How will your wounds shape the heritage you pass along?

I’d intended for today’s post to be the final in my series about a hysterectomy after sex. I’m going to hold off on that until Friday because God has been nudging me to write about something else for today: how our own woundedness hurts others.

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I often describe my journey toward healthy and holy sexual intimacy in marriage as a journey of healing. My resistance to sex was rooted in my own brokenness. Insecurities, poor self-esteem, and a disbelief in my own worth had created heart wounds. My own premarital sexual activity made the wounds deeper and more painful. All those wounds gave the enemy places to tempt me to sin.

My work on sex began on the surface with my words and actions. This made a big difference in our marriage and set me on the right path. However, changing my behavior did not heal my wounds. It’s more like the behavioral changes exposed them so that I could work on them.

The work of healing has involved much introspection, reflection, and wrestling with God in search of healing and wholeness with Him.

I’d put off my healing for so long, unwilling to do the work and face the hurt. As a result, I bestowed upon my children a view of marriage and love that they will not easily shake. I taught my daughter that it is okay to be domineering. I taught my sons that loving a woman means walking on eggshells.

Fortunately, all three kids also witnessed the changes in our marriage. The positive changes they saw should help them combat some of what they learned during their formative years. Nonetheless, I know that my delay in pursuing healing communicated  negative lessons for far too long.

My own woundedness may well have wounded my children’s future marriages, albeit it less so than if I had never pursued healing. My children will have to unpack the broken view of intimacy I bequeathed to them.

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Hugh Hefner’s death has prompted a variety of articles and retrospectives about his life and his impact on our society’s views of sex and sexuality.

As I’ve been reading the deluge of pieces about Hugh Hefner’s legacy, I’m filled with thoughts about the way we bestow our woundedness on others. Although I’ve read a few glowing tributes to the man and his Playboy empire, the majority of what I’ve read has captured the complexities and the darker corners of his life and legacy.

Behind-the-scenes exposés show what life was like at the Playboy mansion. I’ve read of women who needed help walking after painful sex acts, the frequent need for Quaaludes in being prepared for sex, expectations of participating in group sex, the mandated sexual availability of women to guests at the mansion, and more.

Most of what I’ve read turns my stomach. Some people may say that the women chose that life and therefore don’t deserve much compassion or consideration, but I doubt it is a choice that comes from a healthy place in a woman’s life. Even if it is a life freely chosen, I can’t imagine what it is like to have those experiences and be able to go on to have a healthy view of sex and sexuality. If a woman hadn’t been wounded when she came to the mansion, she still might have carried some wounds with her when she left.

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My heart has been heavy for all the ways Hugh Hefner’s legacy has wounded women—the ones who worked and lived with him, and the ones affected by the ways Hefner shaped our society’s views of sex and women. His impact shaped men’s views of sex, too.

Pornography—even something as “tame” as the still images in Playboy—has hurt so many. My sister marriage bloggers Bonny Burns, J. Parker, and Sheila Gregoire have written especially good pieces about Hefner’s impact on society, on marriage, and on women through the proliferation of porn.

Hefner’s impact has wounded so many—but those aren’t the wounds God has been encouraging me to write about today.

Hugh Hefner was often described as a man who had it all—endless sex, women, and wealth. What man could want for more, right?

Two things have stood out to me in stark contrast against his image.

  1. He grew up in a home without love or affection. When he was evaluated by educational psychologists as a boy, their recommendation to his mother was to be more loving. He grew attached to bedding with a pattern of bunnies on it (one article said it was a stuffed animal in the shape of a bunny).
  2. The most devastating experience of his life was learning that his first wife had cheated on him when he was in the army.

In multiple interviews, he stated that he grew up without love and affection, and then the woman he trusted to give him love as an adult betrayed him. The two primary women in his young life left him feeling bereft of love. As I read through the many articles about the man behind the Playboy empire, my attention turned from the legacy Hefner created and toward the wounded boy and young man that he once must have been.

In the years before he created an empire that damaged so many, I think Hugh Hefner was a young man with his own heart wounds—and for that man, my heart aches a little.

As I think about him standing before God in judgment, I see him in his silk pajamas with a smug smile on his face—but I also see a wounded boy holding on to a bunny blanket.

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I don’t want to make Hefner into too sympathetic a character. He did real damage to countless people—women who were objectified and exploited, men who were taught that sex was so much less than what God had intended it to be, and couples who had learned wrong lessons about how women’s bodies should look and what sex is supposed to be like.

The enemy presented him with temptation, and he grabbed at it with both hands. In my opinion, he covered his wounds with a glittering surface that gave him the illusion of love without any of the risk or any substance. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he had instead sought God-given healing of those wounds rather than allowing those wounds to invite the enemy to come in and set up camp.

Hefner had tremendous creativity and business acumen. Just imagine what he could have done if he’d expressed his gifts from a place of healing and wholeness rather than from a place of brokenness and sin. He could have done so much good.

Out of what I see as his own woundedness, Hefner bequeathed to the world a damaged and damaging view of sex. Had he sought God’s healing rather than avoiding the pain, he would have left the world a richer place. Instead, his wounds begat even more wounds in others.

