06: Owning Our Hurt (Or, Where Things Get Messy)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWe’ve made it this far, but here is where I might end up losing you. Here is where the theories stop, and we start getting down to business with this whole identity thing. The spark is lit when we realize the power of our stories, but the fire grows as we begin to own that power. Soon, life will be all ablaze. But if you’re not quite ready for that yet, it is okay to take a break. Not everyone puts a puzzle together at the same pace, and that’s okay. It might be that you just need to find a good counselor to work through things with.  I hope that eventually, you will keep going. Maybe someday I’ll find you sitting across from me in a coffee shop, and we’ll raise our glasses to how far you’ve come. The Two Types of Hurt

If you have been alive on this earth for any amount of time, chances are, you have experienced hurt. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by a coworker, who spoke a cross word or refused to help you when you felt overwhelmed at the office. Perhaps you were hurt by a poor review. Perhaps it was someone at church who gossipped about you. Perhaps it was a significant other who walked out. Or it could have been a close friend who decided that she no longer wanted to invest in the friendship. These situations brought about by other people can be incredibly painful, but equally as painful is the hurt we cause ourselves through things like  addiction, lust, comparison, and even physical injury.

Hurt Caused by Others

For me, I would have to say the person who has hurt me the most was my mother. I grew up in a Christian home where I was educated by my mom for most of my elementary years and a small portion of junior high. My younger brother and I had more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter, as provided by my hardworking dad. I still remember Saturday mornings, when my brother and I would rush to jump in bed with them to snuggle and tell jokes. Occasionally the question would arise as to whether or not they would ever get a divorce. Of course, they always assured us that they wouldn’t.

Just before my fifteenth birthday, though, my mom, out of the clear blue sky, decided that she’d had enough -- enough of being with my dad, enough of not getting what she thought she wanted or needed at the time as part of a family. So she packed up my brother and I, and we left. It was the start of a roller coaster that seemed endless. Though my parents have never actually gotten a divorce, my mother has lived with at least three different men in the past nine years. Eventually, my brother and I returned to live with my dad because my mother not only chose another man over her husband, but over her children.

I’ve learned that infidelity, much like any other sin, has effects that last generations after the deed is done. Initially, I wondered if my parents would sit together at my high school and college graduations, my wedding, or even, God forbid, my funeral. Those are the thoughts that overwhelm the mind of a confused teenager. When I was engaged, I wondered what my in-laws would think when they heard of my mother’s indiscretion. And now that I’m married and anticipating the start of my own family, my husband and I wonder what we’re going to tell our children when they ask why Grandma and Grandpa don’t live together.

My mother’s infidelity is something that I never had any control over, and yet, it has left an indelible mark on my story, like an injury, long since scarred over, but still there is an ache.

Hurt Caused by Ourselves

While the pain that other people cause can be significant, the pain that we cause ourselves can be just as horrific. In my own life, this has looked like a long road of blatantly ignoring my triggers for depression and anxiety, the constant comparison of myself to other people, believing the lies of the enemy that I am never going to be good enough, and even physical self-harm.

In college, my now husband asked if I would be interested in going to counseling. The night before, I had pressed an eraser into my hand and literally erased the top layer of skin. At the time, I thought I deserved it. At the time, I thought I was nothing but a screw up. In my own personal journey, I was desperate for meaning and purpose and passion.

I’m thankful for friends who stuck with me through the thick and thin parts of this story. The people who sent text messages at four o’clock in the morning, the people who called me out on the crappy choices I was making, even when I didn’t want the accountability.

This pain we cause ourselves can be physical, taking shape in the form of self-injury, eating disorders, exercising too much, et cetera. Even when we aren’t deliberately harming ourselves physically, I believe that pain we cause ourselves in the other spheres of life (emotional, psychological, spiritual) can often manifest in physical ways. When I feel down in the dumps emotionally, I also tend to feel sick. If I’m beating myself up with lies, I tend to feel tired.

Dealing with the Hurt

It wasn’t until a friend talked about pain in a church meeting that I really began to think about what processing all of this might look like for me. Of course, the pain was always there, but I began to look at it in a different light. I began to see the wounds as being valuable to my story, my identity. Of course, that’s not to say that I’m walking around nowadays in pursuit of pain -- that’s not the case at all. Pain comes whether you’re looking for it or not, and its that way in all of our lives. To quote a favorite author of mine, John Green, “pain demands to be felt.”

I think that’s what got me stuck. At times, I reveled in the pain, spending days at a time  giving into the idea that I had nothing to offer, and that God had screwed up my story. Other times, I ignored the pain, playing through it like an athlete with a busted up ankle -- and I only ended up hurting more in the long run. I never simply felt it, acknowledged it, and moved forward. The more I do that now, the more I begin to realize that the pain does not define me. It does not hold my identity, and it does not overwhelm the plot of my story. But it is valuable.

So much of the time, we’re afraid to talk about our pain, regardless of who caused it. We’re afraid that the people around us will leave, and likely, some of them will. Life is messy, and not everyone is prepared to get their hands dirty. But there will be many who stay, who love and support and hold you accountable. And I hope you’ll discover that pain is never wasted when we choose to lay it down on the altar for God to do with it what He desires. I pray that you’ll find that you’re not alone in your struggles, whatever they may be, and that how you choose to respond to the pain that you’ve felt in your life holds the power to change another human being’s life.

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The conversation starts here: 

Share an example of pain in your life, and how you responded to it.

How have you healed in the days, weeks, months, or years since?

{Leave your questions + answers + thoughts in the comments below.}




Some Fine Print:

This is the sixth of thirty-one installments to be posted throughout the month of October. To view the entire table of contents as it is made available, click here. You can receive the entire series in your inbox for free by subscribing via email (no spam, just my heart by way of weblog). Please feel free to pass these words along to a friend. Sharing is caring!