“Mending the Soul:” Understanding and Healing Abuse -- By: Scarlet Hai Yin Tsao

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 20:1 (Winter 2006)
Article: “Mending the Soul:” Understanding and Healing Abuse
Author: Scarlet Hai Yin Tsao


“Mending the Soul:”
Understanding and Healing Abuse

Steven R. Tracy

(Zondervan 2005)

Reviewed by

Scarlet Hai Yin Tsao

Dr. Steven Tracy is the vice president of academic affairs and associate professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary. He and his wife founded the Door of Hope ministry, which provides training and resources for abuse healing ministry. Drawing upon his fifteen years of pastoral and counseling experience, the author uses illustrations from real cases and the Bible to provide practical advice on how to minister to abuse survivors.

Part I of Mending the Soul deals with the nature of abuse. After alerting readers to the prevalence of abuse in our society and even in Christian families in chapter one, the author explains in chapter two what constitutes sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, spiritual abuse, and verbal abuse and how they pervert various aspects of the image of God in humans. Chapters three and four examine the characteristics of abusers and abusive families. Part II discusses the psychological and relational damage caused by abuse, namely shame (ch. 5), powerlessness and emotional deadness (ch. 6), and isolation (ch. 7). Part III covers three important steps in the healing process from abuse: “facing the brokenness” (ch. 8), “rebuilding intimacy with God” (ch. 9), and forgiveness (ch. 10).

Mending the Soul is valuable in its multi-disciplinary, theological-psychological approach to analyzing the harmful impact of abuse on victims. For instance, chapter 2 explains the harm of abuse as it perverts God’s creation plan of making humans in his image. The book also highlights the differences in the biblical and secular approach to healing abuse victims. Whereas secular theories focus on self-help, this biblical approach encourages survivors to rely on God and acknowledge one’s helplessness in the healing process (146). Some secular authors argue that forgiveness is not essential (182), while the biblical approach sees forgiveness as part of the healing process.

Furthermore, the book contains a brilliant analysis of the biblical doctrine of forgiveness. This is an important topic since the author observes how religious leaders and family members are often too quick to urge victims to forgive their abusers without carefully considering the circumstances of the abuse and the biblical doctrine of forgiveness. Such haste adds further damage to the survivors (181). The author argues that there are indeed three levels of forgiveness: (i) judicial forgiveness (pardoning of sin by God, 184); (ii) psychological forgiveness (letting go of hatred and personal revenge and extending grace to the abuser through prayers for the offender’s healing, 185); and (iii) relational forgiveness (reconcilia...

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