Be Careful Little Eyes What You see

The Assault on Our Eyes
September 17, 2016
Chaplain Kay Wilson-Bolton

Most people know when an image is seen, it is burned into the brain and no one can “un-see” it. Nothing can scar a person more than seeing images of cruelty and the results of tragic accidents and behavior, including pornography. The continuous assaults manifest themselves in post-traumatic stress disorder. The Civil War it was known as “soldier’s heart”. In WW1 it was “shell shock,” in WW2 it was “battle fatigue” and “combat stress.”

In 1952, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual settled on “Gross Stress Reaction” but only for a time as psychiatrists believed a greater description was needed. We know it today as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

The remembrance and rehearsal of explicit and upsetting images can have profound and lasting effects. People who have witnessed such images are forever changed. Outside of war zones, there is a daily assault on our senses from news reports and messages from the internet.

For good reasons, first responders are able to manage their emotions after a while because the continued assaults on the brain from the sights and smells of tragedy. Some will seek counseling to help manage the attacks and others may resort to less healthy mechanisms. Without some acceptance of the effects of tragedy, they could not do their jobs.

The internet has produced wonderful uses and opportunities for education. A program like Facebook has forever altered the communication techniques and the sharing of information — for good and for bad.

I have so enjoyed many of the videos and posts from people I know and trust to guard my senses and put “no worthless thing before my eyes.”

There have been numerous unexpected wounds to my mind and my heart from posts by people wanting me to know about some cruel practice as though I could change it. One particular post was very disturbing. I have to fight to suppress it and change my mental focus, particularly when I close my eyes.

Part of the reason for confidentiality among first responders is so that the sharing of tragic events, details and images can create vicarious trauma to the listener, particularly for spouses, children and significant others.

Children should never see these images. For one, they are too young to process them and they may be subject to an aroused curiosity that would take them to place from which there is no return.

There is a reason King David spoke of this in Psalm 101:3, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;”

I encourage everyone to be thoughtful about what you see, share, and say. It will promote good sleep and healthier private thoughts.

If I forgive the offender, do I have to forgive the offense?

Forgiveness and Forgetting – July 5, 2014

Whether or not I should forgive someone who has not asked to be forgiven is not just up to me. Added to that question is even if I have the willingness to forgive, do I have to promise to forget?

Forgiveness not only marks the end of an event, but it is the beginning of  an opportunity for change in the life of the offender and the offended.

The was played out in a courtroom in Ventura County this week when the family of a slain school administrator stood before the 23-year old offender and her family and told her she was forgiven. The offender was guilty of a life-changing, lawless and criminal act. The judge was so moved by this act of boundless generosity, he had to leave the courtroom before he could return to pronounce sentence.

The offender was sentenced and justly so. Our country’s law requires it. The hallmarks of forgiveness require this family to do several things.  First, they must not bring up the offense again. They will certainly talk about the accident, the death and the sorrow but they will not continue to condemn her.

Biblical forgiveness involves the promise to not hold this offense over her head, to continue to punish and condemn her. They must not talk to others about her offense. Will they relive the tragedy and grieve forever? Are their lives unalterably changed? Absolutely.

They also promise to not dwell on the offense so there is no opportunity to rebuild the case against her.

It is impossible to imagine this family’s deliberate act of forgiveness will not have a life changing impact on the offender. With this change come opportunities that will make forgetting possible. As the cycle develops over time beginning with the problem, flowing to forgiveness to the awareness of “fruit” developing as the result, the ability to forget multiplies.

Some believe that it is hypocritical to forgive the offender with no intention of forgetting the offense. We have obligations to fulfill in this area. This is found is the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 where we are commanded to do just that. In fact, even if someone offends us or in Biblical terms, sins against us seven times in one day, Jesus said to forgive them seventy times seven.  The changes in the heart of those forgiven will lead to “forgetting” as a natural consequence in the heart and mind of those who forgive.

Those who do not see the Bible as the authority for right living won’t view this in the same way Christians do. But every world view and belief system has the practice of forgiveness as an open door to a kinder and more gentle future with benefits for everyone.