Why do good people need the Church?

by Andrea Elizabeth

One thing that a survivor of abuse is usually told is that it is not their fault that they suffered emotional and physical abuse and neglect. One tactic of abusers is to play upon feelings of guilt in their victims. The victims then try to earn better treatment by being good. While some abused people become abusers themselves, others end up being very good people, possibly out of a motivation for being treated better, as well as a determination never to be like their abuser(s).

Say they become successful at being this good, non-abusive person and end up with a healthier situation when they grow up. Why do they need the Church who tells them to repeatedly say the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”? The last two words can remind an abused person of the degradations inflicted upon them in the past. Some are counseled by their priest not to say those two last words if they feel oppression.

Oppression is a wounded state. If one is vulnerable to being easily triggered into this state, then they are in need of healing. Meditative prayer and Psalm reading are often prescribed, such as in the book Orthodox Psychotherapy by Metr. Hierotheos Vlachos, and in the services of the Church and private prayer books. The Psalms are a very detailed account of how to deal with oppression. There are also the Sacraments of the Church that offer us physical means of healing. All of our wounded senses are brought into alignment with a heavenly state of communion with goodness through the water and oil, incense, holy icons, candles, chanting and singing, and ultimately, Christ’s Body and Blood. When one partakes of these through the Priest and with others who are seeking healing, another word for salvation, then the proper relationship with God and one’s fellow man is attained.

I believe that when a person has dealt with their past and received healing, including through the Sacrament of Confession for the revealed nature of their own sins, then one can forgive their abusers and not be as sensitive to offenses committed against them or to finding out things they need to correct in themselves.