In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Dr. Brené Brown, she shares what it means to live wholeheartedly. Wholehearted living is precisely what it sounds like; it’s the ability to approach life with the belief that no matter what, we are worthy and we are enough. In believing these core truths about ourselves, we can be vulnerable, remain hopeful, and engage in life with a full and whole heart.
To help those of us who do not engage in wholehearted living, Brown sets guideposts that we can strive for, so that we may be able to be vulnerable and engage with those around us without fear, guilt, or shame taking over. One chapter that particularly stands out, talks about the critical decision that we have to make when we are encountering difficulties. Do we remain hopeful during the tough times, or numb ourselves to the pain so that we can continue on with life?
The most powerful emotions that we experience have very sharp points, like the tip a thorn. When they prick us, they cause discomfort and even pain. Just the anticipation or fear of these feelings can trigger intolerable vulnerability in us. We know it’s coming. For many of us, our first response to vulnerability and pain of these sharp points is not to lean into discomfort and feel our way through but rather to make it go away. We do that by numbing and taking the edge off the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief.
We can numb ourselves in so many ways, such as with alcohol, medication, Netflix, food, exercise, work, and even avoidance, that we have to be so mindful of how we are separating ourselves from the pain that we are experiencing. Numbing ourselves to pain can be a slippery slope. We don’t recognize that brick after brick is forming a wall around our hearts, until we realize that we no longer are experiencing the wonders of what life is offering because we can no longer feel them.
When we numb ourselves to the pain that we are facing, we take away the ability to feel all that is good. Yes, we may no longer feel hurt, disappointed, angry, or frustrated but we no longer feel happy, blessed, loved, or appreciated, either. One painful season carries over to the next until every single day feels as if there is no hope, no future, and no indication of God working in our lives.
So how do we feel again? How do we still love? How do we cry again? As Brown says; we need to lean into the pain and actually embrace our emotions. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
Going through a break-up? Let yourself grieve, let yourself mourn, and know that God has something incredible planned for you. Has a loved one passed away? Think about them. Remember them. Let the tears flow instead of holding them back. Rejected by a friend, coworker, or fellow church-goer? Healthily confront them. Share what is taking place in your mind and your heart. Seek wisdom from others.
I came across a quote the other day on Facebook. It said;
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
Grief is not a feeling reserved for something that has been lost. It applies to life events that will not come to fruition, memories of better times, a hard day at work, loneliness… the list can go on. Grief is important to experience though. It allows us to see the love that we carry and the capacity of our hearts. It teaches us about who we are and who God is, in that He created us with the ability to love and embrace those around us.
When we can get real with our emotions and process them in a healthy way, we can get real with God. We can see how He is working in our lives; we are not numb to the goodness that He promises us. We are capable of so much more because we have gone through a tough season.
Life can suck sometimes. It is what it is. But God wants so much more for us. Instead of building walls and numbing yourself to grief, let God wrap his hands around your heart. He’s got you.