I know someone who is in so much pain she causes pain in almost all of her relationships, and yet, she has no idea.
She is the common denominator in a handful of conflict resolution sessions at her church.
She is known for her rough edges, for not keeping her mouth shut when she really should.
She blames everyone else for her pain, for the damage she does.
It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.
I’m talking about the old me.
During the first fifteen years of my first marriage, I was walking pain. I was emotional shards of glass. I was a pot-stirrer. I was sarcastic. I was even mean. ALL WHILE LOVING JESUS AND TRYING TO BE A GOOD PERSON.
But here’s the thing.
I was in so, so, so much pain. My marriage was so broken and so toxic. But for the first fifteen years, I didn’t handle my pain well.
(Who handles their pain well??? Some truly do, I promise. It’s a skill you can learn.)
Richard Rohr says that if you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit your pain.
And I was the poster girl for transmitting pain. All over everyone and everything. At inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways.
You see, I was in a quote-unquote Christian marriage. And it was filled with addiction and lies and meanness and control and codependency and yelling. I cried – if I had to guess – a majority of my married days. I was sad basically all of the time. I was obsessed with my hard marriage, thinking about it constantly, always always always trying to untangle my marriage knots.
Bottomline, I was addicted to my own pain.
I was terrified to let anyone see the real me, the real us. I was terrified to say outloud all that was really going on. Because I knew my life would blow up if I did (and I was right…my life did indeed blow up).
I was also attached to it, to the extent that I didn’t know who I would even be if the pain were removed. I clung to it. And, to be devastatingly truthful with myself, I think a part of me loved it, felt I needed it even to be who I was.
And so I stuffed and I stuffed and I pretended and pretended and I firmly affixed my ‘perfect Christian family’ mask on whenever we went out in public.
What you need to understand is that I was a praying, reading-my-Bible, serving, worshipping, Jesus-loving, trying-to-follow-Jesus kind of girl. I truly was. I tried harder to be a good Christian, a good wife and a good mom during those fifteen years than I have ever tried at anything in my entire life.
But trying while pretending just doesn’t cut it.
And I was hurting myself. And I was hurting my then-husband, making our marriage so much worse. And I was hurting my children, though that was the last thing I wanted to do. And I was hurting a lot of the people in my life, though I was trying to serve and ‘build the Kingdom’.
I have three gentle suggestions for you to help you determine if this might be you…
One, ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you are handling your pain in inappropriate ways, if you are hurting others on a regular basis because you are hurting so much (hurt people hurt people, remember).
Two, vulnerably ask a trusted friend (one who will tell you the gentle truth) if she thinks this may be the case.
And three, get yourself in counseling or find a mentor who can help you unpack your pain, hold it up to the light, and find ways that are healthy to work through it, because, sweet girl, there ARE healthy ways to process what you’re walking through.
Please hear me…I have been you. I know the kind of pain that leaves you lying on the bathroom floor crying out to Jesus to take you home. I know the kind pain that finds you being mean to people you love and people you barely know. I get it.
But I also know there is a better way. You don’t have to set up camp in your pain. You don’t have to let it carry you down. You don’t have to let it define you. You don’t have to stay under it. God does not want that for you, I can tell you that right now, no matter how hard your circumstances are.
Let’s become the kind of women that draw people in, not that repel people away. Let’s become the kind of women that point others in pain to our source of Comfort. Let’s become the kind of women who let our pain both soften and strengthen us, not poison us and take us down. Let’s become the kind of women who are light and love and a quiet peace, no matter what’s going on around us.
There is so much more to who you are than the pain you are living in. I know it’s scary, but there is abundant life waiting for you…and it is more glorious and secure than what you’re clinging to. I promise.
I can do all things through Christ who lives in me. -Philippians 4:13
Do your very best to be found walking in peace. -2 Peter 3