow afterward. On the one hand, he just had a ton of poison (trauma) leave his body, but at the same time, his body had become accustomed to having that poop inside of him.

We hold onto our own crap/pain/trauma/sin/addiction because sometimes that’s more comfortable than addressing it and flushing it from our systems.

I met with a pastor a few years ago and when the subject of my addiction came up, he told me that I’m just eating feces and have somehow trained my mind to crave that taste rather than the satisfying palate of true intimacy and love. Why do we do this? Because more often than not, the fear of leaving our addiction outweighs the benefits of recovery.

Another friend once said that your addiction is your easy chair. It’s comfy and you’ve broken it in just the way you want. Then you’re surprised when it’s uncomfortable trying to stand up from it and leave the easy chair of your addiction in the past.

Who ever said that recovery would feel good?

I know I’ve sort of vacillated between talking about addiction and trauma, but I think the two go hand in hand. Trauma feeds you lies such as “you’ll never be good enough…no one will ever love you,” and we swallow them whole, leading to numerous addictions to numb that pain.

Addiction is the mask worn by trauma and honesty is the penetrating light which tears both apart and exposes them for what they are. This means being vulnerable with others (not everyone, but using discernment in our revelation). It means learning how to sit alone in silence for ten minutes without reaching for the phone or book or remote.

It means letting yourself be loved by the Creator of the universe with no mask or fancy, lyrical footwork in our prayers. If we can’t be honest with Him, how can we even begin to be honest with others who are more easily deceived?

You are wounded. I am wounded. But as Dan Allender puts it, we can learn to become wounded healers of one another. How can we do this if we don’t first acknowledge our own woundedness?

May we learn how to come honestly to Jesus of Nazareth and be healed by Him. May we learn how to be refreshingly honest with ourselves so we can go on and offer the gift of ourselves to others.



6 comments on “Trauma + Honesty = Healing

  1. You should check out Andrew Cominksy’s stuff (Living Waters, Cross Current and Strength in a Weakness). I think you will appreciate it all. So good!

  2. Ethan! You are an amazing Christian brother. Your transparency is rare and very commendable. It would be great if we could get to know one another God willing. Lambert

  3. Currently reading The Body Keeps The Score, which is all about trauma. I think you’d find it really informative and also just a good read.

  4. Traumas I experience, whether by someone’s sin against me or my sin against others, becomes larger and larger if I fail to present it to God for his healing. Often these traumas hurt us much deeper in our souls than physical hurts or diseases. I believe that professional counselors of various kinds may be able to helps discover those traumas (sins) but the only complete source of healing comes when I present it to God, fully and completely. If I hold back, try to hide it, or mask it with “nice words” the sin remains and the trauma from it never heals.

  5. There is no ‘e’ at the end of Pascal. Word of a French.

    Beside that slight mistake. I love your blog man. This article is something I’m dealing with like everybody I guess. It’s scary to be honest. It’s scary because exposing ourselves takes us to that place of non control and vulnerability. We want to be made whole right now, and show a whole self to others, the one we were intended to be from the begin. But brokenness is what we deal with until we get to heaven. And in the meantime being honest is certainly what Jesus meant by “Be perfect as I am perfect”, a call to always look upon Him so his perfection comes to save us from our imperfection.

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