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Healing Life's Hurts

Hope: The Strength to Carry On
by Dick Innes
Published by ACTS International

Overcoming Damaged Emotions

This and other articles by Dick Innes can be read online.

Copyright © 2007 ACTS International

When Jane was five years of age, her father went to the war. When he returned several years later, he never came home but went to live with another woman. Jane was crushed. As an adult she had marriage problems because she wasn't able to trust her husband. This was because she had an unconscious fear that he would go away, too. When her buried fear came to consciousness, she was able to resolve it and get very close to her husband.

Most people didn't have as traumatic an experience as Jan had. However, because nobody has had a perfect upbringing, all have some damaged areas of their personality. Unfortunately, these damaged emotions can and do have a profound effect on every area of adult life–especially in the area of relationships.

The following are some of the common symptoms of damaged emotions as pointed out by Dr. David Seamands on his taped message, "Damaged Emotions."*

Super-sensitivity. The person who is hurt easily or cut deeply with the slightest criticism has been hurt in the past. Dr. David Seamands describes this type of person as one who "has reached out for love and approval, but has received the opposite. He is shattered by perfectly normal or accidental happenings; he feels that people are against him. He has to have constant reassurance, only he can never get enough. Or, he may react in just the opposite way. Life has been cruel to him so he gets tough and wants to hurt others as he has been hurt."

Sad to say, rarely does he see his super-sensitivity as his problem. He doesn't realize that people mostly are not hurting him but merely triggering the hurt that is already there.

The procrastinator can be most
frustrating. He forgets things,
dawdles, daydreams, runs late,
says 'yes' but acts 'no.'

Perfectionism. The perfectionist can be difficult to live with. Take Greg, for example. In school he did very well, earning mostly A's with a few B's. But instead of getting praised, he was criticized by his father for not getting all A's. He grew up feeling that whatever he did was never quite good enough. As an adult he still feels that what he does–and what others do–isn't good enough either.

Sometimes he projects his enslaving demands for perfection onto God, feeling that he has to be perfect to please Him, too. This isn't so. God accepts him exactly as he is.

Rebellion. The rebel reacts when he feels he is being over-controlled, as that's the kind of atmosphere he grew up in.

As a teenager Susan felt she wasn't allowed to think for herself or make her own decisions. She felt over-coerced, and finally rebelled by doing the opposite of what her parents had planned for her to do. Her parents then rejected her further because she refused to conform to their unrealistic expectations. This type of conditioning always programs a child for problems later in life.

Procrastination. The procrastinator can be most frustrating. He forgets things, dawdles, daydreams, runs late, says "yes" but acts "no." If pushed too hard, he may become openly aggressive, but mostly he passively resists and withdraws.

He too has been over-controlled, smothered or over-indulged. He is also hostile, but instead of openly rebelling, rebels inwardly through passive resistance. His reaction can be more damaging than open rebellion. For instance, "Psychological studies done on soldiers in wartime show that those who 'crack up' most often and most severely are the products of over-protective mothers."1

Page Two

Negativism. A person who is negative and critical has been hurt, too, but is still resentful. He unconsciously looks for pegs (excuses) on which to hang his anger. Instead of admitting his resentment, he expresses it through his negativism.

The fearful and overanxious have also been hurt. They build walls around themselves so they won't have to feel and face their inner pain. The egotist didn't feel important as a child and is still trying to prove himself.

The compulsive eater, talker, drinker, smoker, gambler, and worker are also acting out damaged emotions and unmet needs from their past. And rigid people, being afraid of close relationships, hide behind their rules.

First. Whatever our problems are, to resolve them we need first of all to be truthful and admit them. Only then can we begin to find freedom from them. Jesus Christ expressed a profound principle when He said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free"2

Second. As Jesus also said, "Do you want to be made whole?"3 It is a fact that some people don't want to be healed. They like getting sympathy or attention. They may want deliverance from their uncomfortable symptoms, but are not willing to face the deep, hidden causes, or they may not want to grow up and accept the responsibility for their own life.

Third. It is essential that we accept responsibility for our problems, reactions, and feelings, and not blame others for them. We may not have been responsible for the actions that hurt us in the past, but we are now fully responsible for any resentments and hurts we are nursing, for all our reactions, and for what we become.

