Some people have hurtful experiences that have caused such severe emotional pain, they feel that they will be scarred for life. It seems as if the damage is irrepairable, permanent. A person may feel, “I have been hurt too deeply for this to ever heal.”
I have great compassion for people that have had such experiences, I have had a few of my own. If you have had such an experience, while I haven’t ever spent one moment in your shoes, so I will never know exactly what you’re pain has been, I want to tell you there is hope. I have seen people suffering from severe pain and anguish from past abuse, rape, and other unmentionable horrors, who have completely healed and no longer carry the scars from the past.
How can healing from such deep wounds be possible?
The first principle I want to touch on here is that Jesus Christ is the master healer. There is no pain that we suffer that he didn’t suffer when he performed his infinite atonement. There is no wound that he can’t heal, and there doesn’t have to be a scar.
But some people tell me they have been working and praying for years but the pain never goes away. It is understandable that people come to the conclusion that this pain will never heal. Again, I want to tell you there is hope. With the right understanding of quick principles all things are possible.
Let’s look at why many emotional hurts last indefinitely. Let’s say that a husband says something to his wife that is critical and hurtful. She now has hurt feelings. She is now the victim to him. What determines how long she will be the victim, how long her feelings will be hurt? Why is it that 5, 10, or 20 years after he made the comment she may still feel the pain?
In his book “Bonds That Make Us Free” Terry Warner explains that as long as somebody needs our forgiveness, we remain their victim. As long as we are their victim, we need pain as evidence that we are a victim to someone else’s hurtful actions. The key to ending the pain, is to completely forgive the other person (and ourselves), and give the burden of our pain to Christ, allowing him to heal us. Once we have completely forgiven the other person, we are no longer there victim and there is no more need for the pain. Even if the pain had been there for years and years, I’ve seen people finally get this, and in within a few minutes the endless pain of the past simply isn’t there. For some people it is a slow process, like peeling an onion, where there is a need to work through layer after layer before the process is complete. Either way complete healing is possible.
Go to the page on my blog called, “Introductory basic principles”, and click on the link called “What story are you telling yourself.” Here is another helpful tool. When something hurtful happens, we tell ourselves a story about this incident. We can tell ourselves a victim base story, that emphasizes how we are the victim, and keeps us stuck in victimhood. This is very disempowering, and interferes with healing. We can also tell ourselves a positive story about what happened. Even if what happened was really horrible, we can emphasize the good that we have learned from it, how we use this negative experience to move forward in a positive way. At times it may be hard to come up with a positive story, but if you dig deep enough you will find there are critical life lessons for you in this experience. You need to accept that what happened is meant to be for your good, learn the life lesson, forgive the other person, and move forward. God only allows painful experiences in our life because he knows that in the end it will be for our good. If it wasn’t for good, then he wouldn’t let people hurt each other.
I had an experience many years ago that illustrates some of these principles. I had a coworker who was really being a jerk. His daily behavior towards me really bugged me, and made my stomach turn. I felt a lot of anger towards this individual, and was certain that his behavior was unwarranted. I saw myself as the innocent victim of his hurtful behavior. I was unhappy in this situation, and decided I needed to do something so that I could be happy again. As I considered my options, I prayed about this one day and a flash of inspiration went through my mind, “You need to apologize to him.”
I immediately brushed that idea aside, it seemed ridiculous for me to apologize to him, because I hadn’t done anything wrong. He was the bad guy, I was the good guy, I couldn’t think of anything to apologize for.
A few days went by, he continued being a jerk, once again I was pondering and praying about what to do. Again the idea came, “You need to apologize to him.”
It still seemed like a crazy idea, but this time I reflected on it for a few moments and asked the question, “What do I need to apologize for?”
Then the thought came into my mind, “You have been angry at him. Your anger is wrong, you need to apologize to him.”
I had never considered that my anger was wrong, it seemed justified because the other guy was the one being a jerk. However when I considered the possibility of apologizing to him, I felt a slight easing of the tension in my gut. Even though I felt very awkward and uncomfortable with this idea, I decided I would give it a try because I was really tired of being unhappy and miserable. A few days went by, and I had an opportunity to visit with this person. I simply walked straight up to him, and said, “I have been angry with you, and my anger is wrong. I apologize, please forgive me.”
He was surprised and caught off guard, and didn’t have much to say. He kind of brushed me off and walked away. It didn’t matter to me what his response was, I was simply trying to do what I felt I needed to do. As I walked away from that short exchange, I was amazed at how good I felt! It was one of those times where I really felt like I was walking on air, I felt so light, and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I felt really good!
It took me years to figure out why I felt so good after apologizing to him for my anger. You see, I thought it was what he was doing that was making me miserable. But what was really making me miserable was my anger at what he was doing, not what he was doing. Also, I believe that when I apologized to him for my anger, in my heart I was also forgiving him. When I felt no more anger about what he was doing, I was no longer his victim. His actions were no longer hurtful to me. He continued being a jerk, but I was no longer the victim. It was human nature to blame him for my unhappiness, but the truth is the unhappiness was self-inflicted by my negative response back to him.
Another gem of wisdom from Bonds That Make Us Free is that one of the most healing, liberating things you can do is to apologize to someone for not forgiving them sooner.
So if you are feeling scarred for life, have hope. Forgive anyone who has inflicted pain on you, forgive yourself if you need to, let go judgment and blame, change the story you are telling about what happened, give your burdens to Christ, and you can be free!
If you would like any help working through that process, because sometimes were a little too close to our problems to see them clearly, feel free to contact me anytime. I love helping people break free!