I heard these words often growing up, and there was something about the temporary relief from the itch of healing skin that made me not care. In the healing process we often choose temporary relief over long term health, and this shows up in our mental health as well as physical. I am part of some online groups of people who are recovering from church inflicted wounds, and some of the posts I judgmentally assign into the category of scab picking. This is something I get to wrestle with in my healing journey, and it is entirely possible that the only scab being picked by those posts are mine. This post is more about my journey and recognizing that I am not so much judging as projecting my experience at “picking at it” onto others.
The “picking posts” I see are usually some egregious meme copied from Facebook or “Can you believe what this person from the tribe we left said?” My response is usually, “Yes I can believe it, which is why I left in the first place.” Part of me wants to yell what my mom told me so long ago: “If you keep picking at it, it won’t get better.” Another part recognizes the need for some kind of relief or validation. “Please tell me I am not crazy for wanting to leave this!” I get it. I have been there. The pain and need for relief are REAL!
There is a point at which I have to stop picking, stop checking back to see if things have gotten better, and recognize that the loss is real and restoration of relationship is beyond my ability to achieve. I have to say that on my healing journey away from the fear-mongering in some evangelical subcultures I have found that repeated exposure to the fear-mongering doesn’t bring healing. Watching from the sidelines and chewing over what is happening just reopens the wounds and the bleeding starts again.
The more we pick, the greater the chance that there will be scars.While there are some people who I love and care for still in the old tribe, I will ruthlessly cull them and everything from the tribe they are attached to from my social media feeds when their posts reopen wounds. This is the hard part of the healing process: cutting myself off from the source of my wounds. There are strained relationships, but saying to these friends and loved ones: “Sorry, I only want to be connected to you in real life, not social media.” sets an important boundary. Setting this boundary gives me the opportunity to be in relationship with them and to not have the daggers of fear and misplaced rage surface in my daily life.
I can’t tell you that you are picking at scabs, (Unless I actually see you do that. Then: Ew! Gross!), but sometimes what I see in groups and ex-evangelical writing feels like scab picking to me, so maybe it is worthwhile to raise the question: Are we applying healing balm or picking at scabs? For me the answer can vary by the hour, but maybe asking the question is what’s important?