Do you ever notice how easy it is sometimes to get offended? A co-worker makes a comment that goes beyond just funny sarcasm, or a friend at church seems to be deliberately trying to avoid you. Maybe there’s one extended family member who knows just what to say to make you feel like crawling under a rock – every single time you’re together.
So how do we deal with hurtful cuts or painful slights when others decide to “bless” us with them? What choices do we have that don’t involve locking ourselves inside our homes and never talking to anyone again just so we don’t run the risk of getting our feelings hurt? Read on for an excerpt from my new book, How Can I Possibly Forgive? Rescuing Our Hearts from Resentment and Regret, for three things you can STOP doing today that will also help STOP those hurts – or at least help you START moving past them.
We have to stop taking things so personally.
When we develop the patience for other people, we can also develop the skill to overlook what they do to offend us. Being offended by others is not a new problem. The author of Ecclesiastes says it pretty plainly: “Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22). I think his point is worth applying here. Other people are going to say hurtful things, and we should know, because we’ve said them ourselves.
So how do we overlook the hurts? This isn’t the same as going to the store and avoiding the candy aisle. Saying we can overlook when someone does something to upset us, and actually succeeding, well, it’s a lot easier to say than do, isn’t it?
I mentioned earlier that I’ve struggled with some of my own hurts this week as I’ve worked on this chapter. It’s always so like God to put my feet to the fire with what I’m writing and what he’s teaching me. Earlier today, I was struggling so much with my self-perceived hurts that I had to take a break and go for a walk in the sunshine. As I walked around my neighborhood, thinking about the nagging frustration that keeps darkening my spirit (and in turn coming out in my attitude with my family and others), I asked God to help me understand why I just can’t seem to let this particular hurt go. Why can’t I just move on, start fresh, and be renewed in him?
Why can’t I just move on, start fresh, and be renewed in him?
He put three thoughts in my heart that I believe you can benefit from as well. If you are struggling to let hurts go, or to overlook a specific offense from someone else, I hope these practical steps will help.
1. Stop putting words of value to your hurt.
Every time you talk about what’s bothering you or who is hurting you, what they’re doing to you, you give that hurt power over your heart and your life, and you crank up the white noise to full volume. You give the enemy more room to do more damage.
When you talk about it with your best friend over the phone or sob over it with your husband or tell your entire Bible study group over and over the wrong that’s been done to you, you aren’t moving on. You aren’t letting it go.
Let me make this clear, though. I’m not saying you should never talk about your hurt; what I am saying is when we continually talk about our hurt without looking for resolution and closure, when we dwell on the hurt and the pain it’s caused, and we don’t give that hurt to the Lord and leave it with him, we don’t move on. We don’t let go. It becomes impossible to overlook the offense that’s been done to us.
So talk with your spouse or a trusted friend or family member about your hurt, and then resolve to leave it with God. Pray over it, asking him to remove it from your life and trust that he already has. Pray for the person who’s responsible for the hurt. God will use your prayer to not only make a difference in that person’s life but in your heart as well.
2. Stop giving more credit to the hurt than it deserves.
We can let hurts take over our lives, and there is no reason for it. People do this sometimes in a job when they lose an account or they fail to close a deal or they’re short in sales numbers or income for the month. Maybe someone says something, someone close to them, and they’re hurt and believe that what’s been said is true. Instead of taking a breath, acknowledging the mistake, and moving on, they wallow in the mistake, they stagger around with the hurt, and it just follows them. They can’t seem to recover.
We already know God is bigger than any hurt, and he controls our future. So stop letting the hurt control your life, and instead, give your life back to God. Ask him to remove the hurt and help you find ways to move forward. Focus on what he wants you to know, what he wants to show you.
3. Stop allowing room in your heart for the hurt.
Fill that space with the knowledge and the love of Christ instead. If you have tried everything you can to resolve an issue between you and someone else, and they’ve refused your attempts, they won’t apologize or acknowledge the hurt, do what Matthew 18:17 says—“let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.” Do you really think much about the tax man? Maybe once a year? Apply the same principle here to the person who hurt you.
Holding on to hurts never hurts the person responsible for hurting us; we’re the ones who are affected. Even as I write that, though, I realize that sometimes other people are impacted. Our families, our children, or others who love us and want the best for us—those relationships can be influenced when we hold on to a hurt. Because we cling to the pain we once felt, we let that pain impact everything else. How many families have been affected because a hurt that occurred generations ago has been passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter to granddaughter? What difference would that family have experienced if the hurt had just been let go in the generation where it happened?
When we can’t let go of our hurts, we miss one very important fact: this life isn’t about us. My life is not my own when I commit it to Christ.
If you are a Christian, if you desire to follow Christ in your everyday, run-of-the-mill, eat-your-cornflakes-for-breakfast-and-fluff-your-pillow-before-you-head-to-bed life, the life you live today and every day is not your life to hold on to. Your life belongs to God, and he already holds it firmly in his hands. So that means your successes belong to God. That also means your hurts belong to him as well. As Paul so eloquently states in 1 Corinthians 7:23, we’ve been “bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” That’s exactly what we do, though, when we don’t let go of our hurts. We hand over the freedom we know through Christ to someone else who doesn’t deserve it.
Sometimes I think we hold on to hurts because we’re walking around in this emotional fog just trying to find someone who will understand our hurt. All we want is someone to acknowledge it, to make it right, to tell us it’s OK and that things will get better. I think that’s why we talk about our hurts so much, and we throw them out there in our conversations with friends or family or the cashier at the grocery store or anyone who will listen because we just want someone to understand.
Dear sweet friend, you already have someone who understands.
Jesus understands, and those are not empty words. Jesus experienced hurts. He doesn’t tell us to overlook or move on or let go of anything he hasn’t already had to face in his own experience as fully God and fully man.
Think about it. He was loved, but he was also despised. There were crowds who loved him and wanted to hang on every word he said, and there were crowds who wanted to stone him and ultimately kill him. There were hateful things said about him, and even those most intimate to him, the disciples he loved and handpicked to be his closest friends, let him down or questioned his motives or wondered what he was thinking. Even those from his hometown, the folks he grew up around, who knew him and his mama and Joseph and the rest of the family, didn’t always see him the way God saw him, the way God knew him, who he was and what he was about.
So does Jesus know our hurts? Absolutely. Is he listening, ready to understand? Yes, in a heartbeat. His heart is big enough for all our hurts.
Encouraged or challenged by what you’ve read? Order How Can I Possibly Forgive: Rescuing Your Heart from Resentment and Regret after October 1, anywhere books are sold. Want a signed copy? Order now from sarahorn.com/shop.