Between the ages of four and seven, my sister and I were molested by our brother. Because I am almost four years older than my sister, her abuse started about the same time mine ended. One year, when we were on a family vacation, my two brothers, sister, and I were in a truck camper on our way to Arkansas. While I was taking a nap, my two brothers molested my sister. I woke up in the middle of it, but pretended to be asleep so that they wouldn’t know I was listening and could tell what was going on. I never told anyone about it. Several years later, I was raped while spending the night at a friend’s house. I only recently realized the circumstances of the two events was very similar. It felt as if I was being punished for not protecting my sister because I could have stopped her abuse.
Solomon said, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 28:13-14). According to Solomon, confessing and forsaking our sins can prevent our hearts from becoming hardened because when we receive God’s mercy we are then able to be merciful to others. The Hebrew word translated mercy, racham means to have compassion or show pity to someone and racham is also translated as love (7355). Mercy is at the heart of salvation and it was modeled by Jesus as he died on the cross.
I believe the process of hardening a heart begins at an early age, perhaps when we are as young as two years old. The tendency we have to rebel against our parents is the same tendency that causes us to rebel against God. I know it was a hard heart that made me keep silent instead of helping my sister and I was only about eight at the time. Today, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can confess and forsake our sins at any time and receive God’s mercy. Just as the process of hardening the heart can go on for many years, I believe the process of unhardening or softening the heart can also take time. Thankfully, the condition of my heart has improved significantly since I accepted Christ.