You will know the truth and
the truth will set you free.

Fourth. To find healing we also need to exercise confession, prayer, and forgiveness. The scripture teaches that if we confess our sins and faults to one another and pray for one another, we will be healed.4 Wherever there is anger, hurt, or guilt about something from the past, those feelings need to be confessed and expressed in all their intensity. Then we need to forgive those who hurt us. As long as we nurse our grudges (consciously or unconsciously) we will pay the price for it physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The difficult thing in confession is to confess the "right" sin–that is, those damaging repressed negative feelings and attitudes. One needs to ask God to give him the courage to face those deep hurts and resentments. He may also need a counselor to help him see these problems. As we do face and confess these problems and pray, God has promised to bring us healing.

Finally. A reprogramming of our feeling responses is often needed. Our reactions were learned from past experiences and therefore can be relearned. As we confess and surrender our past to God, asking for His healing and help, we need to act positively on the basis that God is healing us as we act. As we practiced the appropriate actions–regardless of our feelings–our feeling responses will eventually come into harmony with our actions.

Everybody has some damaged emotions, but with honesty, responsibility, confession, prayer, action, and God's help one can find healing and overcome his past. We are not victims of fate. We are in control.

1. Powell, John, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? p. 152.
2. John 8:32.
3. John 5:6.
4. James 5:16.

Copyright © by Richard (Dick) Innes

* NOTE: For the cassette tape, "Damaged Emotions" by Dr. David Seamands go to http://www.actscom.com/store/cassettes.htm

This and other articles by Dick Innes can be read online.

Copyright © 2007 ACTS International

Healing Life's Hurts
by Dick Innes
Published by ACTS International

When I first met Jennifer at a seminar that I was leading, she was very withdrawn and her face, apart from sad eyes, was expressionless. She said little all day but her body language spoke volumes. It didn't take a great deal of insight to realize that Jennifer was in incredible pain.

I was quite busy and didn't give any more thought to Jennifer until a few weeks later when she turned up a thousand miles away at a more intensive week-long counseling workshop. Here her story unfolded.

Jennifer was at breaking point. She had a young son and was about to give him up for adoption. She told us she was so afraid to be touched she couldn't stand her own child hugging her. It was no surprise to learn that Jennifer was a rape victim-repeated rape. In fact, her son was a child of rape. It started when she was very young and left her paralyzed with fear.

Like a lion in the forest preys on wounded animals, perpetrating men saw Jennifer as easy prey and had been violating her for much of her 40 years. She came to our counseling week as a last hope. Since nothing else had worked, she determined that if she didn't find help here, she was going to take her life.

Fortunately, Jennifer found a place where she felt safe to share her story and express the incredibly painful emotions that had been bottled up inside since she was repeatedly raped as a small child and as an adolescent. Time and again she had been used and shamed. She felt ugly, dirty, unlovable, and despised.

She felt that suicide
was the only way out.

To be healed Jennifer needed to share not only what had happened to her (where she had been sinned against) but also all of the hurt, shame, anger (rage), and terror she felt. Although her painful emotions were justified by the horrible mistreatment she had suffered, Jennifer had turned these emotions against herself and they were destroying her.

Cautiously, Jennifer began to share. Then her feelings came rushing out in torrents. It was the first time in her life she completely shared her bottled-up emotions. This catharsis (emptying out) was essential to open the way for Jennifer to begin to heal. Without first taking this step, she couldn't be freed from the past so she could, in time, move to a point of forgiveness. After three days of painful sharing, we prayed for Jennifer. She went back to her room and returned some time later looking like a different person. She put on a pretty blouse, makeup, fixed her hair, and came in wearing a million-dollar smile. She had a long road ahead but her healing and freedom from the past had begun.

More than a year after the seminars I ran into Jennifer again. She had sought out Christian counseling and although her progress was slow, she was doing incredibly well. Her spiritual and emotional healing was well underway.

Jennifer's story is by no means unusual as there are millions of others who have been sexually, physically and/or emotionally abused. Others of us, while not suffering such extreme abuse, still have plenty of wounds and unmet needs. We live in a sinful, fallen world and none of us escape the ravages of sin. Every family has some "dysfunction." True, some families are more dysfunctional than others, but every family has been affected. Some of us are either co-dependent or overly independent. Others of us are detached, perfectionistic, prone to anger, excessively anxious or sad. Each of us needs some spiritual, emotional, or relational healing.

