Parable of the Good Samaritan Continued: A Healing Journey

Posted on November 1, 2012

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I was recently presenting to leaders of sexual addiction support groups on the importance of empathy in the healing process of the couple relationship.  As part of that presentation, I offered this extension on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  The first paragraph is taken directly from Luke 10.  The rest is my allegory of the pain and the healing process that couples go through during recovery from sexual addiction.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.   The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.

In time the man recovered and returned to his home.  Upon reuniting with his family, his wife declared to him, “Your wounds were your own doing.  Is not the road to Jericho commonly called, ‘The Way of Blood’ because of the robbers?  And did you not promise me upon our marriage that you would not travel by that way?  While you took this path, your children and I were left to suffer.  When you did not return we feared you had been killed.  We were left without food or adequate support.  You profess love for me and for your children, yet you allowed yourself and us to come to harm.  Now you return months later expecting welcome.”

Initially, the man apologized to his wife, for he had promised her upon their wedding to avoid “The Way of Blood.”  He had always been wary of the road himself, but then a friend had suggested that the road was not as dangerous as it was rumored to be, and in fact, had many benefits as a faster way to reach the rewards of Jericho.  Further, the friend asserted, many men of their acquaintance have taken the road without dire consequences.  His first time venturing on the road, he had been accompanied by several others.  In the perceived safety of numbers, he saw no sign of the robbers.  His wife was not aware of his traveling the road and though he felt some guilt at breaking his promise to her, he felt it was better that she not know.  In time he began to make the trip alone.  With each successive trip without attack, he became more convinced that there was little danger posed by robbers and that “the way of blood” was an outdated and judgmental label for so fine a road.  Over time the man took the road more frequently and more boldly, even traveling alone at night.  Then came the fateful day of crisis when he found himself lying in a ditch, beaten and bloody and too weak to rise.  The “good” people passed him by and would not even recognize him in that state.  Perhaps they saw his wounds as self-inflicted, as the natural consequences of the choices he had made.  That the Samaritan should show compassion on his desperate state provided the first ray of hope.  No rebuke or accusation was expressed, just a desire for the man to find healing.

The man expected that his wife would be angry to find out about his frequent trips down “The Way of Blood.”  However, he was unprepared for the intensity of her anger, how long the anger would last, and how often bursts of anger and accusation would recur.  He had expressed his remorse at betraying her trust and had vowed never to travel that road again.  Yet, every time he left the house, her anger seemed as intense as ever.  Initially, he tried to accept her rage as his penance for his behavior.  But over time as her anger went unabated, he began responding in anger himself.  “How long are you going to hold this against me?  Will you never let it go?  Solomon was right, ‘better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.’”  His wife responded, “You cause me all of this pain and then blame me for it.  You obviously have never cared about me.”

And so they continued for some time, each perceiving their partner as unloving, insensitive, unforgiving, and oblivious to their pain.  After a time, the Samaritan returned as he had promised.  On this visit he was accompanied by his wife.  Though Samaritans, they were welcomed into the home of the man and his wife.  The couple expressed their gratitude for the Samaritan’s compassion for the man in his time of need.  Each also complained about their partner’s insensitivity.  The Samaritan man took some time to listen to the man.

“She has never forgiven me.  No matter how many times I have apologized, she is still angry.  Sometimes we are having a ‘good day’ and she will suddenly become angry and attack me.”

“That is hard for you.  When that happens, what do you do?”

“I used to just apologize and admit what a terrible husband I have been.  Then I started just attacking back and telling her it was all in the past and she needed to be able to let it go.  Whatever I do, we can’t get past this.”

Meanwhile, the wives were able to share together.

“It has been so difficult.  Every time he leaves the house, I think of him taking that road.  At even the mention of Jericho I get so hurt and angry.  When I do get angry, I feel like he sees me as the enemy.  I am not the one who took that road, but I end up being the bad guy. “

“When something reminds you of your husband traveling on “The Way of Blood” the fear and hurt is overwhelming for you.  When that happens, you want to be able to turn to your husband for understanding, comfort, and support.  But he only sees your anger and responds with his own anger, leaving you both feeling alone and disconnected.  It is difficult to know how to acknowledge the seductive power of “The Way” and the power it had over your husband without that seeming like an excuse for your husband’s behavior.  Could we talk about what this has been like for you and what you most want your husband to understand about what you have been through?”

Together the two women explored the wife’s experience.  The wife was able to express her fear, her loneliness, her sadness, and her emotional pain from her husband’s behavior.  Together they crafted a message to the husband that expressed the wife’s emotional pain and trauma.

When the two couples came back together, the Samaritan couple offered suggestions on a path to healing for the other couple’s relationship.  “We have met other couples whose relationship has been devastated when one partner has taken ‘The Way of Blood.’  It is difficult when you feel so much pain and anger to be able to comfort your partner.  An important step in healing your relationship involves being able to honestly express your hurt and have your partner be able to understand and comfort you.  For most couples this requires some preparation and the support of others so that this process can be healing and not create more pain.  Mara, you have taken an important step in writing your letter for Jacob.”

The Samaritan man continued, “Jacob, you and I can spend time talking about Mara’s letter to help you to understand and accept her feelings without being overwhelmed by your own shame and anger.  When that has happened, you will be ready to comfort Mara.”

While the men worked on helping the husband to empathize with his wife’s pain while combatting his own shame, the women continued to work on helping the wife to cope with her thoughts of her husband’s trips on the road.  When both partners were ready, the two couples came together again.  Mara was prepared to express the emotional “cost” of Jacob’s travels on “The Way of Blood.”  Jacob was now able to express his sorrow for the pain he had caused his wife.  This time his tears were for her pain and not his own shame.  “I see you how badly I have hurt you.  I am so sorry for the pain that I have caused you.  The times you get angry with me are not from an unforgiving spirit, but from the fear and sadness you feel.”

The man’s ability to empathize with his wife’s pain softened her anger toward him.  “I can see the pain of your wounds and the difficulty of your recovery.  Though I am still hurt by what you did, I see how hard you are working to overcome the pull of the Jericho road and to recover from your injuries.  I understand that you are coping with your own pain.  I want to be able to comfort you, and I want to be close again.”

The Samaritan couple praised the courage of each partner in taking the risk of being emotionally vulnerable.  They highlighted the healing that had taken place as each partner tried to enter the other’s experience.  The healing was begun, but it was not yet complete.  The complete healing would take time and continued ability to be empathetic and emotionally available.

Discussion questions:

1)      Who are you in the story?  With which character do you most identify?

2)      Where are you in the story right now?  At what point in the journey to healing?

3)      Where do you want to be?  What needs to happen next?

“I work with individuals, couples, and families to help develop secure connections
and craft manageable solutions.”

More information is available on my website www.scottwoodtherapy.com.  I am also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats http://scottwoodtherapy.com/Page5.html.

Scott Wood is a registered marriage and family therapist intern (IMF67385) and is supervised by Dr. Melinda Reinicke, Psychologist (Psy11011).

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