Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Heard that before? I’m sure the person who penned the thought is still healing. Do you realize words leave scars? Well, let’s do a little exercise. Think back to a positive comment someone made. Maybe they said, “You are such a kind young lady/young man.” Can you remember the warm and fuzzies of being accepted? Now think about something someone said in anger. Maybe they said you weren’t smart, never would be anything, etc. If you can still feel the ache of those words, you still have a wound. The good news is you can heal if you’ll be honest about your wounding.
Some people are afraid to admit they’ve been scarred, so they hide it. Word wounds are covered up with suits (men) and dresses (women) trying to conceal their pains (even from childhood). Many of these people camouflage their hurt by saying, “Time heals all wounds.” That’s not true. To heal, we must participate in our wound care by admitting we have hurt and at times still hurt.
When I talk about the topic of pain, it is no longer to remain “stuck” there. It’s to let you know that I’ve encountered pain as well. As I’ve started to notice, some of us are the products of our pain instead of our purpose. We never learned how to heal from the words shared by family, friends, or acquaintances, so we became our pain. As Dr. Matthew Stevenson III shared in his sermon series “Heroes” the difference between heroes and villains is how they use their pain. Villains use traumatic experiences to make “everyone pay.” Heroes use their pain to help others find freedom and acceptance. It’s the latter that I choose so that you can heal well.
Recently, I was the recipient of some hurtful words. It felt like an arrow going through my heart and I struggled to articulate how much it affected me. I’ve learned that denial of pain never solves a problem, it just exacerbates it. I had to confront the wound and attend to it immediately. In times past, when I didn’t deal with the hurt it burrowed itself in my heart. I would find myself frustrated, isolated, discouraged, and unable to move forward. At times I would also allow others be recipients of my pain (i.e. careless words). The same thing tried to happen on this occasion, but this time I took steps to address the issues.
Here are some of the steps I had to take to address my pain:
- I told God I was hurting
Sometimes we are afraid to tell God about our owies. He cares about our pain. Instead of minimizing the pain, I expressed it to Him. God doesn’t judge us for being honest with Him about where we are. He receives us with open arms. Let’s just say we had a very long conversation that day!
- I grieved the words that were spoken
We have deemed grief as a bad word, but it’s a natural part of the recovery process. Grief is acknowledging the pain and allowing ourselves to process (healthily) the hurt and sorrow surrounding the situation. Although we know the enemy can use many weapons, words are often the most piercing. They can take us by surprise. I cried and let it out. I didn’t want anyone to be on the receiving end of my hurt, so I needed to let it go. Some of us have never grieved the words we buried in our hearts and now our spouses, children, family, church family, and others are left to suffer behind our word wounds. We have to let the pain go so that we can be whole.
- I prayed for my “word wounders.”
Last week, I shared with you all about how worship heals our wounds. I thought I had finished the work by singing and thanking God. He wasn’t finished helping me process the pain. I still had a little piece of “Can I let them have it, God. Just once?” We can and need to come back to God as often as necessary to give our accusers back to God. Ever since watching The Shack, I have to remember that I can’t judge people from limited information. I may never know the words someone else is still struggling to overcome. Luke 6:28 says, “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (NIV). As a Christ follower, we must take things up a notch and pray instead of accusing our accusers. Prayer is a mature way to process pain and frees us to move forward.
- I forgave my “word wounders.”
Forgiving our accusers can be very challenging in our strength. Forgiveness does not excuse people for their poor behavior towards us, but it allows us to be free. We can move on and when we hear negative words, we won’t identify with them as our own. We will understand God gives us our identity, not other people.
- I reached out to close friends and family for counsel
When we experience pain, we do not need to process it alone. God places people in our lives who love us and will help us to heal. They will help us to confront what is not truth, so we don’t absorb the pain. I have several friends I can reach out to. I needed their tough love, but also understanding. After that experience, I was ready to quit and stop moving. They reminded me that the pain wouldn’t last indefinitely. Face it, heal, and keep moving forward. Do you have that type of support in your life? If not, it is a must.
As much as I wish I lived in a glass bubble away from future suffering, I do not. Jesus even reminded us that we are not immune from “trouble”(John 16:33). Each time we encounter hurt we should be quick to embrace opportunities to heal. We don’t want to become “villains” and respond to others out of our pain. As we heal, we can help others through our example. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that I have enjoyed the pain, but I do look forward to helping others to heal from their scars to find freedom in Christ.
Are there some wounds in your life that remain unhealed? What are you willing to do to confront your pain?
What support do you need to be able to move forward?