One of the facts of life is that we are destined to repeat in one form or another those dysfunctions we fail to resolve, or take out our hurt and anger on the ones we love-and then pass on our dysfunctions to our children! The Bible says, "The sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation."1 This is why it is imperative that, with God's help, we resolve them. The following steps will help.

First, we need to admit that we have been hurt, that we have a problem, and that we need healing.

Second, we need to want healing badly enough to be willing to face our pain rather than bury it. As Jesus, the Master physician, said to a man who had been an invalid for 38 years: "Do you want to get well?"2 It sounds like a silly question but it is really profound. We have to want to get better badly enough to face our hidden or painful hurts. Only those who want to be healed will be. The half-hearted never make it.

Third, it isn't enough to talk about our painful feelings. We need to find a safe place with a trusted friend, counselor, therapy group, or recovery group where we can confidentially experience and express our feelings of hurt, guilt, shame, anger, fear, plus our sins and faults. These are the secrets that comprise our dark side which, unconfessed, keep us bound. As it has been said, "We are as sick as our secrets."

Fourth, when necessary, where we have hurt somebody else, we need to seek their forgiveness and, wherever possible, right the wrong that we have done.

Jennifer came in wearing a million
dollar smile. Her healing had begun.

Fifth, we then need to forgive all who have hurt us. This is part of gaining freedom from the past. Once we have grown strong enough to face our pain, set appropriate boundaries, and develop some safe relationships, we can begin to forgive. But we cannot simply put forgiveness on top of unresolved hurt, grief, or anger. These must first be dealt with and resolved. Then we are ready to forgive.

Sixth, we need to confess our sins and faults to God and ask for and receive his forgiveness. His Word says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."3

Seventh, we need to forgive ourselves, let go of the past, and move on to become the persons God planned for us to be. Once we have faced our pain and hurt and anger and begun to forgive, we can start looking ahead in life.

Eighth, develop a healthy support network with a trusted friend or two. At the very minimum, ask God to give you at least one close friend whom you trust implicitly and with whom you can share your total self-your joys sorrows, victories, and failures-and with whom you can keep accountable.

Finally, we need to consistently seek God's help through prayer, scripture, and Christian fellowship. I don't mean through a magical quick fix but rather through the miracle of God's healing over time through our relationship with Him and members of the body of Christ.
In fact, one of the names for God in Hebrew, Yahweh-rophe, literally means "The Lord who heals."

God wants to heal us and has shown us the way. It's in the Bible which says, "Confess your sins and faults to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed."4 Do you want to be healed? Do it God's way and you will be. It may take time but He wants you to become the person He created you to be.

1. Deut. 5:9.    2. John 5:6.    3. 1 John 1:9 (NIV).    4. James 5:16.

By Richard (Dick) Innes

This and other articles by Dick Innes can be read online.

Copyright © 2007 ACTS International

James Lee, a young father, phoned a large city newspaper from a hotel telephone to give a reporter a heart-rending story. The reporter frantically tried to have the call traced but was too late. By the time the police arrived, Lee had ended his life with a bullet in his head.

In Lee’s coat pocket the police found a tattered crayon drawing signed in childish print by his daughter, Shirley, who had been incinerated in a fire five months earlier. On the drawing Lee had written, "Please leave in my coat pocket. I want to have it buried with me." At the time of Shirley’s funeral Lee was so grief-stricken he had asked strangers to attend the funeral. Shirley’s mother had passed away when Shirley was only two years old. There were no other family members to attend.

Immediately before his death, Lee told the reporter that he had nothing left to live for and felt all alone in the world. He gave his few possessions to the church that Shirley attended and said, "Maybe in ten or twenty years someone will see her memorial plaque and wonder who Shirley Ellen Lee was and say, 'Someone must have loved her very much.'"

James Lee lost all hope and ended his life in a lonely telephone booth. Tragically, his story is not an isolated case. Our world is filled with people who feel overcome with a sense of hopelessness.

Hope, like love, is an indispensable quality of life. Many people, when they lose it, curse the day they were born.

Contemporary society, with its slick promotion, promises hope in some very appealing packages, but when the chips are down we discover we have been sold a bill of goods.

