If you’ve been living on this earth for longer than a year, you know what it’s like to have been hurt by others at least once in your life. You also know that, no matter how many times you’ve gone through it, it certainly never gets easier.
I was recently hurt by some close friends of mine, which I admit left a huge scar on my heart. In the aftermath of some hurtful incidents, I ended up withdrawing further into myself, so much so that it began to hurt my relationships at work and home. So I can authentically say this topic hits close to home. While I don’t profess to be an expert on this by any means, I do want to share a few principles I’ve learned over the years that I pray will be helpful to you when you have to deal with being hurt.
When you feel you’ve been insulted, it is so easy to want to fight fire with fire. I’m admitting to you right now that I have felt that way during many unfortunate moments. It is a natural human reaction to rise to our own defence. What is not so natural for us, however, is simply to take a minute, pause and then breathe.
Most times, when you do this, it gives you the freedom to think more clearly and choose not to respond in a hateful manner. Deep breathing also helps relay a signal throughout your body that you’re not under attack, no matter how much it may seem so. At such a moment, the “fight or flight” response is not in your best interest. Despite how much you may desire to get back at a person with a witty comeback or vengeful plot, try taking a step back from the situation and allow yourself to be at ease.
Forgive and Let Go
Bitterness. Resentment. Anger. These are just a few of the reactions that can sometimes manifest themselves in the wake of mistreatment by another. Now, while we may sometimes feel justified for such responses in the moment, research has shown that they actually end up hurting more than helping us.
There is a better way. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, forgiveness can lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels and sleep, reduce pain and blood pressure and decrease levels of depression, anxiety and stress. If these are not enough reasons to see why forgiveness is so important, remember that it also holds spiritual weight and is ordained by a Higher Power.
Respond in Love
When someone hurts you, it is sometimes necessary to take them aside and address the issue. At other times, you may not ever get to confront the person, but even so, you still have a choice in how you respond. Despite what they may have said about you and/or how they have acted towards you in the past, choose not to stoop to their level. Refrain from engaging in gossip or slander. This means resisting the urge to go and call everyone you know and broadcast your business.
If you do decide to confront someone, do it in a spirit of love. Don’t accuse them or allow your feelings about the incident to get the best of you. Instead of getting defensive, learn to remain calm in the face of their insults and threats (Proverbs 15:28 says, “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things”). Love is, and always will be, the most powerful argument you can offer.
Take the Time to Reflect
In our work-driven society, we don’t always recognize the value of stillness and rest. Yet, in the craziness of our lives, it is even more imperative that we carve out regular time for reflection. When we have endured great trauma or abuse, there exists a need for our bodies to truly recover, which is easiest for us to do when we are at rest.
When we neglect time alone, it leads to hasty decision-making and lack of self-awareness, which can make us more susceptible to repeating the mistakes of our past. This step becomes even more crucial if we practise a faith, as this time will most especially give us the needed break to pray and connect with God in order to receive of His guidance.
Having quiet time will also help us become more in tune with our thoughts so that we can discover ourselves more fully and recognize what we need to improve on in the future. This brings us to our next point …
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Sometimes, when we’re feeling the heat, we tend to want to retreat within ourselves and hide away from harsh judgement. Facing up to the truth and learning to be accountable is not easy for us as human beings. But doing so is needed at times, in order to make amends and honour our values. This may entail not only owning up to the truth about something but also resigning from a certain position if we know we are not in a place we should be.
“Regardless of how we may have been treated previously, we have the right to live a life of purpose picked out especially for us.”
While it is never easy to reflect on and evaluate where we might have gone wrong in a situation, it is absolutely necessary if we ever expect to grow as human beings. This remains true regardless of the nature of the abuse we may have suffered in a previous relationship. It’s also a good idea if we ever hope to put the past behind us and embark on new paths.
Focus on the Good
When we are in the midst of a difficult situation, we may find ourselves internalizing more than we should and end up allowing negative emotions to overwhelm us. But if we make the choice to intentionally focus on the beauty around us, we can reverse such undesirable effects (see Philippians 4:8).
Choosing to focus on the good doesn’t mean you won’t still feel the hurt from your past relationships. But by changing your line of thinking, you will help to encourage positive change in your current environment. You can start to channel some good into your life by taking up an activity you enjoy, investing in a personal self-care routine or spending more time with the ones you love. Believe me, these simplest of actions will make more of a difference than you know!
Claim Your True Identity
With the end of any relationship, challenges will no doubt arise when we try to forge a new identity separate from the one that revealed itself throughout the span of the relationship. This gets even more difficult the more deeply the impression left on our heart. In times of hurt, what may pose an even greater threat is the uncertainty that we may find ourselves getting lost in our attempts to understand who we are.
No matter what may have transpired during a previous relationship, who we are is not based on any person from our past. Regardless of how we may have been treated previously, we have the right to live a life of purpose picked out especially for us. No one has the right to take that away from us. Do not give anyone that power.
Open Your Heart to New Possibilities
Change can be a scary thing, especially after a period in which you’ve experienced brokenness and abuse. As you seek to move on to the next stage of your life, don’t be afraid to open up your heart to new possibilities. But also recognize that change won’t happen overnight, as wounds do take time to heal.
Also, don’t be afraid to be honest with the right people about what you’ve been through and make sure to ask for help if you need it. Once again, realize that the road to healing won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely possible. As the psalmist says: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
When people have wronged us, we naturally begin to wonder why: “Why me? What have I done? Why now?” Let’s be real here – pain hurts and is uncomfortable. It hurts to the utmost degree when we’ve been mistreated by the ones we trusted and loved and even more so when they have been people who have claimed to know God. I get that.
Before I continue further with my point, I want you to know that no matter what has happened, God is not to blame. The Bible says: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Sometimes people mess up and do horrible things in the name of God. But you have to believe that God never wanted you to feel such pain; He weeps with you. Don’t let them win by allowing your faith to die. Have courage to believe in yourself again and to love, fiercely.
Be Patient with Yourself
When soldiers come back from war, their battle scars are put on display for the world to see. After enduring abuse in your life, you will no doubt have sustained some battle scars, too. The only difference is yours will be invisible to those around you. Depending on the extent of your injuries and how long you’ve encountered trauma, one thing you need to remind yourself of is: it takes time.
There is no need to rush the healing process and no need to beat yourself up about how long it is taking. You’ve fought a battle many cannot understand, but the mere fact that you are still alive gives you much to hope for. It’s okay if you’re not there today or even tomorrow. Part of being patient with the process is recognizing and accepting where you are, but also encouraging yourself to keep moving forward. Know that no matter how long it takes for you get to where you need to be, it’s absolutely worth it (Psalm 27:13).
Download the accompanying printable here (as a neat reminder!)
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