Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monday Moment: Let's Talk About Hurt...

I get a lot of email. (Most days, to be honest, it drives me a bit nuts.) But usually once a day or so I'll come across one that I print out and take to a comfy chair to absorb. Some of you pour out your stories. Your pasts. Your doubts. Your fears. And a lot of you ask questions. Questions like... like... well, here... here are excerpts from actual emails that have landed in my inbox in the past week:

"...I just need some relief if there is any... How do you cope or does it get better? I would GREATLY appreciate any advice or help you can give..."

"My life is spiraling downward and I need answers like you seem to have...."

"I read your post on February 6 and I'm wondering how you deal with the heartbreak that you've faced (are facing)?..."

Wow. I see now that I should have traded that law degree for a counseling one. I am, honestly, better equipped to answer your legal questions... especially those of you who are charged with non-violent crimes in Texas. (Laugh)

But seriously. I've said this all along: I'm just a girl with a Bible. A girl who refuses to accept defeat or heartbreak as a way of life. A girl who'd rather ditch a difficult, agonizing living for an abundant, giving sort of living.

I wrote one lady back today... we'll call her 'Darla'... and after I sent her email decided I'd post my response. Maybe it will give others of you... those of you like Darla and myself who are grappling with issues of hurt, pain, and forgiveness... some words to think about:

Dear 'Darla',

I appreciate the fact you took time to write. Let me begin by saying that I'm honored, but humbled, by your email. Some issues are better discussed with a trusted pastor, friend, or counselor, and your situation strikes me as one of those. But I will, as a blogging friend, do my best to answer the questions you set before me.

You asked if dealing with hurt gets any easier. That may seem like a simple question, but I've found it's not. Most will probably tell you that yes, it does. It seems everyone's mother said, This too shall pass. And there's merit to that... to things passing. Isaiah 40 talks about grass fading and flowers withering and everything... save and except the word of God... passing. But while time does blur some blues and dismiss some despair, I don't believe it's capable of healing all wounds. Only a heavenly Father can tackle something that tremendous. Time isn't magic. To be frank, there's no calendar long enough to smooth over some things I've lived through. Naive hope and I have wasted precious time wishing that accumulated hours would hurry and heal my heart. Sometimes they can't. Sometimes we can't wait on time; we have to take calculated, considered steps to truly move beyond our past.

It was important for me to realize that there is no standby formula to getting over or getting through a hurt. That realization was both my scourge and my salvation. I've been to people before - strong people... the survivor types - and asked, How did you go on? How did you get through? And I've been disappointed every time for their answers weren't my solution. What worked for them didn't fit my life... my personality... my bag of issues. (You being from Kentucky, I'll put it like this: I'm not a get-back-on-the-horse type of griever. I'm a bourbon-in-the-bathtub type of griever.) What's worked for me might not work for you. But I will say this: give yourself time and permission to feel what will otherwise eat away at you. Cry. Grieve. If you're angry, work that out, too. And the fresher it is, the faster the healing. The sooner, the better, as our mothers also said.

This I do know: turning about and facing your fear... opening old wounds... dealing with damage... is a significant step. Don't cheat yourself of this. Calling a "time out" and dropping defenses and wheeling around to stare down your demons is no small act. At least it wasn't for me. In fact I was outright told - just this past week - that I still have hurts to own up to. Ah well, I grinned, What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger, right? My friend smiled a tight little smile. Perhaps, he said. But your unresolved grief isn't making you stronger. It's making you bitter. There's a difference.

Identifying what, exactly, you're up against is a small, but necessary, chore. So, too, is acknowledging heartbreak... sin... even things you dislike or choose to ignore about yourself. (I abhor weakness in others because it's the trait I'm most ashamed of in myself. But until I acknowledge that I'm not as emotionally tough (hardened?) as my mother, will I ever truly learn to flush out and handle my heartbreaks in my own way?) Yes, once you've given names to your issues and insecurities, I truly believe you have them by the tail. Now you just have to know where... and when... to release them.

As for moving beyond a wrong... moving past the havoc and heartbreak people wreak... I don't have answers. I'm still grappling with that monkey myself. I will say that I've heard at some point grief turns from a "Why? Why me?" to more of a "What now? What's next?" type of question. And while I'm waiting on that progress, I've relieved myself of the burden of "getting over" certain things - like a horse jumps a hurdle. No, I see my challenge as more of a methodical leaving behind - like a turtle creeping down a long road. My past and its sorrows will always be behind me, but they'll be just that: farther and farther behind me with each step.

Forgiveness? You had to ask. This one's especially difficult. Do you remember the two greatest commandments? Jesus spelled them out Himself: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37 -40). I find it interesting how interconnected it all is: loving God... loving others... loving ourselves. It has to be the key to emotional wholeness, too.

This may be tricky, but I'll say it anyway: it's been necessary, in my own life, to grasp these commandments before tackling my own issues. Particularly those of forgiveness. Why? Because God's way of doing things is so different than ours. Notice that Jesus didn't command us to love/forgive ourselves... then love/forgive the people around us if we can... then love/forgive God with whatever exhausted emotion is left over. Not hardly. If you'll notice, we're sort of mentioned... last in the whole equation. It works like this: until we're willing to recognize and accept that God ... and God alone... is our true and only source (and outlet) of love, forgiveness, and happiness, we have no basis or reason to love, forgive, or accept others. And until we see and treat others for who they are - people created in God's image - we have no reason to examine or find worth in ourselves. And we really must see ourselves as ones created in the image of God... as people God Himself deemed worthy of the ultimate love... sacrifice... and saving... before embracing the challenge of loving someone else. Of forgiving someone else. I must see the worth in my"self" before I can get past the "self" in someone else.

