Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Bless the Jerk
There’s no way to navigate a life without getting bumped, bruised or outright wounded by people. No one’s exempt, and generally, the closer we are to people the more capacity they have to wound us. There’s the challenge of intimacy: I want to be known and loved; I don’t want to be injured. And good trying to get the one without the other. Where there’s closeness, there’ll be, among other things, wounds.
Wounds are injuries to the soul that make themselves known, sometimes years after the injury, either in our current pain or current behavior. They can show themselves in current pain through memories that just won’t die. Sometimes a mental picture of a traumatic event – some childhood humiliation or tragedy, for example – keeps intruding into your thoughts. Maybe you let yourself relive it, and all the pain of the event comes flooding back, reopening the sore and making it worse.
Or it can also show itself in your behavior, when it affects the way you relate. Early rejections, disappointments or traumas can become the root of adult isolation, fear of intimacy, a craving for power, or extreme passivity and dependency. In those cases, the wound affects your ability to love and trust.
I’d have to say that those sort of symptoms are the ones that most often bring people into my office. And in a nutshell, there are four things I recommend to wounded people: Identify, Address, and Bless the Jerk.
Does the very thought of a certain person, or the mention of that person’s name, flood you with rage or sadness? Is there someone you avoid whenever possible because the idea of interacting with her or him puts you into a panic? Do you indirectly punish someone with silence, or sarcasm, or gossip?
Then I’ll bet you have a wound associated with that person. Usually the wound is made up of a series of events that happened between you and him/her, a few of which especially stand out. And usually, the person involved is someone you were close to – a family member or friend – so he could hurt you at the deepest levels.
This is exactly why Jesus said to address a problem directly and immediately:
“If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” - Luke 17: 3
When you’ve been wronged, although you’re commanded to forgive, you’re also commanded to be honest about the wrongdoing. If you aren’t, you’ll feel unresolved about it, and that lack of resolution easily gives way to resentment.
If this comes close to describing your history with a person you’ve experienced a deep wound with, then you need to address it. To do so, ask yourself four questions:
First, is this person accessible? (Meaning he or she is alive and can be located.)
Second, is a conversation about this feasible? You may still see this person at times, and the wound is still a painful wall between the two of you. If so, move ahead with plans to address it.
Third, is your perception of this person, and what happened between the two of you, accurate?
Fourth, what do you want to say to this person? What questions do you still have? What do you want him to know about you and the way you feel? What, if anything, do you want to see changed in your current relationship with this person? In addressing these questions, you’re finally getting some resolution and clarity, which is a way of cleaning the old wound out.
Bless the Jerk
If you’re able to talk out an old problem with someone who’s hurt you, you should. But even if you can’t, you’re still mandated to forgive. Jesus offered no wiggle room on the matter:
“If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” - Matthew 6: 15
The Greek word Jesus used for “forgive” is aphiemi, meaning (according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) “to let go of a debt by not demanding it.” When you release someone who’s wounded you, you give up the right to punish them and you relinquish any tactics you may have used in the past to “hurt them back.” In doing so, you also release the emotional battery acid that’s been welling up whenever you think of this person.
If the wounder is unrepentant, unwilling to admit his wrong, or indifferent to the pain he’s caused you, there’s a punishment waiting for him that’s worse than anything you could dish out. Meanwhile, you’ve got a life to live. Does it make sense for you to allow someone’s sin to keep distracting you from what really matters?
When you release the wounder, you relieve yourself of the negative, crippling feelings that weaken you. That, too, is the logic of forgiveness.
And if the old pain resurfaces, make a habit of releasing it as soon as you’re aware of it. Here’s a trick I learned years ago, which is no trick at all. Jesus advised it when He said:
“Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” - Matthew 5:44
Whenever I remember someone’s sin against me, whether in the distant past or the here and now, I try to keep them in prayer. Specifically, I pray God’s blessings on their lives (sometimes through gritted teeth I’ll mutter ‘Bless the Jerk’ – not very godly, but it’s a start) and His correction in their lives of any sin that needs correcting. Not easy; often excruciating. But in doing so, I’m released from the burden of hating them, thinking ill of them, obsessing over them. Because who, in the long run, is punished by my bitterness? No one but me, and I’ve quite selfishly decided I’d rather not punish myself any longer.
I hope you won’t, either.