It all started in Edmonton, Alberta while I was on my sister’s couch envisioning my future career as a lawyer. Like I always do, I imagined my awesome office, awesome outfits and a version of paperwork inspired by legally blond. (yes, I know…lol). It was in the midst of this motivating dream that I felt the Lord saying to my heart that becoming a lawyer was not for me as he guided my attention towards Social Work. I could not deny the supernatural peace I felt about getting into Social Work and so by his grace I obeyed, registered to Booth UC, packed my bags and moved back to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Three years later, not only am I a couple of weeks away from calling myself a social worker but I cannot imagine myself without the life way of a social worker. God had led me into the school of Social Work because it was a safe space for me to confront my biggest traumas, pain, fears and insecurities.
I remember one year into the degree having a conversation with God because I was afraid that eventually Social Work would conflict with my faith in Him. He assured me that Social Work would only help to magnify His heart, and so it did.
While completing my degree in Social Work I gained a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love. Social Work challenged me to genuinely serve people regardless of how I feel about their life history, racial or religious background and their life choices. This non-discriminatory and unconditional acceptance of Social Work reminded of the heart of Jesus and taught me what it looks like in every day practice.
Not only did Social Work teach me to accept others but it taught me to accept myself. Growing up in a culture obsessed with perfection and masks, there was never room for my authentic past of brokenness. Inside the classrooms of Social Work for the first time I was able to confront and explore the things I survived. While Learning about the cycle of abusive relationships and the manipulation and control involved, I started to understand myself better and peel off the layers of self-blame and shame. As I learned to understand and empathize with the victims in my classroom case studies, I was internally learning to understand, empathize and be patient with myself.
In hindsight, I now understand why God led me towards Social Work, it is what God continues to use to bring me to the end of myself so that he can build me up into who he created me to be. Just last week as I had the opportunity to empower a woman who is a recovering addict, I was acknowledging her strength and resiliency. As I was sharing with her that I think she has a warrior spirit, I could hear at the same time God telling me that that’s how he sees me. These last four years of being in school for social work and being heavily involved in the social services field, have helped me to accept and appreciate my scars. My scars remind me that I am a warrior and I am also reminded that a warrior is not a warrior without a battle.
Even though self-reflecting and confronting our pain is a difficult task I think it is an important part of fully evolving into who God created us to be. When we don’t learn to confront, accept and heal from the negative events that may have taken place in our lives we are denying ourselves the opportunity to grow deeper in our relationship with God and to evolve as individuals from the lessons learned.
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed that there is stigma around talking about our traumas and allowing ourselves to feel the effects of the traumas within the habesha community. Pain, loss and disappointment are all part of an individual’s life and it is important that we have a safe space within our communities to experience and heal from them. Within the habesha community, it is unfortunately common for individuals and families to never open up and start the process of healing from their traumas due to pride, thoughts of “what will so and so think” and stigma that may be attached to their trauma. I find that it is especially difficult for habesha individuals and families within a religious community because them expressing feelings of negative emotions is automatically connected to a lack of faith in God. We should not allow our circumstances to determine the goodness of God, God is good when I am well pleased with my life and God is still good when I am experiencing emotional pain. In fact, I would argue that allowing ourselves to actually go through the process of healing and confronting our pain and trauma demonstrates faith in God because you are stepping into a difficult journey believing that God’s grace will sustain you and that you will come out on the other side stronger.
The final reason why healing from our emotional traumas is important is because it is intergenerational. Intergenerational trauma is defined as the transmission of historical oppression and its negative consequences across generations. (In basic English, if you don’t do the work to heal from your emotional trauma, you will pass it on to your children). Trauma has a way changing our brain chemistry and world view in a major way. Some of the lifelong effects of untreated trauma can include flashbacks, changes in temperament or coping ability and inability to hold long and meaningful relationships. Although the short and long-term effects of trauma is not something I can go into in one article, it is clear how it can be difficult to lead a healthy and meaningful life while carrying around emotional pain for years.
For this reason, I urge all community leaders to actively work towards educating themselves in this area and creating safe spaces for individuals and families to open up and start the process of healing. I believe that not only is this needed and critical for the individuals and families in the present, future generations also depend on it. I also encourage all individuals and families to exercise courage by letting go of fear, pride and being vulnerable with the people in our lives.
Until next time…..Mihret Zewude.