Forgiveness isn’t enough. Let’s say you’ve gotten hurt. You’ve chosen to forgive. You’ve stopped rehashing what happened. You are finally ready to move on…but, something just doesn’t feel quite right in your spirit. What then?
I think I’ve always assumed forgiveness would “fix” everything. But sometimes it doesn’t mend how you feel about yourself. What do you do with that?
I’ve been rereading Captivating which introduced to me a new way of thinking about past hurts. The concept is that wounds bring messages along with them. “The wounds we received are made much worse by the horrible things (messages) we believe about ourselves as a result.” (1) Because those messages are delivered with such pain, they feel true, and we accept the message as fact, even embrace it as the true verdict on who we are. (2)
An example of the distinction between wounds and their messages is a dad who doesn’t show up for his kid’s sporting event. The wounding was that he wasn’t there. The message was: You are not important. In the future, that message changed how the child saw himself and how he interacted with the world because he now believed himself to be small and insignificant.
After coming to an understanding that I too surely had some messages that continued to hurt me (even after I forgave people), I began asking, “What are the messages I’ve accepted about myself, and how do I deal with them?” These are the questions I asked myself:
1) What are the messages of my wounds?
After asking God to help me work through this process, I took undistracted time to write down the messages I’ve heard. I made categories of general hurts in my life and tried to think about how I felt about myself. I reread through the messages to see if there was a common theme. And, there was.
2) How did those messages change who I was and how I related to myself and to others?
It is really hard to discern how you might have changed because of your messages, but I tried to think about what kind of person I’d be like in a more perfect world, like the Garden of Eden. What would I like? What would I be good at? How would I feel about myself? What kinds of things would I tell myself? How would others view me?
3) What if the messages aren’t true?
Though I have heard various messages, I did discover a common theme: “You are not worth it.” So, for this question I journaled, “If this message is not true, then… I am worth it! I am worth getting to know. I am worth working through difficulties or disagreements. I am worth pursuing. I am worth finding. I am worth loving. I am worth protecting.” I wondered how my thoughts and behavior would change if I really believed these things. Thankfully, I am beginning to see the baby fruit of believing messages that are healthy and true about myself.
4) What does it free me to do?
Here is what I wrote. It would free me to: a) Be a healthy, complete, Godly, spiritual woman who knows God (is in a romance with Him). b) Make lasting, meaningful friendships with women. c) Because I’m broken and mending, I can minister out of a place of truly experiencing and knowing. d) Be at peace with myself and the way God has made me.
5) How can I reject the messages?
John and Stasi Eldredge said, “Before we are entirely convinced that (the messages) aren’t true, we must reject the messages of our wounds.” (3) So, I began by writing out this prayer: “Lord, will You romance me? Will You contradict the messages I’ve believed have been true about me for 43 years? Will You place inside me the messages I need to hear from You…the truth about how You made me, who I’m created to be in this generation, in this world? I choose to reject the wrongful messages of my wounds and to hear only Your voice whispering over me.”
Just minutes after I wrote this, when I was feeling really good, that old, ugly message came roaring back, “It’s too much. Would God really want to spend all that time and effort on you? Is it even possible?” Wow. What do I do with that? All I knew to do was to go back to my journal and write to myself: “Oh, wounded heart, hear: God is more than capable and willing. He wants to pursue you. You are His. Please renew the thinking of my mind, Lord!”
6) What can I do to renew the thinking of my mind?
I’m really glad God allowed me to have that knee jerk reaction and that I was able to identify it for what it was, an untruthful message that was hardwired in. The danger of messages is that we often don’t even realize they are speaking, spewing poison into our hearts. Though I had never been as aware of my message as at that moment, I recognized it. It felt like the old, familiar thing. Because of that experience, I wondered how I could really begin the process of renewing my mind. I needed to know how to fight this thing!
My husband gave me the idea of writing out a self-talk card. (4) At bedtime and first thing when I wake up in the morning, I’ve been reading it out loud so I can see, hear and speak the new messages that I want to become a part of me. I wrote a few opposite statements of my wounded message and then several other concepts that I wanted to remember because they would inspire and encourage me as I fought this battle. The self-talk card is the truth my soul and spirit need to hear. It is changing me.
Just recently I saw a person who had wounded me, and yes, who I have forgiven. But, something was really different. I didn’t hear the old messages. When I walked away, things just felt good. Settled. I realized it was because I was beginning to believe a different message.
What are the messages you carry around? How can you reject those untrue messages and allow God to breathe His truth over you? If you could hear one message directly from God, what would it be? And one last thing to ponder, what would change about you if you no longer listened to the messages of your wounds?
2. Ibid, 100.
3. Ibid, 101.
4. A self-talk card is anything you want to remind yourself of. It should contain pieces of information that you want to be true about yourself or reminders that will help you ponder larger concepts. Ideally, it should be fairly short and easy to read out loud so you won’t have any excuse not to read it! Although reading the self talk card aloud is not “required,” it is more effective. Amazingly, we can speak our own lies or truths, and our minds begin to believe it.