Personal Transformation: My Path to Healing May Not Be Yours

Check out this post with Marlena Fiol author of Nothing Bad Between Us

…but my path may help you find the one that’s right for you.

I grew up in a good Mennonite home, where I was taught that the only true paths to healing emotional wounds lie in prayer and in one’s faith in the Lord. The clear and unequivocal message was this: The Lord heals all wounds. If you are not emotionally healed, your faith is not strong enough.

For my parents, these were not empty words. I saw them live according to that message most of the time. Theirs was a strong and true faith.

A dark underbelly of that belief is that the wrongs in my family were rarely, if ever, openly talked about. My parents only once spoke with me about my adulterous behavior as a young teenager. And that was many decades later, when I was the one who brought it up. Even then, my mother brushed it off as that “unfortunate thing,” and quickly changed the subject. Similarly, we never talked about the physical and emotional wounds my father inflicted on me when I was young.

But we found and shared forgiveness and healing, even without ever naming the wrongs.

Over the course of the numerous decades of my life, I have learned that many people have quite fixed ideas about the one true way to find healing. You need only to check out the web to see impassioned arguments for different versions of the“Essential Tips for Healing Your Emotional Wounds.” What is considered essential varies greatly from one person to another, of course.

This season of our podcast Becoming Who You Truly Are has focused on forgiveness and reconciliation as paths to discovering our true selves. Not surprisingly, nearly all of my guests have spoken about forgiveness as it relates to healing emotional pain.

Some said forgiveness is essential to healing past hurts.
Others said, not necessarily.
Some said that the wrongs or the abuse must be explicitly addressed, spoken about, for healing to occur.
Others said, not necessarily.
Some said one must go through stages of grief and anger as stepping-stones to healing.
Others said, not necessarily.

As a result, I am clear that I have no universal truth to offer.

But I am willing to share my own experience of the healing process between my dad and me. As I have described in my new book Nothing Bad Between Us, the gradual recognition of my own and my father’s imperfect humanness allowed compassion to very slowly begin to replace the fear and anger between us. In our mutual experience of vulnerable brokenness, healing became possible without ever explicitly addressing the wrongs and without ever asking for forgiveness. On my dad’s and my healing path, and of this I’m sure, our vulnerability spoke louder than words.

It was only after reading what Phil Cousineau wrote in the Foreword of my new book, that I realized that my father and I did, in fact, address the wrongs — in our own way. Here’s what my forewordist writes:

““Doa ess nuscht tsweschen ons,” Fiol’s father would say to her in his native low-German language. “There is nothing bad between us.” And then she would repeat the words back to him.
This almost painfully beautiful exchange acknowledges that there may have been something wrong between us in the past, but not now, not in this one bountiful and complicated moment, not if we can find some good in the bad, some beauty in the terror.”

In those words, Phil Cousineau, a consummate wordsmith, identified for me something I had missed about my father’s and my journey toward forgiveness and healing. Indeed, our ritual ‘Doa ess nuscht tsweschen ons’ was an acknowledgement on both our parts that there had been wrongs, maybe even horrific wrongs.

For whatever reasons, my father and I were not able to talk about them explicitly. So, we found our own way toward healing.

Bottom line:

Your healing path will not necessarily be mine. Nor will mine necessarily be yours. But I do know that any of us seeking forgiveness and restoration will find value in exploring many different routes to those ends — opening the way for addressing the wrongs and making them right — each of us in our own way.


Nothing Bad Between Us

A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness

This story differs from similar accounts of childhood domination or abuse because it tells the story of the author’s seemingly paradoxical responses to the powerful forces in my life, but doesn’t leave it at that. It sheds light on the social and religious dynamics underlying these responses, giving readers insights into and understanding of her otherwise incomprehensible choices, as she found my way back into loving relationships with her parents and the Mennonite community.