It's then that he bumps his knee on the bed frame, though I'm unaware. Before I know it, stuffed animals are flying past my head! I duck back and forth, finally splaying my body across his for a moment so we can talk.
"Don't do that, honey. If you're angry, you need to tell me with your words." I explain. He looks at me through teary big, brown eyes and says, "But you hurt me first, Mommy."
Does that sentence make anybody cringe after a week filled with family, friends, and all of the messes of our humanity sitting in the same room together? Think back to the holiday or maybe another time in the past year. If you felt stressed, how did you deal with it? Were you hurt at all by an exchange?
In the book of the Bible called Ezekiel, God says this to His people after they'd been battered, bruised, and without a home:
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (NIV)
Here are a couple of questions to think about:
- Why do we really need hearts of flesh? Why should we allow God to heal instead of remaining "stone-like"?
- How do our proverbial "hearts" become hard in the first place?
When we experience hurt, we begin to depend on the left side of the brain more heavily to remain emotionally "safe". God gave us an awesome "out" when we need help overcoming great pain, though the "out" is only meant to be temporary. Refusing to address our problems and ignoring the need for forgiveness leaves us trapped in our own biology. Here's what happens:
- Our ability to read body language and the facial expressions of others is diminished.
- We're less able to take big picture perspective and become very concentrated on small facts and details.
- Our empathy for others is lost as we find comfort in concrete, fact-based information versus relational, heart-issue experiences which connect us to one another.
- Because we are less empathic and able to connect, we won't rely on others for help...including God. We go into "I can do it myself" mode.
How many of us have tolerated throbbing knees throughout the years at the expense of our relationships?
I love the way the Message version of the Bible shares Jesus' words. He said, "In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part."
Forgiveness is letting go of the expectation that somebody else is going to make us happy or fix a situation. It's first taking responsibility for our own lives instead of hoping they'll change. It's taking a step toward trust in God instead of in ourselves.
Forgiveness doesn't condone hurtful behavior, it's simply the refusal to remain connected to a person by nothing else but feelings of pain and anger.
Researcher and author Bonnie Badenoch explains, "When we begin to value meaning and resilience over our own happiness, we can then move toward healing and security." (paraphrased from lecture)
The feeling of happiness ebbs and flows like the tumbling waves of the sea. There's no doubt that we'll have trouble in this world, but the quality and richness of faith comes from how we respond to it. Our ability to really connect with God and all the other beautiful souls in our lives depends on our willingness to deal with our "junk". Even in pains of change He never leaves us to fend for ourselves. His joy is ours.
Resilience and meaning > self-made happiness. Every time.
With you and for you, XOXO
- Have you been holding on tight to unforgiveness?
- Have you experienced any of the symptoms above?
- What's your next step? Surrendering a problem to God? Asking for prayer? Calling a counselor?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23, NIV)
Badenoch, Bonnie (2014). The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Trauma [Lecture]. http://www.nurturingtheheart.com
Shore, A.N. (2001). Effects of secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22