Been thinking a lot about my journey and how I have protected myself against the pain that I carried for so many years. I read this quote in the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book and it is so helpful to see all the different ways I run from pain.
When we are children, creating a defensive wall to shield us from pain can serve as one of God’s great gifts to us. If someone suffers emotional or sexual abuse as a young child, for example, denial of the assault on his or her exposed humanity serves as a healthy survival mechanism. Blocking out the pain enables him or her to endure such painful circumstances. It is healthy to not fully experience painful realities when we are that young so that we survive emotionally.
The transition into adulthood, however, requires that we mature through our “defense mechanisms” of denial in favor of honestly looking at what is true—at reality. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Unconsciously, however, we carry many defensive maneuvers into adulthood to protect ourselves from pain. And in adulthood, they block us from growing up spiritually and emotionally.
The following are a few common defenses:
- Denial (or selective forgetting)
- Blaming others
- Blaming yourself
- Becoming hostile
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Pages 141-142
I have tended to go into denial, minimize the pain, and rationalize to myself why the pain is even there. I think I’ve used my positive personality and natural sales ability to actually sell myself on how it’s really not that bad, rationalizing away the pain and convincing myself that I really don’t feel it. I think that’s why I always end up full circle and out of touch with what is really going on inside me. But then I go into denial, minimize, and rationalize it away, so I’m good again for a while…but always end up back where I started.
I can look back and see specific times in my life where I’ve utilized these defensive maneuvers to my own peril. A failed marriage. Allowing myself to be cut off from my children. Losing control of the business I helped establish. Every single time, I denied the truth, minimized and rationalized away the terrible pain, instead of allowing the Lord to teach me in the pain, and maybe even open my eyes to the errors of my ways.
I’m committed this time, rather than going into my normal routine, I’m allowing myself to feel the pain, embracing the negative emotions, and asking God to show me how He feels about each one.
This has been a powerful process for me to pursue and I’m thankful for dear friends (Jessica Gambill specifically) who have encouraged me to bring the Lord into the middle of each thought and emotion. Each one is a result of the pain of the past (whether recent or from childhood) and embracing them has been a wonderful opportunity to grow and change and learn how to really trust the loving God I’ve seen as a tyrant for so many years.