It’s been a great few weeks, for discovering some really pithy little sayings, that make me go “whoa, I wish I’d thought of that”. This week, I’m inspired by something Pastor Joel Osteen said. He said “you may have a reason to feel sorry for yourself, but you don’t have a right”. I must admit that when I first read it, I thought “what’s this man on? He’s clearly never been hurt by someone so badly, that you say to yourself, ‘if I didn’t know Jesus, I could go postal here’”. And then I thought, “the man’s a pastor, he’s probably got people saying hurtful things, every day of the week!”
Anyways, it got me thinking. When we insist on our right to feel hurt about something done to us, what do we really gain? It’s not like you can head off to the shops and exchange it for something useful right? I ‘stole’ the title of this week’s blog from the three witches in Macbeth, because it just seemed so apt. When we insist on our right to feel sorry for ourselves, all we really end up with is a nasty tasting stew of resentment, bitterness and self pity. Which if you eat enough of, just leads to toil and trouble as far as I can see. So, how do you know when you’ve landed head first in some nasty stew and how do you get out of it?
Firstly, I’d say, when you find yourself wearing your hurt like a badge of honour and you rehearse it every chance you get, then watch out. I’m guessing we all know someone who can tell us chapter and verse about a hurt they’ve suffered many moons ago. No matter what conversation you’re having, they always bring it back to that hurt. I’m going to confess and say, that I’ve been that person at different times in my life (in fact as recently as yesterday). But I’ve decided to stop wasting my time wallowing and use the hurt as a spur, to move me to the next level in my life.
Secondly, when the pain of the hurt is still as fresh as when it first happened- 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. When they tell you the story, the pain is so palpable, you can almost touch it. It’s almost like they are re-living the incident all over again. In fact I read somewhere that the brain can’t tell the difference between the incident and the memory of it, so you do actually experience it all over again. From personal experience, I can confirm that if you don’t find a way to let go, it hurts just as much as it did the first time.
Finally, when the hurt you’ve suffered is used as an excuse for everything else that’s gone wrong in your life, I think I can say that the stew is cooked and being served up. There are so many people who are carrying such a heavy burden of pain that they are sitting on the sidelines of their own lives. Opportunities that should have been taken weren’t. Lives that should be full and productive are small and confined, because of the hurt that is being carried.
And that really is the worst thing. When we insist on our right to feel sorry for ourselves, we stay stuck in the pain and the past, never really able to move into our future. We don’t participate in our own lives or the lives of those around us. Missing out on the 99 other great things that we could have had.
As to how we get out of the stew. Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that all we have to do is decide we don’t like the taste of the stew anymore and get out of the pot. The bad news is that all we have to do is decide we don’t like the taste of the stew anymore and get out of the pot. It’s good news, because we all know how to make decisions, we make thousands every day. It’s bad news because, we have to make that decision and keep making it, until that stew becomes a distant memory. We can make a decision with our heads, but unless our heart and feelings come along too, we’re not going to succeed. When people hurt us, they hurt our feelings, not our heads. Our heads can be as rational and as logical as they like, the heart feels, what the heart feels!
But unless you plan on sitting out the rest of your life, you’re going to have to find a way to make that decision with your head and your heart. Personally, I find it helps me to think of forgiveness as a ‘one off’ thing, but the rebuilding of trust as a process. I can forgive you immediately, but you will have to show me that you are trustworthy, over a period of time. You don’t get to decide how long that period of time will be and you don’t get to bully me into trusting you again.
That’s my approach. You’re welcome to try it and see if it works for you. If not, feel free to keep journeying until you find an approach that works for you.
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Until next week, go well.