Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Born to Suffer

Written by: on April 11, 2023


The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma[1] by Bessel van der Kolk is another book full of great insights. My takeaways from the book include the major role of the human brain in the way we function. I somehow used to see the heart as the engine of the Body, but the recent resources on our reading list have confirmed the essential use of the human brain. I will discuss a few key takeaways from The Body Keeps the Score and offer inputs on how Christian communities can become places of refuge, a ten of hope in a wounded world.

What is Trauma?

As the author suggests, some people had only associated trauma with combat veterans or from conflict and civil war. However, this is not the case. “Traumas result from an experience of extreme stress or pain that leaves an individual feeling helpless, or too overwhelmed, to cope with adversity. Experiences involving war typically result in traumas, but violent crimes and accidents cause them too.”[2]

We are Born to suffer.

Born to Suffer is a song by Lucky Dube, a South African musician; I grew up listening to the song and later wondered what had inspired the song, probably the situation in South Africa where he grew up during the apartheid horrors. Are we really born to suffer, as Dube claims? Without their mother, children are suffering; without their mother, children are suffering; without their father, children are suffering. Without their parent, they’re just Born to suffer (X8). [3]

“Traumatized children often expect bad things to happen. The author demonstrated this in an experiment in which cards with pictures from magazines were shown to children who had experienced trauma and those who hadn’t.”[4]  I am always thankful for my relocation to the United States and the chance to join a community of learners like ours here. I recently shared challenges in many countries where poor mental health and mental illness are still confused with all sorts of things. Stigma towards those suffering from mental health challenges due to trauma is heartbreaking. Hurt people do nothing but hurt other people, and the cycle of trauma keeps growing. It inspired my NPO, Trauma-informed Leadership, which facilitates post-traumatic growth.

Trauma is more prevalent than we think.

Traumatic experiences are hard enough to deal with as an adult, but nothing is more difficult than facing trauma as a young child. With brains that aren’t fully developed, children who undergo trauma are at greater risk of experiencing a wide range of negative consequences. These consequences surface in the years immediately following their experiences and later in adulthood.[5]

I have learned to share my story as a Child refugee born in a nation ravaged by civil conflicts and strife that later developed into one of the worst genocides of our time in Rwanda. The trauma which surrounded my birth till I found safety many years later was horrifying, and at the same time, through it God brought me many blessings. As we read in the Body Keeps a Score, you do not have to be born in a civil war to experience horrible trauma.

The blessing of education, the amazing family that God has blessed me with, and a heart full of gratitude keep me going and have become the greatest weapon against the devastation of traumatic memories.

The Christian supportive relationships are a tent of hope in a fallen world.

I was reminded of the Bible verse that Jesus read in a synagogue; he was almost killed after speaking the truth of his identity. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4: 18-19, NIV)

Bessel van der Kolk offers several ways to help those suffering from trauma recover and be well. The solution that caught my attention, among others, is using “Supportive relationships,” in which I believe the Body of Christ should be the leader. “Aside from mindfulness, supportive personal relationships are indispensable for recovery from trauma. By building a network of family members, friends and mental health professionals, patients can ensure they always have someone to turn to when they need help. These networks can be formed through AA meetings, religious congregations, and veterans’ organizations, to name a few.” [6] 


[1] Bessel A. Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

[2] Blinkist.com, “The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van Der Kolk,” Mind, Brain and the Body in the Transformation of Trauma, n.d., https://www.blinkist.com/en/nc/reader/the-body-keeps-the-score-en?play=1.

[3] Lucky Dube, “Azlyrics,” Lucky Dube Lyrics, 1987, https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/luckydube/borntosuffer.html.

[4] Blinkist.com, “The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van Der Kolk.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

About the Author


Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

6 responses to “Born to Suffer”

  1. Kristy Newport says:


    Thank you for sharing this:

    “The blessing of education, the amazing family that God has blessed me with, and a heart full of gratitude keep me going and have become the greatest weapon against the devastation of traumatic memories.”

    I would love to hear more about your education and how this has been a blessing and weapon against the devastation of traumatic memories.

    Thank you for sharing

  2. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Jean,

    I am thrilled that this is a subject that intersects with your NPO! Also, it was fun reading about how you see the Church as place of healing, or, in your words, “Christian supportive relationships are a tent of hope in a fallen world.” I wrote something similar in my blog. I believe there is an opportunity for the Church to be a source of healing. Unfortunately, far too often we hear of the Church being a source of trauma.

    In your research and your reading of Van Der Kolk, what are the ways Christian leaders can grow from their trauma?

  3. David,
    Trauma is something that I have found fascinating and worth exploring. Like any other community member, Christian leaders can only heal from trauma by accepting what has happened or is happening as trauma. Some will have no idea what they are dealing with, calling it all sorts of things, and that, in my view, is an issue that stands in the way of healing.

  4. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Great post! Do you think that sometimes healing can come through just a personal relationship with christ?

  5. Thanks, Shonell,
    Yes, I believe in healing through a personal relationship with Christ. Jesus is the same today as he was when he walked the earth. He heals in ways we may not see.

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