honest, shall we?” I said. “We’re judging each other.”
my hand. “Seriously, how many are judging me?”
awkward pause, one hand in the third row went up, then another in the back. I
simply nodded, more than willing to wait for the truth to touch other hearts.
Another hand here. Another hand there. Soon hands were popping up throughout the
audience as we confessed to passing judgment without even knowing one
another—without knowing our histories, our deeper selves.
moment I saw truth. And, as the “truth shall set you free” Bible verse
suggests, I could already feel it diluting the presumptions I’d made about my
audience. For the first time since I’d walked in that room, I didn’t see
addicts or junkies. Instead, I saw wounded children. And I saw me—the me I
thought I’d left behind many years before.
person in front of me was dealing with adult problems and adult consequences,
but the common thread that superseded our diverse backgrounds was childhood
pain. As their hands went up and my pride faded away, my purpose for being
there was suddenly crystal clear: If I could help just one person in this room,
there would be one less scared child in the world. One less scared little girl
who felt like an afterthought. One less scared little boy who had tried to go
unseen because “invisible” felt safer. One less scared child who would go on to
become a scared adult in need of healing and forgiveness.
excerpt from my new book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, I describe
a pivotal moment that led to an important aspect of my own healing. While
speaking to a large group of recovering addicts, I realized that I was not
alone in trying to manage a history of trauma, chaos, and pain from childhood. While
I had not succumbed to addiction as they had, I had seen drugs and alcohol
destroy the lives of people I loved. In fact, up until this point, I held a
particular disdain for addicts. I judged them as irresponsible, selfish, and
foolish—and I had zero empathy for them. I had decided long ago that I was
never going to bring that misery near my life again.
was filled with regret (and fear) for having agreed to work with this group at
one of the largest recovery centers in the country. I even told my husband that
God picked the wrong person for this project.
funny how God works.
For much of
my life, I managed to keep my painful childhood neatly tucked away—or so I
thought. I worked hard, found success in many aspects of my life, and had
learned to charge forward with a brazen courage that belied the existence of a scared
little girl still somewhere inside of me. From the time I was a teenager, I donned
the perfect mask for myself with make-up, clothes, and war paint when necessary,
to try and shield myself from the harsh judgment of others.
Yet in that raw
moment of vulnerability, I resonated with the woundedness of those seated in that
auditorium and I was finally able to take off my mask of perceived perfection
and reveal who I really was—traumatic, chaotic past and all.
There is a Chinese
proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” After
the experience of helping that recovery group, I began to fully unpack the
baggage from my past and heal my wounds. I never felt the urge to hide my real
Does any of
this sound familiar to you? If so, what would it take for you to put down your
shield, remove your own “mask” and reveal the amazing, strong, and unique
person you really are? I encourage you to use a journal and do some
introspection. Consider these questions:
your childhood was traumatic, I highly recommend you work with a professional therapist
to help you deal with your past. Although it may be difficult at times, it can
be very liberating and allow you to emerge with a true and renewed sense of
self—no mask needed.
The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child is written by New York Times bestselling author, neurosurgical ICU trauma nurse, and vice president of Amen Clinics, Tana Amen. In this compelling and candid memoir, Tana shares how she was able to find healing after experiencing a terrifying childhood of abandonment and abuse and how she became a champion for others who have experienced trauma. It offers an inspirational look at what’s possible for anyone in need of healing and hope. Order your copy here.