Harboring the chains of our hurt
When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.
One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.
I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.
The Poison of Holding On
Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.
When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.
One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.
Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.
But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.
Freedom or Control
Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.
Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.