I sat and listened as Katie (not her real name) poured out her heart out to me, telling me about her childhood. Her biological father was abusive and eventually her parents divorced. But Katie had to stay with her father, because her mom did not want her. Her dad eventually married again and then got another divorce. Then he decided that he did not want her, either. So Katie was adopted by her step-mom, from her dad’s second failed marriage, since neither of her biological parents wanted her.
All of Katie’s life had been a fight. She had low self-esteem. She thought that she was ugly, though she was not. She thought that she was dumb, though she was not. She thought that she was unlovable, though she was not. Suffering found her wherever she went. She was abused physically, sexually, and emotionally; she was abandoned and she was broken.
Broken. That word stood out to me as I listened to Katie. Then God put a thought in my mind.
“Katie,” I said to her. “It seems to me that you have been surrounded by broken mirrors your whole life.” She waited to hear more. “We look into mirrors to see who we are,” I continued. “But you are surrounded by broken mirrors. These mirrors are broken people and experiences and hurtful actions that reflect back to you a poor image. When you look into the mirror of your parents, you get a broken reflection, since they are broken. Every mirror in your life is broken. And you cannot see who you really are. All you see is the person reflected out of their brokenness. And that’s not who Katie really is. You need to find a mirror that is not broken. Then you will see who you truly are.”
A strange thing happens to us when we suffer. If we suffer long enough and hard enough, the pain becomes a part of our identity. The brokenness we experience turns into the broken person we see in the mirror. Pain becomes the person. Instead of merely having problems, we feel that we are the problem. Katie did not just have bad parents, she felt that she was bad. She began to make huge identity statements about herself: “I am unlovable.” “I am unwanted.” “I am the problem.” She could not define herself outside of the evil things done to her. Not only were her clothes wet with suffering, but so was her soul.
When we look into broken mirrors, we see a broken person staring back at us. And if a broken mirror is the only one we have, then we begin to think that we really are broken. “It’s not just the mirror, it’s me!” we believe. Our identity shifts and we no longer say, “I am loved,” or “I am smart,” or even, “I am Katie.” We say much worse things. We say broken things. We say awful things. We turn ourselves into monsters. “I am pathetic.” “I am an idiot.” “I am worthless.”
When all we see is brokenness, after a while, we turn into a “problem” rather than a person. What do you do with a problem? You destroy it.
Those are the thoughts that Katie, and perhaps you, have experienced. But remember, you need another mirror. You need a mirror that is not broken. You cannot make an accurate identity statement about yourself when you only gaze into a broken mirror. You need an unbroken mirror to find out the truth, to see who you really are.
(Excerpt taken from my book Hope Stands: Ten Reasons Why You Must Not Give Up.)
© 2010 by Samuel Kee