I was talking with a friend the other day who was sharing with me some very painful parts of her early childhood. An only child to an abusive father, a mentally-ill, perfection-driven mother…the loneliness, the shame, the pressure…the results and consequences of living through those circumstances…some of which still linger to this day…
She was expressing the desire to somehow start processing it….maybe she could write a book…or start talking to others….not only for her own healing process, but in order to encourage others. But after she finished sharing this with me, she stopped…pausing and staring blankly down at her feet…and then said, “but I guess it’ll have to wait until both my parents die first.”
I recently spoke with another friend who was sharing her affection for an up and coming Christian author/speaker. She shared some high points about the things that she had been learning and some areas of growth she had been challenged in by that author. But at the end she mentioned that in some ways her respect for this individual has waned as she has continued to watch this speaker/author be so outspoken about the faults in others. From the stage she emphatically and jokingly makes cutting remarks about those who have hurt her and holds back none of the details in openly mocking people who have done her wrong.
I spoke with a man who has recently gone through a painful divorce. His ex-wife has taken the liberty to speak incredible poorly of him to his family, children and friends, yet he refuses to do the same. He feels trapped, not wishing to gossip or slander in return, but comes alive at the thought of allowing his pain to help others in their own divorces. But he is afraid of saying too much. He stays quiet. He refrains from helping others because he fears his words will be perceived as gossip.
I wrote my article about hardness of heart and what’s happened in my family and have struggled immensely with similar thoughts. How do I speak of these circumstances, and yet not be disrespectful toward those involved? How do I practically show honor and share of my own journey through these hardships without drawing unnecessary attention to my father or my mother?
These types of questions are proving to be a challenge to work through…but I’m convinced there must be an option other than to stuff it away and remain in isolation, or just resort to blasting all details from the rooftops…
For me personally, more than ever I am ready to move in, through, and on from this struggle.
Although I cannot speak for anyone in my family, I feel as though healing for me from my broken family relationships has and continues to happen more and more each day.
After 2 decades of struggle, the broken shackles of my wrecked family life are finally OFF. It’s weird in some ways, but it almost feels tangible, as if my body, soul and mind now knows to live free. I know now without a doubt that I am to be who God has made me to be no matter the choices of those in my family.
I am free to speak of Jesus and my life, without the fear of others perception of me. I’m ready to speak of the brokenness, most importantly my own, in order that Christ might be made known in the midst of this sorrow. Like the apostle Paul, if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30) not the weakness of others.
In the midst of this, although I now know that I am free, I have to admit that I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to speak poorly of others. The word is clear that we are to show honor…and just as I wrote in my marriage article, showing honor sometimes means toward people that have not been honorable.
How can we share painful parts of our lives and still honor people who have hurt us?
How can we show respect toward people who are not living respectfully?
Is there a way to talk through the trials of life that involve other people but do so in a dignified way?
Or should we all just wait to process, wait to heal, wait to help others until that person dies?
If that person is no longer living does it now make it appropriate to share openly about what he/she has done wrong?
Does that change the “rules”? Or should we all stay quiet and silent until our own graves?
This is just as much “real time” for me as it is for anyone else…but I’ll share what I’ve got so far on these issues….
- speak from your perspective: There is freedom to make mention of what has occurred, but make every effort to quickly move past others’ specific actions to focus more on how you are processing things instead. Avoid bad mouthing as it will only cause more damage. Focus instead on you, what you’re learning and how the Lord is leading you.
- keep it generic: For example, sharing generically about the things you have learned in the midst of your struggle, encouraging others against common struggles and how you are growing in the midst of those struggles
- see your heavenly father as the only perfect one: In order to heal and move forward it is crucial to know God is the only one who will never fail. This gives us the freedom to forgive and the release to not hold anyone to a standard they cannot ever meet. When those we love fail, let it be a reminder to look upward.
- find ways to be thankful: There is likely something, even if it’s small, to be thankful for in the person who has hurt you or caused you harm. Find those few things and if you must speak of that person take the opportunity to voice those things instead of choosing to slander. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
- give grace: It’s always easier to give grace when we are aware of how much we also need it. When we forget how much we have sinned it is easier to feel that we can hold someone else in contempt. But we have been forgiven MUCH, which means we can offer grace even when, especially when, it is not deserved.
- create something new: Maybe you had a broken home or major “daddy issues”, maybe you struggle to find anything good at all about your childhood or about your circumstances growing up, but instead of growing bitter, use those thoughts to focus your efforts on creating something new. Make your home into the grace filled, God honoring home you’ve always desired. As you continue to let go of the “old”, allow yourself to be creative to pour into the new. “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9
- serve others: Be intentional to use your words to edify and to encourage others. If you speak of painful circumstances or heartbreaking stories, find ways to encourage those listening and to build up and strengthen those who hear you. I cannot think of anything that is truly gained when we spend our time using words to tear down. Focus on building up and strengthening others instead.
- forgive: Forgive those who have hurt you, and after you’ve forgiven, forgive again and again and again. But be sure to define what forgiveness is: Forgiveness does not condone, excuse or permit. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation and it does not mean you continue in a relationship…but it does give your heart freedom and allows the Lord to heal you. Forgiveness allows you to see what good the Lord can do in the midst of sorrow and takes the focus off the pain. Forgiveness comes at a high cost, but gives us hearts that are glad and hearts that are thankful. Revenge is not for us, that is not our burden to carry. “O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.” Jeremiah 20:12