The truth is, everyone in your life - including yourself - will fail to meet your expectations. Every single person you depend on will disappoint you. (Sometimes you may even feel as though God Himself is behind the helm of your (sinking) Love Boat.) The despair and disappointment we feel when others trample us... abuse us... neglect us... abandon us... is understandable - we always seem to look for perfection among an imperfect lot of folks. But we are all people. Although we're made in His image, we don't have God's capacity to love unconditionally. To stick around through eternity. And until we learn to see ourselves and those who have deeply, deeply hurt us for who and what we really are - people who must first and fully accept God's gift of love, acceptance, and sense of worth and uniqueness - we have nothing to love, accept, or value in ourselves or others. My point is this: without a spiritual foundation, our emotions and emotional recovery has little to anchor itself to. Until we all experience God's love, we have no chance of properly giving or receiving love. And until we experience the freedom of God's forgiveness, we can't expect forgiveness to be an option in our own relationships or left-behind hearts.

Huh. Forgiveness. It's an issue scholars and pastors and counselors have spent lifetimes examining and debating. I certainly won't be the one to come up with your answer. But you asked what I thought so I'm prattling on....

But know... as I do... that you are deeply loved. No matter what those who come into our lives do and say, we are utterly and permanently loved by a God who came to seek and save us. By a God who humbled Himself and became obedient - even to the death of the cross - so He could stare into hurt and hungry faces and say: Let not your heart be troubled. ...for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14: 1-4) You have to love that. You have to love a comforting Man who loves you enough to be preparing a home for you so that wherever He is, there you can be, too. (And isn't it ironic how we women spend our whole lives looking for a man who will do exactly that?)

Okay. With all that said, here's the Cliff Notes: Whether it be right or wrong, I handle my hurts by:
1) Acknowledging them so I can
2) Feel them long enough to
3) Identify them. Then I give myself permission to
4) Begin moving away from them by
5) Drawing upon a love greater than my own, so I can
6) Accept and forgive a hurt or hurter.

Is this an easy process? No. No way. And is it the only process? Um, no. It's just something I've tacked down that's helping me. Yours could look drastically different. The good news is there are so many excellent people and resources out there for girls like us. A few books I highly recommend? Check out: The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie, Soul Catcher by Kathy Eldon, Finding God in the Broken Places by Patsy Clairmont, and The Beautiful Ache by Leigh McLeroy. And again, I encourage you to visit with someone who can help you talk through your individual situation....

I hope this gives you more to think on as you face your own fantastic journey toward healing. Know that I don't have your answers, but you're in my prayers all the same.



Anonymous said...

Wow, there's no way in heaven or hell that you're 28 years old. This is amazing stuff.

lyn. said...

Here is another great read:
"The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Hearts and Homes" by James L. Ferrell
It will change your life!
Available at

Jim Looby said...

I'll vouch for her age (sorry Brin...). But she was this sharp 10 years ago too...

Anonymous said...

Wow is right, you are the Christian girl Dr. Phil!!! I wish you lived close so I could invite you to give a talk on this to my small group at church {I have questions,} wow!!
Tammy J.

Anonymous said...

Dear Oprah,ummm..I mean Brin,My gosh,and you thought a blog was just about decorating,cooking and the occasional get a few ounces of steam off of your mind..Lordy, after all of this you need to get away from the blog to relax!AND you thought the blog was a form of relaxing!No one has all the answers and no one is leading a perfect life.We all are doing the best we can.Brin, if ya ever need a sofa to collapse on, come put your feet up on my slipcovered sofa, we can drink hot chocolate, talk about something solving the worlds problems! Brin! Take a break..go have fun and know us bloggers will be here when you return...laughing...and somedays that is a good thing!
Hugs to ya!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Brin would consider speaking engagements for a fee and traveling expenses!!!

She's very inspiring in person, too...and I'm 30 years older than her!

Sissy said...

What a thoughtful and well worded post. Thank you for including the Cliff's Notes at the bottom. I may type those up and post them at my house!

You have an amazing amount of perspective. I appreciate your continued willingness to share your weaknesses and strengths with those of us out here in blogspace. I struggle with trusting that my needs are truly in HIS hands and your words were just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully worded! Thank you for the inspirational thoughts.

And I agree, you DO need the vacation from your inbox. :O) As a huge fan of your blog, I'll look forward to seeing great photos and hearing about what a wonderful rest you have enjoyed in Turkey! Happy travels. :o)

Vee said...

Thank you for sharing your insights, Brin. Along with being a lawyer and a counselor, you are an excellent teacher.

Sara Warren said...

:) I'm so proud of you! I can't wait for you to get here! You're going to love this city. Kolay gelsin! (May it go easy with you.)

love you, friend!

Kim said...

Thanks for sharing, but more than anything thanks for reassuring me that there are Christians out there who are not afraid to help another fellow blogger out with their pain. We all need an ear sometimes and some clear perspective.

Lovella ♥ said...

Beautifully said. There is a gentleness and caring in what you say. I'm so happy to have come upon your blog. Blessings!!!

Unknown said...

I needed to hear this today, thank you. I have to remind myself how much God loves me and how much he has given and currently gives me.

Also, I have found the steps of grieving and healing are not straight through--but more back and forth and around again, until hopefully, eventually the cycle grinds to a halt.