Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dexter's Unseen Wounds

Dexter is a series on Showtime about a forensic blood spatter analyst who is also a serial killer. Dexter's foster father, a police officer, recognized Dexter's murderous tendencies when he was a young boy, and trained him to feed his need to kill by preying on only those people who fall into a certain category of evil. Dexter experienced trauma as a boy when his mother was brutally murdered  in front of him and he was left in a pool of her blood for two days. This is, supposedly, the reason that he is a sociopath and a murderer.

We have recently been reading the book entitled Hurt People Hurt People by Sandra D. Wilson, Ph.D. In her book, Dr.Wilson explains the effects of childhood trauma and upbringing on adult behaviors, attitudes, and worldviews. Dr.Wilson states that all people have "unseen wounds" inflicted upon them by their parents, relatives, friends, etc. that vary in degree depending on the type and severity of harm that they experienced as children. As children, people learn to cope with their wounds, and discover how best to function in society and in their homes in accordance with their perspectives on life. Dr.Wilson states that, if a child is raised in a healthy, high-functioning home, he will have healthy coping methods and healthy perspectives on life. However, if a child is raised in an abusive and unhealthy home, his coping mechanisms and worldview will develop in an unhealthy manner. As per the title of the book, individuals who experienced pain and abuse as children will inflict pain and abuse on others.

Dexter is an extreme example of the child that Dr.Wilson is describing. He experienced extreme trauma at a very young age. Through his unfortunate circumstances, he learned to cope with the pain by causing harm to and, ultimately, killing others. Furthermore, Dexter's foster father taught him that killing was a perfectly fine way of coping with his pain, as long as Dexter was killing the right people. Dexter's foster father reinforced Dexter's negative and harmful worldviews and actions, thereby playing an enormous part in the adult that Dexter became. Had his father reacted differently to Dexter's early indicators of psychopathy, Dexter may have learned healthy methods of coping, and may have come to terms with what had happened to him and lived a well-adjusted and moderately happy life.

Dexter's foster father believed that Dexter would turn out to be a killer and a sociopath no matter what, so he may as well train him to be a good one. However, I believe that no child is doomed to a certain fate based on his experiences, and his father only created a self-fulfilling prophecy through his actions. To say that a man is doomed to be evil no matter what is to say that he has no soul and there is no God. This is, sadly, the view that many people in today's society have. Too many people believe that they are doomed to the problems their parents had, such as alcoholism or abusive relationships. In addition, they believe they are doomed to be victims forever because they once were victims. However, as Dr. Wilson points out, this is far from the truth. She states that Psalm 139: 23-24 exemplifies the fact that, although people have wicked in them, they are capable of change because the Lord knows every man's heart and who they truly are on the inside. In addition, the Lord offers redemption to every single person. It does not state, anywhere in the Bible, that there are a few people in the world that He created to be evil and without a savior.

Psalm 139: 23-24 (NLT)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything to me that offends you, and lead me along the path to everlasting life.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Scars That Bind

br/A 4-foot-tall wooden cross that hung on the emergency department waiting room wall at St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, will lead the way from the demolition site to the new hospital site on Sunday, January 29.

Over the weekend the city of Joplin, Missouri held a commemorative service at the site of St. John’s Mercy Hospital, which was devastated 8 months early from the tragic tornado that went through Joplin and took so many lives (Hayes, 2012, “8 months after devastating tornado, Missouri hospital to be demolished”). According to the article, “8 months after devastating tornado, Missouri hospital to be demolished,” the city of Joplin is going to be bulldozing the remains of the former hospital and breaking ground for a new building. The staff of St. John’s and members of the community have salvaged many commemorative items out of the hospital including a four-foot cross that survived the storm (Hayes, 2012). To read this article please click the link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/28/us/missouri-hospital-tornado/index.html?hpt=hp_c1#

This article and the courage of Joplin, Missouri vividly conveys the message found in Sandra Wilson’s (2001) book, Hurt People Hurt People. Just as Joplin faced its worst nightmare in a place of safety, the hospital, many face their worst nightmare as children in their homes’(Hayes, 2012; Wilson, 2001). Tragically many children find themselves the victim of devastating acts, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and unrealistic and unhealthy expectations at the hands of parents, relatives, and adult friends (Wilson, 2001, Chapters 3-4). Wilson highlights that as adults, to find true healing one must face the nightmare and pain one has been fighting to ignore and erase for decades. She emphasizes that to deal with the painful consequences of the horrific actions against them, one must recognize these acts for what they are, examine their unhealthy coping methods, and eradicate these methods. Then one must move forward to build a new healthy life in Christ free of past habits that came from devastating events in one’s childhood (pp. 88-104). The people of Joplin must also revisit the horror of their nightmare as they go to demolish the site of devastation and begin anew (Hayes, 2012, para. 4).
After reflecting on Wilson’s (2001) book and this article, as well as the courage found by the people of Joplin it has become clear to me that storms hit each of us often in the worst places and at the worst time. However, God is always with us in the midst of the storm and in the debris that follows. A constant symbol of hope for Joplin has been the four-foot cross that remained hanging in the emergency room as the tornado devastated the rest of the hospital. The vice president of St. John’s, Terry Wachter, summaries best what the cross not only means to Joplin, but to the rest of us, “The cross certainly has scars on it…But they just add character” (as cited in Hayes, 2012, para. 29). The beauty of the cross is not found in its perfection, but rather in its scars.
“who Himself [Jesus] bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)

Hayes, A. (2012, January 28). 8 months after devastating tornado, Missouri hospital
to be demolished. CNN U.S. Retrieved from
Wilson, S. D. (2001). Hurt People Hurt People. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House