This post originally appeared May 2013
We all know that we live in a hurting world. Each one of us has been hurt. And, truth be told, each one of us has hurt others. Sometimes we condemn the behavior of others, labeling them as mean or callous or weak...when actually, they are processing hurt. In the only way they know how.
Today's post is about3 ways we process pain. I doubt that these are the only 3 ways but, in my observation of others and in my own experience, theseare the general categories I have found. I hope that this will increase our understanding of others - and of ourselves - and perhaps that will help us help others -- and ourselves -- process hurt more victoriously.
Think of life like a battlefield. War being waged. We get hit by artillery. Sometimes the enemy is the one aiming the gun. Sometimes it's "friendly fire". (What a dumb name, by the way!) We are wounded deeply. And, in the case of this kind of battle, the source of the bullet matters. A lot.
What do we do when we get hit? Probably one of three things. 1) We lie on the battlefield, with the war raging around us, bleeding profusely and hoping someone will rescue us. Sometimes our fellow soldiers are so preoccupied with their own battle that they don't notice the carnage. Other times, someone does notice but does nothing. Perhaps it's because they don't know what to do but usually their neglect is interpreted as a lack of concern. And the bleeding increases.
2) We attack. With hermorrhaging wounds, falling blood pressure, and infection already setting in, we "ready, shoot, aim" at any available target. We might hit the one who delivered our injury but most likely we just fire at whomever is nearby. We probably know that this won't heal the wounds we have sustained but we think that at least it will prevent further injury. Usually not the way it works. Not only are those surrounding us hurt, but the damage to our own wounds increases. And other injuries are added, resulting in scarring.
3) We withdraw. Again, this might not be an attempt to recover from the damage but instead an effort to avoid further trauma. This indeed can prevent further casualties from external sources but it often increases the chances of self-inflicted ones, especially self-administered anesthesia. And, while it might protect us from pain, it also serves to prevent our reception of help and healing.
I've reacted to hurt in all three of these ways. In fact, I've used all three tactics practically simultaneously! None work very well to achieve the healing we seek.
So, here's the tip for the day. More than one, actually. First, regarding your own injury response. In some cases, it is beneficial to seek care from someone you know is compassionate. Let them apply a tourniquet and get the bleeding to slow. But don't expect someone else to daily dress your wounds, provide for your constant care, hunt down your enemy, and protect you from future attack. While emergency response from a kind soul can be what you need initially, long term rehab is up to you.
And that rehab might include a temporary reprieve from the battlefield. Just be very cautious about remaining in seclusion. An atrophied soul is bitter and unresponsive to all things good. If you seek care in the withdrawal mode, this time it needs to be from a truth-telling friend, not a merciful one.
And if you are prone to the "attack" response, educate yourself during a time when you are not injured as to how much collateral damage can result when you attack while wounded. Then ask God to remind you of that when you are tempted to open fire.
Victorious recovery won't come unless you acknowledge that battle wounds happen to all of us. You're not the only one. You're not the first and you won't be the last to sustain injury in this thing called "life". To put it bluntly, you gotta get over it. This is probably the biggest hurdle. We are so prone to think no one else hurts like we do! But get over it we must. Healing is on the other side. And it rests in the arms of our dear Savior, who understands and cares and has the power to restore. He is gonna ask you to do some tough things (like praying for the one who delivered your blows!) but trust Him. He's got your back. And your front. And your sides. And your healing is His agenda.
Last tip - be mindful of the fact that everyday you encounter hurting people. Remember this when they attack or withdraw or when you see them bleeding and gasping for air on the ground below you. If you can manage to respond with love and patience and kindness and grace, you might very well help them recover. Don't ignore or misinterpret them. Don't accept their brushoff as rejection. Try to see instead their pain. Please try. Somebody out there needs you. And, who know, one day, they may be the one wiping blood off your face and tending to your wounds!