We are coming upon the holidays – a time of gatherings of family and friends – and many times with those who have hurt us deeply. Most of us do not live in a Norman Rockwell painting, and our family gatherings can be painful or fraught with dread. Instead of re-living old hurts, we can turn to God and ask for His guidance and protection.
Most people react to hurt by immediately trying to do something about it. Many people treat emotional pain by hiding it; that is, they do something self-gratifying that numbs the pain but that does nothing to heal it. Many people also use anger and revenge to respond to hurt when the cause of the hurt can be identified as a thing or a person, as opposed to natural phenomena.
Emotions serve to inform us about our spontaneous reaction to the reality around us; we are not morally responsible for our emotions, and therefore they are not sins. Yet anger refers to the desire to hurt the cause of the hurt, and revenge refers to ways in which that hurt can be accomplished, and so, unlike emotions, anger and revenge are both acts of will for which we are morally culpable. Just as with hiding the hurt, revenge does not heal the hurt either.
You have another option. When you are hurt, you don’t have to fight back, trying to hurt others as they have hurt you. If you trust in God’s perfect justice to protect you, you can accept all injury quietly, peacefully, and without protest. Despite your injuries, you can give patience, understanding, compassion, forbearance, mercy, and forgiveness to those who hurt you, all the while praying that they will repent their wickedness.
Emotional healing starts with your taking up relentless, persistent prayer to God that you will grow in holiness; then it will be necessary to force yourself to maintain a calm trust in God’s protection and guidance.
The part of your brain that pushes you into panic and rage when you experience emotional hurt is a primitive part of the brain that understands behavior, not language, and that has been conditioned by past traumas to equate emotional distress with physical danger. When your body feels the first distress of emotional hurt, your brain interprets it as a danger and sends a signal to your body to pump out fight-or-flight chemicals that cause physiological arousal.
The only way to stop the emotional uproar is to act deliberately in a way that tells your brain that there is no danger. So, instead of fast, shallow breathing take long, slow, deep breaths. Instead of staring around in a frenzy, close your eyes. Instead of clenching your muscles, loosen them. Instead of allowing racing thoughts, set yourself some simple cognitive task, such as counting backwards from 100—or pray the prayer as described below. These behaviors are body signals that tell your brain you are not in danger, and subsequently your brain will shut down the fight-or-flight chemicals, and you will experience a calm relief.
To begin to heal your emotional wounds, pray. In imitation of Him who accepted injury confidently, quietly, peacefully, say, “Lord, I am wounded. I hurt. I am helpless. I am broken. I am vulnerable. Nothing I can do by my own hands can protect me. Help me, for without your mercy and protection, I will perish. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Help me to continue my work in your service despite the fact that I feel hurt (or fill in the blank).”
Pray, therefore, that the healing process will happen within you. But pray for it specifically:
- Ask God that you will be enlightened.
- As God for the courage to see the truth of your life.
- Ask God for the strength to not flinch from the pain of seeing the truth about yourself.
- Ask God that everything you do will be directed to your purification from anger, hostility, resentment and victimization.
Feel the hurt, rather than push it out of awareness. Turn to Christ, and speaking to Him as you would speak to another person, tell Him what happened, tell Him how you feel, and ask Him for help. Admit your weakness, your wretchedness, your brokenness—and ask God for His strength to carry you through despite your feelings.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
When someone hurts you, resist the temptation to respond with sarcasm or arguments or hostility or cursing—or self-blame and self-punishment. Look to divine justice, not to bitter revenge. As you acknowledge and feel the pain, let it pass through you into Christ’s hands, like sunlight through a clean window. Every sin inflicted on anyone is inflicted on Christ, and Christ alone has the power to administer true justice for all injury. So put your wounds in His hands and trust in His justice.
Healing is simply our return to God in humility. There is no healing except in forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) To give the pain to God is to stop trying to take matters into your own hands. Pray for those who hurt you and to pray that you will learn to approach God in humility so as to accept the true and perfect healing He offers us. So pray for your enlightenment—and pray for the repentance of those who hurt you.
Father, I adore you and give you thanks for creating me to be just who I am. My genes, my life conditions, my space in life and time. You created me to enjoy the fullness of life, Your life in me. I believe that You desire to make my family whole and that You have already begun to heal us in all the ways we need healing. Take away my built-in defenses. Remove all the barriers that prevent healing and my accepting fully Your love for me and my family members. I look forward to the time in which Your work will be completed and I believe that I will be an instrument of that healing for my entire family.
Jesus, I ask for the grace I need to forgive all who have ever hurt me. I ask to be representative of my family in receiving grace to pray for all who have hurt any members of my family, individually or collectively. I ask forgiveness from all whom we have hurt. Heal us of all experiences that have made us feel guilty and ashamed, that have cause us to reject ourselves and to reject one another. Heal me of ridicule and of any incidents in my life or in the lives of my family members that have made us feel unworthy or inferior.
Surround me with Your light, Jesus, and penetrate the very depths of my being with that light. Let there remain no areas of darkness in me or in my family members, but transform our whole being with the healing light of Your love. Open me completely to receive Your love, Jesus. Thank You for being our family healer and my personal healer.