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Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolve to Soften Your Heart: Inner Healing Part III

by Dina Sleiman

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ~ Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

For the past month I’ve been delving into the subject of inner healing. I’ve covered the basics: 1) You were made for joy and 2) Get to the roots.

There can be all sorts of roots. Fear based roots. Inferiority based roots. Anger based roots. Guilt based roots. There are many others as well, I’m sure. But, here is an interesting truth I discovered. As various hurts and issues enter our lives, there are a few basic ways of dealing with them.

* We become a victim, live in constant pain, and are ineffective
* We build walls to protect ourselves and allow ourselves to function
* We learn to properly mourn and turn our hurts over to God

Now, I don’t have much to say about becoming a victim because I don’t really understand that process. It’s too foreign to me. I’m a fighter. But, boy am I good at putting up a wall.

I doubt anyone (except maybe my husband) would describe me as “hard-hearted.” In general, I’m pleasant and even warm by nature. But I’ve done it. I’ve built those walls of protection in my heart. Those very walls, those stony places, allow me to stay upbeat and warm and fun-loving, because I’m safe behind them.

I’ve even justified to myself that they aren’t walls of unforgiveness. I don’t wish harm on anyone. I don’t hold a grudge. I simply don’t trust certain people. Especially authority figures. Especially male authority figures (now don’t blame my sweet laidback dad, this goes back to other controlling men in my life.)

I like my walls. They keep me safe. Even with those people I’m so sweet and warm to, there are parts of myself that I hide. I can give love and encouragement, not be easily offended, etc…but do I let you in? Do I give you the power to wound me? Not often.

Yes, this year I’ve discovered that I have hard, stony places in my heart. So what am I supposed to do about it? Wear my heart on my sleeve? Learn to be a victim? No, I don’t think so. But this question has caused me to take a new look at a scripture from the beatitudes that I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around, “Blessed are they that mourn…” Why on earth would God bless me for mourning? I'm tough. I'm a fighter. I can take care of myself. I have my emotions under control.

When we don’t harden our hearts and protect ourselves, we allow ourselves to mourn the hurts in our lives. And what happens when we mourn? The answer is right there in the same verse, “…for they shall be comforted.” By mourning and turning to God, we allow ourselves to receive comfort and healing. We let others see the hard times we’re going through so that they can pray for us, love on us, and minister to us as well.

This has probably been the most important lesson I’ve learned in 2010. So as we enter 2011, my top New Year’s Resolution is to live with a heart of flesh.

What about you? What has God shown you in 2010? What are your goals for 2011? Do you need to learn to soften your heart?

17 comments:

  1. I'm definitely in that second category too, Dina. I learned a long time ago that one way to not feel hurt is to not feel. I think way too many of us have protected ourselves this way.

    There's a lot more I could say about my own particular walls and I'm very sorry about the ones I keep 'fixing' when God breaks them down, rather than just clearing out the rubble. My goal for 2011, my 'one word' is to SUBMIT this hard heart and let Him soften it for good.

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  2. It's so interesting, Deb. As I've learned this lesson myself, I've been teaching it to my family as well. It has made a huge difference in all of our relationships. My youngest child is very sensitive and would get his feelings hurt a lot by my middle child. Then he would get hard and mean, and it would turn into an ugly cycle. Now he will say to his brother, "Jonny, that really hurt my feelings." At first Jonny, who is more of a tough guy, will waffle and say that's not what he meant, and Adam's overreacting. But, after that Adam still says, "You hurt my feelings," then Jonny has no choice but to soften and apologize and the relationship stays intact.

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  3. I'm a fighter, too, and I am learning about the freedom and joy that comes in letting down the walls. A heart of flesh gives God room to heal. Thanks for your openness.

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  4. Kathy, I'm so glad this is speaking to people today. I have to confess that I find this much easier to share in writing. But, I'm really working on letting people see the real me more.

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  5. As an INFJ I really value transparency, but I'm like you Dina. It's easier to do in writing. Less easy when I'm face to face with someone. And it's all about self-protection. Maybe that's part of the problem. I'm not letting faith be my shield.

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  6. "And it's all about self-protection. Maybe that's part of the problem. I'm not letting faith be my shield."

    Excellent observation, Lisa.

