Every year I joyfully attend a women’s retreat, which never fails in helping me regroup. This year I not only got to regroup, but I also gained revolutionary insights about some personal storms I’ve been facing. I’m choosing to blog about it in the hopes that it would help others who are having similar experiences.
The said personal storms involved my experience with a number of broken relationships. I was blindsided almost every time; all I kept thinking was “I thought we were okay?” Though things were going wonderfully for me in certain areas, the last few years have been emotionally taxing in this particular area. I’ve watched some friendships/relationships I deemed to be solid abruptly turn sour. These situations left me feeling hurt, disappointed, betrayed, and (to be honest) bitter. However, I made it a point to constantly run to the Father to ask him to rid me of all unforgiveness. According to the speaker at the retreat, “Bitterness is to rehearse something in your mind over and over. If you feel it when you talk about a past hurt, that’s bitterness.” On the other hand, “Forgiveness is to give up the wish to get even.” As I was listening to the speaker, it dawned on me that bitterness is as harmful as unforgiveness. Bitterness is not only toxic to one’s health, but it can be a distraction as well. When we are facing heartaches, our ability to function (in terms of tending to our daily duties) may be limited as a result. Therefore, distraction due to heartaches and feelings of bitterness becomes an enemy that keeps us in bondage; it also prevents us from fulfilling what we are called to do in life.
Another aspect of the revolutionary insights I gained is my coming to terms with the hurt I experienced from people I loved and respected. I kept allowing others to emotionally abuse me through hurtful words, innuendos, and belittling (either subtly or not so subtly). One of the reasons is that I’m not one for confrontation, especially with people I care about. The other reason is that I tend to sweep others’ offenses toward me under the rug, which becomes a viscous cycle. While I can stand up for myself if a stranger offends me, it’s a whole other story with those for whom I care, because I cherish my relationships with friends and family. For the longest time, my way of dealing with being hurt by those I love was to cry my eyes out. In the meantime nothing gets resolved and the cycle continues. But, lately the increasingly blatant carelessness and disregard for my feelings began to wear my patience thin. As stated by T.D. Jakes, “There’s no relationship without reciprocity.” Therefore, I had to walk away from situations/relationships in which I was being made to feel devalued, while I continually strived to uplift, support, and respect everyone. It has been a painful but necessary decision to face such uncharted territory of parting with hurt-provoking associations. I made this choice as a means to preserve my self-worth. One of the breakthrough-statements of the speaker at the retreat was when you’re not emotionally strong (or depressed), you easily give others permission to mistreat you. I then made the connection with how I kept accepting the unnecessary disrespect and dismissive attitude from a number of individuals.
It all boils down to one principle: “Know thyself”. Knowing oneself helps in refuting all statements that do not portray one’s true self. The speaker relayed the story about a man named Shimei who despised King David. David failed to remember who he was, based on what his creator instilled in him. Consequently, he began to agree with and went so far as repeating Shimei’s negative declarations about him (2 Samuel 16). When you know who you are in Christ, you don’t have to accept mistreatment, belittling, or accusation of any sort. Although the process had begun prior to the retreat, the speaker’s message reinforced and sealed my decision to value myself enough not to permit anyone to debase me. So, I left all the hurt up on that mountain, choosing to live in the freedom Christ died to give me. I most likely will face offenses again, but I don’t have to let it crush me to the point of carrying the burden of bitterness and unforgiveness. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3: 13
Action plan: If you’ve had similar experiences, ask God to help you to let go of any bitterness and resentment/unforgiveness incurred due to past offenses. Also, address the emotional hurt you have inflicted on anyone. Finally, resist the urge to ruminate on past/present offenses by remaining focused on what is positive and productive.
Louise Beaubrun-Macaluso, PhD