With Part I under our belts, it's time to dive into some of the meat and potatoes of this important issue. There are so many different angles to come from, and so many things to consider that I thought I would just arbitrarily pick and we can move forward from there... you ready?
Here comes the first controversy for you...
IF YOU ARE NOT GETTING BETTER... YOU ARE GETTING WORSE
Glad that's out there. As much as we try and wrestle with our pain this is a simple reality that holds true for many of us. This is where we have to start dissecting our pain. We also have to do dissect how we look at pain. Our physical bodies are incredible things. One of the most amazing things is our bodies ability to adapt. When you suffer an injury it is amazing how your body compensates. You hurt your ankle, and you start limping. The rest of the muscles in your other leg and hip, all pick up the slack, even your core is engaged in helping keep your balance, and your body rallies around its injured comrade. When we get hurt, we get hurt, and then we intend for it to heal, and it usually does. For the most part, you get a little rest, you do a little icing, maybe hit up a hot tub, take it easy, and sooner or later, the physical trauma heals, the mechanics return to normal and you continue on with your life.
There are different types of pain, and different types of injuries though. For a long time I avoided the Chiropractor like the plague. I don't know how you feel about Chiro... but I wasn't so pumped at the idea of all the cracking and popping, and I thought for a little while that it was all a bit of a scam. Until I got hurt.
I put my back out, and I was suffering in excruciating and debilitating pain. My wife convinced me to head to Chiro... and in a miraculous turn of events, after a few adjustments, and a pop or two, things turned around. And then I realized it... he didn't just get rid of the pain that was excruciating and debilitating, the Doctor got rid of the pain that I didn't even realize was there. I had become so used to certain back pain, and limited motion, that I just adapted. I just carried on, business as usual, and it wasn't until the pain was gone that I even had realized it was there.
This is where the rubber hits the proverbial road. Emotional pain, and especially the pain that you are experiencing because of some of the disappointments that you have experienced, is very different from physical pain. Oh sure, you can absorb some things... some of us are really good at absorbing many things, while others aren't able to handle much at all. But the trick isn't how much pain you can absorb... the question is, what do you do with your pain once you've absorbed it.
To re-phrase my earlier statement, you either get better or you get bitter. Scripture talks about this little unwieldy character known as the root of bitterness. Here's the great thing about word play... we get to really jump into some analogies here. We have to understand that the root of bitterness has to come from somewhere, specifically, it comes from a seed, something that is planted. It would be my suggestion to you that the seed of the root of bitterness is pain. Further, I would suggest that the seed of the root of bitterness is unprocessed pain.
When you experience non-physical pain, you are no doubt experiencing a very real thing. The difficulty with non-physical pain, also known as emotional pain, is that for the most part, it doesn't affect your day to day activity, or so you think. When I stub my toe, there is an immediate reaction, when I roll my ankle, there is an immediate reaction, and there is also a physical outcome, meaning... you roll your ankle, it hurts, and you can't walk for while. The severity of the pain determines the course of treatment which is required. Everything from pain management (pills or pharmaceuticals) to casts (to reset the bone if there's a break) to physio (rehab to help you strengthen your muscles and to regain full range of motion). There is a method to the madness, and because of the amount of pain we are in, and because of the physical challenge that is before us, we immediately address our situation, and adapt our behaviors.
When we express emotional pain we don't do any of that. We often think that it isn't really affecting us, because after all, there doesn't seem to be any physical effects. But that's where we miss the mark. We are always affected by pain. We think that we are fine, and we think that we are normal, but the truth is, we are walking differently. We are walking with a limp.
Each and every one of us handles this differently. Each and every one of us is affected in different ways, but the truth is, when we get hurt, it does something to us. But after we get hurt, the question becomes, what are you going to do with your pain?
The seed of the root of bitterness is that pain. If you do nothing to that seed, it's going to grow. Here's the thing about weeds... it doesn't seem to matter where they are... they always grow.
Ok great... so now what are we going to do with our pain?
1. We are going to acknowledge it - we can't fix something that we refuse to recognize is there. The funny thing about pain is that it manifests in all kinds of ways, and we are always the last ones to notice.
-You may make a harsher joke around certain topics than you normally would.
- You may avoid places, interactions or faces
- You may withdraw into yourself and just appear off
There is an endless list of things that others around you may notice before you ever do. It's important to listen to those around you who are trusted, who can help you recognize some of the signs of trauma. They aren't trying to hurt you all over again, they are trying to help you.
2. We are going to work towards forgiveness
I'm sure this is your least favorite "F" word, but don't get me wrong ... this is an incredibly important part of the process. You can re-focus your pain into progress by working towards forgiveness.
Notice that I said, WORK TOWARDS?
This stuff takes time. Forgiveness takes time. The question isn't have you forgiven them yet? The question is, have I put myself on the path of forgiveness? It is no mistake that there is that cheesy old saying around forgiveness....
That's crazy talk... but it's no accident that the root of bitterness is described as poisonous... these thoughts are connected. Bitterness is unforgiveness unleashed!
I can tell you from much experience that you can't put a timeline on this. But by the grace of God, it is possible. We are destination driven people, we just want to get there, like little kids on a road trip screaming, "ARE WE THERE YET!?" Forgiveness doesn't work that way. It doesn't matter where you start the journey, the important thing is that we are moving in the same direction, and that direction is wholeness and restoration.
Let me drop a quick asterisk right here... FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN A LACK OF CONSEQUENCE. Sometimes I think we are worried that if we forgive somebody it means that we have to go back to the way things were, or that we just have to magically become best buddies all over again. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring the problem or the pain. Forgiveness is one of the ways we process pain, and forgiveness is also great friends with a mythical character names consequences.
Actions have consequences. Forgiveness does not change the fact that their are consequences. This is the real world. If you have been hurt by somebody, then things are going to change in your relationship. Forgiveness does not let them off the hook, it lets you off the hook. If somebody broke your trust, then they are going to have to rebuild it again. This make take minutes, years, or even a lifetime. You can't put a timeline on this. But when I forgive somebody I am actively creating a pathway for restoration.
Why do I want to see them restored? That was just you and I still working through our pain... I'm not talking about them.... I'm talking about you. Forgiveness is creating an active pathway for your restoration. It is one of the ways that we learn, grow, and put the pieces back together.
Brett Esslinger is a Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Pastor, Speaker, Leader, Writer whose life goal is to help people unlock their potential and fulfill their life's purpose.
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