In this world, we will have heartache and pain. When we face pain we need two things. We must suspend our analysis, seek comfort and process the pain.
Jesus experienced much heartache and pain, and he promised to leave us with peace. John 14:27 states, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus is saying, “I have overcome. Focus on me and put your trust in me.”
The world gives conditional love, occasional peace and temporary joy. Jesus gives us unconditional love, everlasting peace and eternal joy.
Just like physical wounds, emotional wounds need to be properly healed. If physical wounds are not handled correctly, that wound can get contaminated, infected, cause continuous problems and create much larger problems years later.
Here are five unhelpful responses to pain.
- Ignore the pain. Does “time heal all wounds?” Of course not. Perhaps you were taught to “Stop being a sissy, just deal with it, just forget about it and move on.” It’s very dangerous to ignore emotional pain.
- Minimize the pain. “Shake it off. It’s not that big of a deal.” We determine reasons why, perhaps valid, this person caused us pain. But these reasons do not reduce the harm or the pain you are feeling. Growing up in the Upper Midwest, we are really good at ignoring or minimizing the pain. I tend to rationalize my pain down to a more acceptable level because then I can excuse it and “move on.” This is very unhelpful. What happens when you close up a wound with unprocessed pain? It causes an infection. The emotional infection often shows up as anger. Unprocessed pain becomes unprocessed anger. That anger can mushroom into bitterness, resentment, sarcasm, negativity. It can lead to passive-aggressive behavior. Unprocessed anger can devastate and destroy relationships.
- Protect ourselves by overcompensating for the pain. There are many ways we do this. We control everything in our life we can because we could not control that hurt or the person we deem responsible for the pain. We stop trusting because our trust was violated. We say things like “I will never get that close to a person again.” “I will never put myself out there again.” “I won’t take a risk because I might fail.” We can overcompensate by always trying to prove ourselves, making sure that everyone knows how gifted I am, or making sure I get proper credit. When you are driving a vehicle what happens when you over-correct? You can lose control and cause much damage to yourself and others. That is exactly what happens when we overcompensate for the pain.
- Internalize the pain; turn our anger inward. This can lead to many issues: blaming ourselves, living with self-hatred, depression, self-harm.
- Medicate the pain, rather than processing the pain. We may medicate the pain with food, shopping, alcohol, work, sex outside of marriage, one-night stands, drugs, pornography — lots of options for medicating our pain that results in additional pain.
Next week we will look at five helpful steps to process our pain. God bless you. See you next Sunday!