Written by: Kolby Nance
As stated previously, I have been heavily influenced by the work of Chip Dodd, who I will be referencing throughout the next eight blog posts. In his book, “Voice of the Heart”, Dr. Dodd systematically walks through the 8 core emotions that we experience throughout our lives. He suggests that a life well lived is one that embraces and feels the eight emotions without suppression or repression of our hearts. I would add, that in today’s culture there is typically great hesitation to actually embrace our emotions or feel our feelings. I would say this holds true especially within the church. Emotions are treated as dangerous enemies that will either overrule us, make us inefficient, or cause us to be of little faith in our Sovereign God. There is a very clear and important distinction and truth that must be upheld. Paying attention to our emotions and feeling our feelings is not the same as being ruled by them or giving them the final word. In fact, I would argue that we cannot truly live self-controlled lives unless we are becoming more aware and more emotionally mature. This maturity is not reached by repressing or ignoring our emotions. In this blog, I would like to focus on the emotion “hurt”.
If we have lived more than a few days on this earth, we have experienced hurt. I am able to sit with several married couples and log several hours discussing the impact of hurt when we attempt to live life together. If you haven’t allowed yourself to feel hurt in some time, I would encourage you to allow your mind to revisit the middle school years and I am sure that memories will provide fertile ground for reliving some of the hurt that you are now trying to avoid. If we actually allowed ourselves to feel hurt, would it be overwhelming? Would we get anything done? Would it do us any good? I can give my answer but I would simply encourage you not to take my word for it, rather try it on for size. See if there is any good intention from God in allowing yourself to be honest about feeling hurt.
“Hurt is the emotional and spiritual cry within us that lets us know that we have pain.” (Dr. Chip Dodd). This is the emotion that will come with life. It is easy to see that we live in a broken world. Hurt is the emotion that will be consistent as we experience things “not as they should be.” All emotional and spiritual healing comes through relationship. This truth can be an obstacle to healing because the very thing that heals us (relationship) is the thing that previously wounded us. This paradox can lead us to defend against taking ownership of pain. We fear that our hearts will be wounded again. We escape pain by defending against the possibility of its recurrence.” (Dr. Chip Dodd, The Voice of the Heart). When we open ourselves up to actually feeling hurt and offer that emotion to another in relationship, we are taking the most daring and vulnerable route of hope. There is a clear call in the gospel’s to deny self-protection and to live in a sacrificially loving way toward others. One of the greatest sacrifices is to offer the truth about our hurt. This allows another the opportunity of love. Hurt requires the care and the response of another. We are opening ourselves to further wounding if another doesn’t handle it with care, gentleness, concern and love. There is genuine risk at hand when we are honest about the hurt that we feel, especially to those who have hurt us. Only the truth will set us free and lead us to truly being able to forgive. If we repress our emotions (lie about how we feel) and especially our hurt, we won’t move toward forgiveness and freedom but rather contempt and resentment.
What happens if we just keep our hurt to ourselves? Isn’t it better just to let it be ‘water under the bridge’? In fact, what was ever gain by sitting around and whining about something, it just isn’t productive and gets nothing done? With any strategy of self-protection and self-perseverance, we are subject to deception. We were created for relationship. While taking care of ourselves and independent living at face value seems to be the higher road and safer, I fear that it leads only into further deception and destruction. We are told from a very young age to “be strong” and “don’t let it get to you”. What happens when we repress our hurt or try to deal with it on our own rather than finding healing through relationships. We build resentment within our hearts. “Resentment is the product of trying to find solutions that reject hurt. When hurt is denied, minimized, or projected onto another, it becomes resentment. Through resentment we are able to deflect the focus from the internal pain onto someone or something else. This impaired expression of hurt kills relationships and, therefore, stops all healing.” (Dr. Chip Dodd, The Voice of the Heart)
Therefore, what is the invitation of hurt? Hurt calls for the care and acceptance of another. The gospel call is to live in faith, trust, and love of God in the midst of a broken world. Would we allow ourselves to trust that our hurt is significant enough to offer to another? I am a firm believer that God gives dignity to our hurt and longs to repair and restore what isn’t as it should be in His creation. Jesus chiefly suffered the pain and hurt of rejection and neglect of those closest to him and on the cross suffered the rejection of God the Father. In suffering we experience hurt and in hurt there is suffering. I think that the Scriptures are clear that we have the greatest chance of experiencing Christ’s love in the midst of our suffering. The invitation of the gospel, in regards to our hurt, is to live in the mystery of God. Chip Dodd draws a contrast between living in Management verses Mystery. “Management is an attempt to control life in order to stay safe and to make sure that outcomes we planned or predicted actually happen. When we manage a relationship, we prevent it from being an adventure, a joy, a surprise, and a gift. Mystery on the other hand is a willingness of heart to experience living truthfully and believe that we will find goodness in it. Living in mystery means walking in the faith that God is big enough to be in control, and that God doesn’t require our help to get the job done.” (Dodd, Voice of the Heart). I pray that you live in the mystery, being honest about your hurt both in prayer and relationship with others.