Feeling Hurt – A Revelation

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I was feeling hurt and angry yesterday . . . you can relate, right?  Hurt and anger – those emotions are almost like two old friends with whom I have a dysfunctional love/hate relationship . . . so familiar that they actually feel more normal than other emotions, like joy.  I began to wrestle with my feelings.  As a good Christian, I know that forgiveness is sort of the top of the list . . . “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, and all that.  But when I feel that I’ve been wronged it’s hard . . . you know what I mean, right?  So I’m praying, wrestling, trying to disengage my self-esteem from what happened.  This morning I opened my Bible to Isaiah 58, a chapter that’s been “mine” for many years.  It opened in the last version I’d been reading, the Common English Bible.  Here’s what I read:

“Isn’t this the fast I choose:  releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke?”
                                                                                Isaiah 58:6

No other version I’ve ever read this in has said it quite like this.  Releasing wicked restraints . . . untying ropes of a yoke.  I know that the issues of our hearts, our hurts, wounds, and anger are complex. But I saw an aspect of the inner work that the Spirit of God does in our hearts in a new way this morning. 

It’s not wrong for me to feel hurt; something happened that hurt my feelings and made me angry.  These feelings are not sinful, they just are.  And it’s important to acknowledge them, accept them, feel them.  That’s the starting place.  Be honest about your feelings.  Lay them out on the table where you see them for what they are.  But what happens next is very important.  In the past I’ve been prone to scoop them up off the table (if I acknowledged them in the first place), stuff them back into my heart, and let them talk to me. And they say all kinds of things . . . things about those who’ve hurt me (that may or may not be true) . . . things about the situation (that may or may not be true) . . .  things about myself (that most certainly are NOT true) . . . things about God, about my life, about the world.  And I listen . . . and I hurt more deeply.  It’s kind of a vicious cycle of hurt feeding hurt breeding more hurt. I may not realize it, but I am bound . . . bound with an awful yoke, a wicked restraint.  In listening to the voices of my hurt and anger, I literally place a restraint, a yoke, on those who have hurt me, chaining them forever in my mind to that event.  They are tied to my pain, my expectations, my thoughts about them, their motives, and their character.  And because I have bound them, I am also bound.  I have effectively yoked us together with this terrible pain between us.  Now I cannot look at them without seeing it.  I cannot think of them without seeing it.  And the hurt continues to feed itself, making me miserable.  The other person is personally unaffected, but our relationship will always tainted by my hurt.  It will affect my thoughts about them, the way I feel about them, the way I treat them.  And it will never change until I set both of us free.

Without the breaking of the yoke there can be no real honesty, no real community, no healthy relationships.  We can be honest about our hurts and our anger while refusing to allow them to talk to us.  They don’t give us good feedback about the situation, do they?  They don’t tell us the truth.  They give us a skewed, distorted version of reality.  We must allow the voice of reason, the voice of truth to come alongside to speak to those thoughts.  Sometimes a trusted friend can give us perspective, help us sort out truth from fiction.  I think the Spirit of God helps us, bringing truth across our path in many forms to help us see what we need to see.  And sometimes we just need someone to hold us while we hurt, we want someone to acknowledge the hurt with us, to express sympathy or empathy.  That makes it easier to take the important step of silencing the voices of those painful emotions.  And then perhaps we can feel safe to untie the ropes of the yoke, and set ourselves and those who have wronged us free.

This is a part of what it means to be emotionally healthy.  It feels good to take charge of the voices in your head, to refuse to allow yourself to be mistreated by your own negative emotions!  It’s empowering  . . . and I’m all about that.

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