“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
Although we may have said this trying to defend ourselves at school, we all know that this is not true. Many of the ongoing wounds we carry are word based. We each can recall offensive things that were aimed at us, whether they were meant to hurt or not. We remember still, when our inadequacies were exposed in some way and we either retreated or fought back, not wanting to show how much it actually hurt.
Those offensive words, often said by someone who wasn’t close to us or who didn’t understand our situation accurately, continue to fester over time. If they came at times when we were feeling vulnerable they more easily eroded our self-esteem and caused self-doubt.
Though offensive words sting, they do not need to continue to define us. Understanding the intention behind someone’s comment may help us let it go, so, if we can, we need to risk asking them to clarify why they said what they did. We help each other when we risk being more transparent and real in our relationships. We need to be very wise and loving in order to be able to speak and receive truth.
God knows and sees our weaknesses, but never reprimands us in a demeaning way. His unconditional love gives us the safe space to risk looking at our sinful patterns. He hurts too at the destructive words that have offended us. Yet He wants us to walk free, to keep our emotional accounts clean and to become safe, life giving presences for others.
We live in a very word based culture in which we’ve developed strong mindsets. We perpetuate our patterns of thinking, believing them to be correct, and allow very little in that will change them.
Jesus challenged this mental rigidity with comments like, “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…” He was inviting his hearers to reconsider their habitual stance and to be opened to His new perspective. This willingness to gain a different perception of a person, belief or situation is essential for our life and growth.
All of us have received insensitive damaging words from those who presumed they saw and knew us correctly, or thoughtless shallow words when we were desperate for deep human connection. The words coming out of someone’s mouth may sound right, but may not be touching the receiver in the way they are needing to be touched – our tone and body language are also speaking – so the message may be received differently.
We all long to know what we think of each other and we give another a great gift if we can use our words more intentionally. We may need to hold back our initial response, notice our bodily feelings, become attentive to the other without words, or gently risk asking significant questions. We are being invited as fellow travellers, not just to relate repetitively, but to strengthen the way we use words so that they can become messengers of life, love and transformation.
In our culture, thinking is probably our strongest function and how we think becomes who we are. We may justify our set beliefs which define our norm, but may be totally misguided. We may believe we are choosing freely but not realise how advertising has skewed what we see as acceptable. We might think we are sharing our own opinion and forget how the internet has influenced us. We could want to do something courageous, but because we think we are ‘past it’, we lose out on life.
As we journey through the sea of life we need to be aware of the cross-currents and winds that pull us off course. We will get blown around if we do not manage our thought processes and will end up where we never wanted to go. We can’t always change prevailing currents, but need to be aware of pressures we are facing and to take risks in being original. We can stop blaming our actions on simply following our cultural thought patterns.
We’ve each been created for a specific purpose, not to just go with the flow of our prevailing culture. Each of us has a beautiful and specific calling, yet this has often been smothered under layers of secondary stuff. Jesus tells us not to be conformed to this world. He wants us to use our minds for His creative purposes, to be in touch with how we see and choose to act. We have Him at the helm of our boat on this life journey. He is busy teaching us to navigate and how to get to our destination, despite the many winds and cross currents that threaten to take us off course.
Click here to listen to the ‘Cross-Currents of The Mind’ audio.
If we were learning to master the piano, we’d miss a lot if we only played in one section. Like with us, a piano only comes into it’s full expression when the high and low notes are in partnership.
We are needing to be aware of the interplay between our outer and inner worlds. Each influences the other, whether we realise it or not. Continue reading Playing the full spectrum of our emotions
The importance of a well-matched pair
I (Elizabeth) love the stories of my great grandfather who ran a wagon-making business in Wagenmakersvallei (now Wellington, W Cape). It was from this village that people continued by wagon over the mountains into the interior. Together with the high quality of the carriages, he was also strict with the pairing of his horses to pull the wagons. He was meticulous at matching the strength and personality of each pair. For once, a mis-matched pair had pulled unevenly, overturning the carriage, causing my great-grandmother to miscarry.
Integrating the spiritual and physical realities
Our two realities, the seen and unseen, are like these horses. They are meant to pull together seamlessly, but all too often don’t. We over-drive our physical reality and leave undeveloped and neglected our spiritual one. Instead of being in sync, this disconnection causes us to ‘pull’ in unhelpful directions. We see this when we focus mainly on succeeding in our work arena to the detriment of our family’s well-being, causing grave harm. Or, when we say we believe that relationships are important yet in actuality have them last on our ‘to do’ list.
Slowing down so we can hear our inner drivers
Jesus wants us to find increasing cohesion and integration. If we slow down and stop the gallop of our known world, and create spaces where we are really still with God, we can nurture sensitivity to that unseen and often neglected reality inside us. Within, we find emotions that are taking us along a particular path. We have made assumptions about life that drive those emotions and carry unquestioned beliefs that we hold fast to.
Finding healing in the light of God’s love
If we, with Jesus, can gently see where our emotions lead us, we will come to understand better what causes us to choose the behaviour that we do. We can help the healing of those parts of ourselves as we own and acknowledge them in the light of God’s love. We will find joy as we sense ourselves coming to journey through life in a more integrated, connected way – and like with those horses, enjoy the ride so much more!
There are parts of ourselves we like, and parts of ourselves we avoid
All of us are at home with the parts of ourselves that we like. These we elevate and present to the world. Yet this is not all of who we are. We often don’t have a good relationship with the parts that ‘don’t work’, and have separated some places into ‘No-Go’ zones. So, in order to cope with our lives, we don’t embrace some of our painful emotions that are not working so well in us – like our fear, remorse, guilt. We find it hard to appreciate those unlovely places. We might fill our empty spaces with noise and obligations so that these emotions get quietened or at least pushed down again. For we do not feel comfortable with our powerless feelings.
Continue reading Accepting parts of ourselves that ‘don’t work’ can enable us to have better relationships
Our feelings are accurate gauges of what is going on inside. They are there to inform us of our inner reality so we can become more aware. We’ve all experienced being demeaned, unfairly judged, and put down – some, way more than others. Indeed, if used too much against us, shaming can seriously damage our self-worth, Continue reading Shame
When we were young, it was easy for our rule-keepers to make us feel guilty for something we did. With our tender consciousness, we were susceptible to taking on a belief that in some way or other we were not okay. Instead of simply learning a healthy response of acknowledging and asking forgiveness for a misstep, we might have been left feeling overwhelmed and condemned. The negative side of guilt is that it so easily left us with a shade of unworthiness.
Continue reading Walking in Freedom from Guilt
In our garden is a vine that was planted by others long ago. As we opened up the overgrowth, we discovered more and more of it trailing through the branches. Its stem was thick and strong, but its outgrowth gave no fruit. It had become rank and unproductive.
Often our lives parallel this. God wants us to be fruitful, but our trailing thought patterns around regret of things that have happened leave us overgrown and unfruitful. Continue reading Pruned to bear more fruit
Most of the time we sail through life unaware of the unseen world beneath us. From time to time, evidence of this reality breaks through the surface and we are reminded of its existence. Only if we dive below, do we discover that there’s hidden beauty and fear – and there’s always more than we could have known, waiting to be explored. We sense that the seen and the unseen worlds are not separated, but that they depend on each other – for what happens in the one affects the other, and together form part of a larger whole. Similarly, as we explore and discover unseen realities of ourselves, we will be enlarged, if we don’t look just for what we want to see, or listen for only what we expect to hear.
Continue reading Diving Deep