Maybe it’s too much of a stretch to say he was wounded, and maybe I’m seeing this all wrong. I am, after all, basing this on articles and old interviews. I may be completely wrong, but this is where God keeps leading me: when we don’t heal our wounds, we pass them on. Why should Hugh Hefner have been any different from the rest of us in that regard?

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We all have gifts and strengths. The way we use those gifts can leave legacies both large and small in our wake. When we operate from a place of woundedness, we pass on a legacy that only leads to more woundedness.

If you are carrying unhealed wounds in your heart, you are missing out on so much—and so are those around you. Out of your woundedness, you might accomplish much—but in your wake, you will leave wounds for others to have to deal with.

Out of Christ-centered healing and wholeness, you can leave behind a much better heritage.

Seek Jesus. Pursue healing. Let your marriage and your legacy benefit from that place of wholeness.

You’ll pass along a heritage of wholeness and holiness, and you will live a much richer life than Hugh Hefner ever did.

How will your wounds shape the heritage you pass along?

Image credit | Pixabay.com

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13 Thoughts on “A Heritage of Woundedness

  1. I think this is spot-on, Chris. I have no sympathy for this heinous man, but the boy he once was? That breaks my heart. I just wish at one point in his life he’d embraced his own emptiness and found real healing for it. Instead, he spread his disease to others.

    But if Hefner didn’t learn the right lessons in life, we can learn from watching him. I make great efforts to pass on a different legacy from the one I could have passed on, had I not made changes and healed. My sons will make their own choices, but they will leave our home with the knowledge that they are loved and their parents love one another.

  2. Beautiful and inspiring. I’m reading this following the tragic violence that took so many lives in Las Vegas. Maybe God has done a work in my heart. I spent most of yesterday in reflection, and not quite so angry at the man who hurt so many. All I could do was wonder at the woundedness that could drive a man to such depravity and rage. I’m glad he is no longer among us, but rather than hate the man, he was included in the sympathies that I had for all those he hurt. As someone who taught himself to hate, and now, slowly, I am trying to learn how to love, and be loved, I can’t understand the actions he took, but I think I have some understanding of the heart that commited them.

  3. Outstanding post, Chris. I truly wish I had never seen that man’s publications and that my parents when they had found out that I had seen them had taken the time to explain what a healthy sexual relationship between a husband and wife should consist of. My heart breaks for the youngsters both male and female that have been damaged by his legacy of corruption.

  4. Chris, I think you have some good insight into this mess. We all have some hurts. Some handle them reasonably well, some don’t.
    My first wife had an abusive alcoholic father. That affected our physical life. But she handled it pretty well. We had some bleak times, but enough of the good times to make it go. She definitely had hurts that I couldn’t make up for, but it was a good life.
    After she died I married again (Her husband had died, too.). This time I was hired to be a daddy to her child from her first marriage. I didn’t know that. Plus she needed someone around to criticize. After all, I’m certainly not as good as her first husband.
    Our sex life went from decent to almost non-existent in a few years. Currently, at 13 years, we’re at 6-8 times a year.
    She does have some physical ailments, but manages to do great things with her kids and the grandkids. She may be down for a few days afterward, but she’ll definitely put in the effort for them.
    Her background is counseling and I’ve tried to explain things to her which she should already know. Either she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t listen, or she just doesn’t care. I feel like I’m living in a marriage alone.
    So the hurts can happen to males and females. They can be young or old. I’m over 60 now.
    We are Christians and she talks about growing in her faith, does all kinds of things for other people, I just seem to be an after thought.
    Yeah, there are lots of hurts out there. I’m certainly not the only husband. I know way too many.
    Thanks.

  5. isit2late2004 on October 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm said:

    I am very impressed with this article. Few women will ever admit the harm they caused in their marriages. You hit the ball out of the park with this one.

  6. Mike S. on October 6, 2017 at 10:55 am said:

    Thank you Chris for this insightful piece. Having dealt with sexual and domestic abusers, I can tell you that when you scratch the surface you will find very wounded and hurt people who are dealing with their hurt in the wrong way. Without playing a game of moral equivalence, it is still hard not to feel sympathy towards them and their own suffering, without excusing the hurt they have caused others. Some are extremely pathetic in what has happened to them, and the weakness with which they have responded.

    Jesus statement about “causing one of these little ones to stumble,” and “having a millstone about ones neck” (Luke 17:1-2), are often not fully parsed. It is possible to cause someone to sin by your own sin, and then BOTH fall into judgement. The fact that you have been caused to sin by another does not excuse your sin, and you also bear responsibility for this, and they for their sin. This is a very hard statement of Jesus, but beware if you are just happy the other guy has the millstone around his neck. You are at times also a sinner in your dealings with others by your actions.

  7. Chris,
    You’ve put into words what I’ve been pondering. I’m sad for the potential he had and squandered. The saddest part is that it wasn’t only his future that was lost, but thousands upon thousands led down the same dark road. Eternity will hold much regret for him and those who followed his lead.
    This is sad!
    Thanks for this,
    Debi

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