    It's normal for INFJ to hide parts of themselves. Some don't use much facial expression. I tend to default to a smile in public, even when I'm not feeling it on the inside.

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  7. Lisa, you INFJer you. Look at this new paint job. I love it!

    So are you going to be bluntly honest with me when you read my manuscript in 2011?

    I've always been the writer when something has to be said. I'm not too fast on my feet with an answer.

    That's when I stick with "let your words be few'!

    For now, I'm getting really excited about new year's and all that's to come for the Inkies in 2011!
    I'm looking to rebuild my bible study time and adding 'soften my heart, Lord' to more of my prayers.

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  8. Insightful post, Dina. I'm pretty soft-hearted myself. When I was younger, I took everything personally and my feelings were easily hurt. So to avoid the hurt, I would avoid connecting at all. If I never became involved with a person or group, they could never hurt me, right? I've gotten better over the years, but I'm afraid my skin is still on the thin side. Rejection kills me (guess I picked the wrong profession if I wanted to avoid pain!)

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  9. Rejection is hard on me too, Jen, I just don't always show it. I've gone days before admitting to my family members that I got a painful rejection.

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  10. Great post, Dina. I'm with Lisa and others...it's easier to be real in my writing than it is face to face, sometimes. Rejection, change, and growth can be pretty painful!

    I love the new look, Lisa!

    Here's to 2011, everyone!

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  11. Deb, Deb, Deb. Of course I'll be brutally honest. It'll be in writing!

    Plus, I want you to get the agent and contract of your dreams!! So if I can do any small thing to help that process along, I'm all for it.

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  12. I am a peace maker at all costs... I hate conflict!!
    The Lord has helped me to take some risks and make my needs known- even if it results in conflict and the dreaded disapproval. It's paying off. I feel so much stronger.

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  13. Yes, it is risky, but I think this is one of those areas where God is faithful. If someone doesn't respond well when we express our needs, then I suppose that tells us a lot about them and the relationship.

    A few years back I was a cell group leader and stuck in "ministry mode" with all my members. When I decided to be myself more and let them see the real me more, I did lose a few relationships, but found that most of them were more valuable and real friends than I ever imagined.

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  14. Very interesting post, Dina. My mom always said I was hard-hearted which is why I was able to get through boot camp without lasting effects.

    I've always disagreed. I managed to get through boot camp because I considered it a game. It was 'their' job to push me to the limits. And it was my job to see how far I could go. The best advice they ever gave me was, 'Any stress you feel is brought on by your own attitude. We create the circumstances - how you react is up to you.' That was back in '75 when they were still allowed to yell at recruits without incurring a harassment charge. My, how things have changed.

    But, away from the CAF, I cry watching movies and while reading books. I cry when others get hurt and think AFV is the stupidest show around. And I cry when others hurt or yell at me. In other words, I'm a big suck. Does that sound hard-hearted to you?

    Thank you for the post, Dina.

    Anita Mae.

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  15. Nope, Anita, that doesn't sound hard hearted. You just choose not to let people get to you at appropriate times. And I also think AFV is awful. What's funny about watching people get injured?

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  16. Dina et al: Interesting thoughts and, of course, I have some opinions.

    First of all, one can be a victim and a fighter. If you're hurt, deliberately so, you are a victim. It all lies in choosing to stay there or turn around and respond, fight back, yet we are told to turn the other cheek. For this fighter, I struggle with this admonition all the time.

    Next, until I began to learn in my own life to let others know when I'm hurting, to not always be cool, calm, and collected, at least to others, my writing didn't come across yet. I started working on expressing my feelings verbally to others--in an acceptable way :-)--and all of a sudden, I started selling books, too. Coincidence? I think not. The more I learned to open up, the more I was able to pour emotion into my characters, too, and the more they came to life.

    Lisa, I slip between being an INXJ and an INFJ. I'm an F now that I've learned to admit to feelings. Before, I wanted to find solutions and forget the emotions, but the emotions were there, so I landed splat on the line and became that weirdo an X.

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  17. That's so interesting about how this has affected your writing, Laurie Alice. A close friend of mine mentioned that she thinks my writing has taken a huge leap this year, and she feels it relates to me getting more in touch with my feelings and expressing them more.

    Great thoughts, as always. I love when you stop by and visit.

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