Hope, like love, is an
indispensable quality of life.

For instance, hope is not found in science or technology. With all our highly sophisticated technology we have discovered how to put man on the moon and fly spacecraft to Saturn and beyond. We have mastered instant global communications via radio, TV, satellites and the Internet. We have split the atom. We have built computers that can solve problems in seconds which only a few short years ago took weeks, months or even years to solve. Thankfully, we have made remarkable advances in medical science. But we still haven’t learned how to get along with our fellow man or how to meet the needs of the human heart.

Hope is not found in material possessions. In today’s world many worship the god of materialism, measure success in terms of dollars and cents, and ignore the most important things in life—one’s emotional and spiritual needs. Consequently, broken homes and divorce are shattering our families. Rape, child abuse, teenage pregnancies, and distorted sexuality have become a national disgrace while suicide and drug abuse have become national tragedies—all symptomatic of our sense of hopelessness.

The wealthiest nation on earth, the United States, "now leads the world in the consumption of illegal addictive drugs, spending $220 million a day for them."1

Hope is not found in having a physical beauty. Another obsession we cling to is physical attractiveness. The fact is that good looks have little to do with peace of mind.

Attractive as well as not-so-attractive people are often very unhappy. Another fact is that physically handicapped people can be very happy if their emotional needs are being met, while those who have perfect bodies can be very unhappy if their emotional and/or relational needs are not being met.

Neither is hope found in what is often called "success". By the time he was thirty-three, Bill O’Donnell had already scaled the heights of what our culture calls "success". He was vice-president of a big company, had an annual salary of $150,000, owned two Mercedes Benz cars and a very expensive home.

He was also cheating on his wife, missing meetings he had called, and was using four grams of cocaine a day.

"I was pursuing the American Dream, and I thought cocaine would get me there faster," he said. "I was running through life so fast I didn’t see that my role as a husband and father was disintegrating, that my business abilities were crumbling."

This same article from The New York Times also stated that "drug abuse is just one of many symptoms of a growing malaise. Not only Mr. O’Donnell, but tens of thousands of young people are finding that in achieving business success today, they have distorted their lives and have fallen into emotional turmoil."2

This malaise is by no means peculiar to North America. The whole Western world is affected. While we are exceptionally grateful for the many achievements that have alleviated so much physical suffering, we have unfortunately neglected some of the equally or more important areas of life. We have starved the spirit, for example, and edged our society closer and closer towards spiritual bankruptcy.

Overall, as a nation we have forgotten God. We may give lip service to him, and most say we believe in him, but in our manner of life we have pretty much ignored him.

Hope springs eternal.

Despair, drugs, disease, depression, crime, murder, loneliness, wars, terrorism, greed, loss of hope are all symptoms of a sin-sick society. We gloss over sin and call it anything but what it is. Regardless of what we call it, anything that falls short of the perfection or wholeness and maturity that God envisioned for us is sin. And all sin is ultimately self-destructive. That’s why God is so opposed to it. It destroys that which he loves–us. It is the most deadly sickness there is. Its end result is physical, spiritual and eternal death. We are all affected because we have all sinned. Until we call sin what it is and treat it accordingly there is no hope.

Once we confess our sinfulness, God himself will bend the heavens to come to our rescue. In fact, two thousand years ago he did just that. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth as a man to die in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, which is death, so he could freely forgive us and give us hope.

When we receive God’s forgiveness by confessing our sinfulness and responding to his call to invite Jesus Christ into our heart and life as Lord and Savior, God gives us a new spiritual life and the gift of eternal life–and hope! He also gives us hope for this life. He doesn’t promise us a bed of roses but the sun will shine again. And no matter what happens to us, when we genuinely commit our life to Jesus Christ, we know that God will use everything that happens to us for our good, to help us grow and become strong in character and ready for anything. This is God’s promise.3 It is the greatest hope in all the world. Have you made Jesus Christ your hope? To assist you to do ths click on the Know God link at the bottom of the page.

When we do this, as the poet expressed it, hope truly does spring eternal!

1. Eternity, November, 1986. 2. The New York Times, August 24, 1986. 3. James 1:2-4 (TLB).

By Richard (Dick) Innes

by Dick Innes
Published by ACTS International

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