Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than 100 books, including the autobiography of Franklin Graham, REBEL WITH A CAUSE and the New York Times bestseller 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN. Cecil lives in Georgia.
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Former pastor, school teacher and speaker Cecil Murphey has written over 100 books, including the Don Piper collaborations 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN and HEAVEN IS REAL. In this interview with FaithfulReader.com’s Marcia Ford, Murphey reveals what inspired his most personal work yet --- WHEN A MAN YOU LOVE WAS ABUSED --- and explains what he hopes readers will learn from his difficult experiences. He also sheds light on some of the popular misconceptions about victims and perpetrators of abuse, shares his thoughts on the need for forgiveness, and discusses several projects currently in the works.
FaithfulReader.com: Out of the more than 100 books you've written, WHEN A MAN YOU LOVE WAS ABUSED is obviously your most personal. Please share some of the story of the sexual abuse you experienced.
Cecil Murphey: When I was perhaps four years old, a female relative molested me --- mostly inappropriate fondling. When I was six or seven, my parents rented a room to an old man. He abused my sister (four years older) and me. She told (I never did). My father beat him and threw him out of the house.
FR: How difficult was it for you to revisit your childhood as you wrote this book?
CM: When I began to write, I had no trouble with it. "The pain is behind me," I said. Every once in a while, however, I'd touch on an experience from which I assumed was healed, and I had to stop.
A few memories returned that I hadn't dealt with --- those were the worst. Many times I had to close the file and work on something else. Or sometimes I stayed with it, but tears flow as I typed.
I didn't want some of the memories to be true and wanted to convince myself that I had made up the stories. I called two of my sisters several times. Although they didn't know I had been sexually assaulted until I began to open up, they confirmed many of my memories.
For example, one time I called my once-abused sister and talked about the old man putting raspberry preserves on saltine crackers to entice me into his room and asked if he had done the same to her.
"He did," she said, "but I'd forgotten about the crackers."
Her words helped me face the reality of the past.
FR: What prompted you to write this book at this time in your life?
CM: First, I felt I had worked through my pain --- and that was 10 years after I began to face my abuse --- I knew there had to be other men out there who were in pain and didn't have anyone in whom to confide.
Second, male sexual abuse still remains a taboo subject. Women have been able to talk about their molestation or incest for a couple of decades, and I believed that now it's time for males to talk openly.
Third, I wrote articles for two magazines and received several responses --- but all pain-filled. That made me realize I needed to write a book.
Fourth, my actions hurt my wife. Methods I used to survive childhood were harmful to my marriage. To her credit, my wife never complained, but sometimes she cried. Her pain hurt me even more because I didn't understand what was wrong with me.
I reasoned I wasn't the only man who had been abused and assumed the wives (sisters/mothers/friends) had also suffered because of the relationship. I was living on the healthy side and wanted to stretch out my hand toward hurting men.
FR: What is the primary message you want your readers to take away from reading your book?
CM: I want female readers to understand the depth of the pain in a man she loves. She can't heal him, but she can love him while he struggles for wholeness.
I want male readers to know they're not the only ones who were abused. Even though they accept that fact, they feel as if they are the only ones.
I want to offer hope and encouragement to those who are in pain and to bring this topic into the open. Too many Christians refuse to acknowledge the enormous number of abused men.
FR: Why did you decide to write a book for women who love abused men rather than for the men themselves?
CM: I did it for two reasons.
First, statistics say that women buy more books than men do. Most publishers hold that fact so strongly they believe they can't sell books aimed at men. I could give them many examples to the contrary, but that's the mindset. I knew it would be difficult to publish any book on male sexual abuse and probably impossible to get it published if addressed to men.
Second, I wrote to talk to women. Shirley's understanding and emotional support carried me through the worst times. I wanted to encourage other women to do for their men what Shirley did for me.
FR: What are some of the major misconceptions people have about male victims of abuse --- and the perpetrators of the abuse?
CM: First, about victims.
1. Because we know that most perpetrators were abused, too many assume that those survivors will become abusers. That's not true and it prevents many men from admitting the abuse.
2. Many appear to think that if a man was abused by a male that he's likely to become gay. Statistics show otherwise, but the fear may lurk inside him.
3. Because people are uncomfortable with the topic, they perpetuate the problem and imply something was wrong with the survivor. I want men to know they didn't do anything wrong but something wrong was done to them.
Second, about the perpetrators.
1. People assume that most abusers are men who roam the playgrounds or try to pick up kids in their cars. Most abusers are people the children and individuals parents trust, such as relatives, church members, or civic leaders.
