Gut instincts, intuition, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost...I don't care what you call it. It is real. And it can save you from a lot of heartache if you will just listen to it closely. Unfortunately, one of the most powerful lessons we ever learned in my family came because we didn't.
Let me start by saying I have the world's best mom. But even she can be fooled. When I was in jr. high, my favorite teacher (really...everyone's favorite teacher) invited my best friend and me to go spend the night at her home 45 minutes away, see a musical at a nearby university, spend the night, and then return home the next day. WE WERE THRILLED! It seemed like the chance of a lifetime!
I remember coming home and telling my mom all about it, sure she'd be thrilled for me. But...she wasn't. She said she'd have to think about it. I could not believe it. What was there to think about? This was the best teacher. She was a member of our church, highly recognized in the community, and she was giving me an awesome opportunity! Why on earth would anyone say no?
What I didn't know at the time is that my mom had a horrible feeling about the whole thing. She had no idea why. She just did. I, on the other hand, did not. I was adamant that my mother allow me to go. And I begged and pleaded until the poor woman probably wanted to lock me away. Finally, because she could not see a logical reason to say no, she agreed, and away we went.
We had a wonderful time. And nothing happened...for two years. Seriously. Everything seemed perfect. I had an amazing mentor, who became a close family friend, and my mother's sense of warning had seemed to be nothing more than the paranoia of an overprotective mother.
But little did we realize that during those two years, this teacher was grooming me to become her next sexual abuse victim. Little by little, she was gaining the trust of me and my mother, pushing the boundaries of appropriate behavior so incrementally that I never even realized it...or rather, when I did, I blew off my negative feelings as my own personal paranoia, as I was certain that this woman would never do anything to hurt me.
Wow. Were we both wrong, my mom and I. The lines that this woman crossed over the following four years were devastating. There are no words to describe the intense shame, guilt, and self-hatred that sexual abuse produces in its victims. But trust me, it is a thick black blanket that takes years to get out from under.
All of this could have been prevented if both my mother and I had trusted our own feelings. Each of us instinctually knew that there was something amiss. But each of us tried to use logic to dismiss those feelings, and both of us regret it to this day. We weren't the only ones to ignore those feelings. Other teachers suspected that something wasn't right. Her roommates knew. And as I've come out in the open about my experience, I've learned that many others felt something wasn't right. But no one said a thing to anyone who might have been able to stop it.
Now, I teach people to honor those feelings. It does not matter how illogical those feelings seem to be. Listen to them. If you are uncomfortable around a particular person, something isn't right. Protect yourself. If you get a strong feeling that you shouldn't be somewhere, leave. If your child pleads and cries, begs and annoys, your brain says it's fine but your gut tells you "NO", then the answer is a resounding "NO". And it should remain "NO" forevermore.
It's OK if others don't understand you. You may not even understand yourself. And you may never find out why you felt the way you did. But whether you call it instinct, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, that feeling is a powerful gift. And it will help keep you out of harm's way and on a path of peace.