2. We used to think that all perpetrators were men. We're now compiling shocking evidence that many women are perpetrators.
3. People don't realize that perpetrators come from every economic and educational level. They don't act strangely or lurk behind bushes. They tend to be ordinary looking.
4. It's not easy to spot perpetrators. They live secret lives and know how to inspire trust in the unsuspecting children as well as unaware parents.
FR: Throughout your book, you credit your wife, Shirley, with being instrumental in your healing. What are a few of the ways women can help men who have been abused?
CM: The most important thing is to listen. But listen in such a way that he knows they hear and care. Don't try to be his therapist.
I believe Shirley did it exactly right. She said, "I don't understand, but I love you and I want to be with you as you work through this."
That's what a male survivor needs: Someone at his side who will listen and love him when he doesn't feel lovable, and who will encourage him to keep going.
FR: What do you say to men who ask where God was when they were suffering the abuse?
CM: I say I don't know the answer because I don't. Neither does anyone else. I can assure them that God loves them and is with them in their pain.
I point out that the promises of God are not immunity from suffering, but peace and healing in the midst of suffering.
FR: You write about the need to forgive the abuser. What was the turning point that enabled you to forgive the two people who abused you?
CM: I knew I needed to forgive, and I suppose we all know that; however, until we've begun to heal, we can't forgive.
For me, once I realized that God had forgiven me for my sins, weakness and shortcomings --- that is, once I grasped the concept of grace --- I was able to forgive my perpetrators.
That's not to imply that it was easy, but it's possible. The more I reflect on the many things for which God has forgiven me, the more readily I can forgive.
Or as Jesus taught us, we can truly pray, "Forgive us our debts/trespasses as we forgive…"
FR: Many of your readers are aware of the fire several years ago that took the life of your son-in-law and destroyed your house. How are you and your family doing today?
CM: The fire happened in 2007. Our daughter, Cecile, had the worst time. She had known her husband since they were 14 years old, so she suffered the most. About two months ago she became more like the Cecile of old and has even had a couple of dates.
It took 40 minutes for the fire trucks to reach our burning house. As I watched, I knew Alan was dead and that they couldn't save our house. As I stared at the out-of-control flames, I thought of Job's response to his wife when she yelled, "Curse God and die."
"We have received good from the hand of the Lord," he said, "and shall we not also receive evil?"
At that moment, I heard this question inside my head: "Who am I to think that I should be immune." Those words gave me peace. I've cried several times over the loss of Alan and I didn't like losing all our possessions, especially my library, but I remained at peace.
FR: You are obviously a highly prolific writer. In addition, you teach at writing conferences, mentor newer writers, and minister to others through your many speaking engagements. How do you pace yourself and manage to avoid burnout?
CM: Three facts I want to point out: I have an enormous amount of energy, I'm highly self-disciplined, and I'm fast at everything I do.
I try to be away from home only one week a month. I like to combine a conference, preaching at a church, and speaking at Celebrate Recovery meetings, and any other groups who invite me.
I'm fairly extroverted so I think of it this way. If I stay at my desk and work hard for three weeks, God rewards me and lets me be interact with other people.
FR: What will your next book --- or rather, your next books --- be about?
CM: My next books is correct.
1. At the end of the year, Regal Books will issue KNOWING GOD, KNOWING MYSELF. I write aphorisms --- short, pithy sayings --- and explain them. For example: "I would rather be disliked for who I am than to be admired for who I'm not." I shared 60 of the more than 400 I've written.
2. My fourth and probably final book with Don Piper comes out March 1: GETTING TO HEAVEN: Departing Instructions for Your Life Now (Penguin). I based the book on chapters 13-17 of the Gospel of John. Jesus was alone with his disciples, and he knew he would be betrayed and crucified. This was his last chance to speak with them and to prepare them to carry on his ministry. Jesus' instructions to them are just as valid for disciples today.
3. I am writing a series of gift books for Harvest House. My latest one, HOPE AND COMFORT FOR EVERY SEASON, is based on Ecclesiastics 3:1-9, the passage about a season for all things. I finished another one called WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE NO LONGER REMEMBERS for release in the summer of 2011. It's for friends and loved ones of those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
4. Last year I complied/edited a book called CHRISTMAS MIRACLES (St. Martin's Press), and it was so successful they want to issue it again for Christmas of 2010. I've turned in the manuscript for the follow-up book, which the publisher has postponed until Christmas of 2011, called CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.
5. This year, Penguin published 60 SECONDS TO GREATNESS that I co-wrote with Bishop Eddie Long. In October we start on a second contracted-but-not-yet-titled book.
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