Thursday, May 28, 2015

It Isn't Easy Wearing Skin

I read a blog post by Ann Voskamp today.
The subject of the post was friendship and the title was
"The Courage to Leave a Legacy
Four Ways to Be a Better Friend"
It was such a good, thought provoking post in which Ann shared a beautifully transparent and personal story that stirred up some great conversation in the comments section.
As I mentioned, the subject matter was really thought provoking and created a sequence of impressions from my own observations to ponder and consider.
We are all broken people in need of grace, love, and acceptance.
We were created to need each other, and to desire connection, and yet the balance between giving and receiving is complicated.
The ability to enter into a friendship with a sacrificial mindset that includes necessary boundaries does not come naturally.
The ability to examine our own hearts and expectations comes with maturity and that same maturity is often birthed out of the pain of broken relationships over time.
We learn through pain
Sometimes it takes intense pain for us to wake up and embrace truth.....especially when that truth is found in the dark recesses of our own hearts....those parts of our hearts that we are afraid to navigate and leave largely unexplored. We don't naturally see ourselves as evil or destructive, and yet if we are truly honest with ourselves, we all have that potential and we have all caused damage to people we love or to people we have simply crossed paths with.
Because we are often disconnected with the motives in our own hearts, we unknowingly, expect people to fulfill our needs through friendship. We expect them to have grace with us, even when we hold onto bitterness and our "right" to be angry or hurt over something that was done to us. We easily see the sins of others and the effects of their actions against us, but we are blind to our own ability to hurt or offend others and we naturally tend to respond to sin with sin.
"The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." Proverbs 20:5
Victim Mentality
We have all been crushed by painful experiences caused by people we love and care about. How do you respond to this?
Have you faced the harmful effects of your own actions towards others?
If we are all brutally honest with ourselves, we will find that there are damaged people we have left in the wake of our selfish actions.
We cause damage when someone leaves an unspoken expectation unfulfilled and we bluntly let them know it or reject them out of our pain.
We cause damage when we have decided for whatever reason, that we just don't "like" someone and reveal this either passively aggressively or overtly.
We cause damage when someone blocks our agenda and we respond in anger or frustration.
We cause damage when we are offended and we hold it against someone with no attempt at healing through communication.
We cause damage when we are exclusive and unobservant of another's need for love and acceptance.
We cause damage when we speak harshly to others out of hurt or misunderstanding.
We cause damage by rejecting apologies out of our right to be angry and desire to hurt back.
We cause damage when we ignore or treat people as inferiors.
We cause damage when we let pride keep us from owning our actions and apologizing.
We cause damage when we let fear keep us from being vulnerable and honest from a heart of love or we stomp on others for being vulnerable with us.
We cause damage when we withhold compassion because we have been hurt.
We cause damage when we withhold support out of jealousy.
We cause damage when we compete instead of support and encourage.
We cause damage when we have an entitlement mentality towards the belongings or earnings of someone else..
 We cause damage when we view ourselves as victims with the right to be angry and we lash out.
We cause damage when we desire others to hurt in the same way we have been hurt.
We cause damage when we have zero tolerance for mistakes that effect us.
And the list goes on.
We cause damage when we view someone as the perpetrator and ourself as the victim, rendering us blind to anything we do that is damaging to others.
True Confessions of a Recovering Victim
After enduring twelve years of an abusive marriage to an unfaithful man, I didn't even realize the extent of the "victim" mentality that was in my own heart and mind.
I had been deeply wounded and I wasn't consciously aware of how much I wanted him to hurt for what he had done to me and to our kids.
I thought I had forgiven him...moved on, but every time there was a little peace in my life, he did something else to cause more pain and upset.
It took years of faithful love and honesty, consistent support, and unconditional love from my husband Rich, along with painful experiences, broken friendships, and wise counsel, for me to finally look in the mirror and face the truth about my reflection. It was often, "all about me". When things were rough in my friendships and relationships, my raw feelings sprang to the forefront. I was blind to my own actions and to the effects of my words on others. I was overtly needy and constantly looking for fulfillment and unconditional love to heal the hurt and rejection I had suffered for so many years. I wanted to be understood......yet I was let down time and time again, and told the truth about myself in cruel, harsh ways, by "friends" I trusted and loved. I could only see the damage they had done to me, but I was unable to see the damage I had created.  I was looking for love and healing in all the wrong places. I was expecting people with skin on, to fulfill what only God can fulfill and to heal only what God can heal. I had no idea how to let questions help bring understanding.
I have learned that:
When you only long only for understanding for yourself, you miss out on understanding others. The missing puzzle pieces of bi-directional understanding create huge gaps in relationship.
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2
"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13:11-13
"O Divine Master,grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen."
 St. Francis of Assisi’s famous “Prayer of St. Francis”
Laying the Victim Mentality to Rest
Embrace Truth
God is faithful.
Life isn't perfect and it never will be.
My friends and family aren't perfect, and neither am I.
As a result of living in an imperfect world full of imperfect people, we all get hurt and we all experience pain. AND we all hurt others and cause pain.
Dealing with painful experiences starts in the heart and mind.
There lies the battle field.
Learning to love sacrificially without expecting anything in return, regularly evaluating our motives and thought patterns, and learning that to really care about others involves actively listening to them as they share, asking them clarifying questions, and remembering to watch for and acknowledge our weaknesses. For example I sometimes slip back into my old people pleasing mentality where I care more about what people think of me, than how to best love them.
These are all important keys to really loving others.
Getting into God's Word and really digging for the gold nuggets that help to understand His character, is the most valuable tool, as it encompasses all of the above and then some.
 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
 Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil."
Proverbs 3:5-7

 We must give grace to people, and be responsible for our own words and actions. When we do apologize, and embrace the truth of the pain our actions bring, hopefully that will be met with grace and forgiveness. If it isn't, remember that you can only control you and your actions, so give grace to those who are not yet able to forgive.  Pray for others when they hurt you, remembering that you have hurt people too, and give them the grace you desire for yourself. It's so easy to focus on those with "skin on" and forget they can't fulfill us and at some point they will let us down and we will let them down because of that skin we live in.
Only by God's grace, do friendships last and deepen.

  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17


  1. Wasn't that a great article by Ann Voskamp? I love her blog.

    It's so true, we must be Jesus with skin on to others. Whenever I get my feelings hurt, and yes they become hurt, I always think of those who are the true angels, those in the nursing home, the true angels who are Jesus with skin on to me even more then I am to them.

    I think it all goes to counting our Blessings and Gifts, not ignoring hurt or being in denial to rude, ugly behavior but just try to go on and be that Jesus to others, praying through the stuff.

    What great reminders Jana! : )

    1. Yes, it was! It really resonated with me, as much of her writing has. I love your thoughts on this! Sometimes it takes time to get in touch with the fact that something "Is" bothering us, and that's when there is a risk of hurting others. That saying "hurt people hurt people" is so true. Have you read One Thousand Gifts? What you said is so good: " think it all goes to counting our Blessings and Gifts, not ignoring hurt or being in denial to rude, ugly behavior but just try to go on and be that Jesus to others, praying through the stuff."
      Blessings to you, dear Amelia! <3

    2. Hey There Jana! Yes! I love the book, 'One Thousand Gifts', it is sooooo wonderful. We also have the dvd set and it is beautiful.

      Thanks for your encouragment Jana, you are encouraging as well as very understanding and that is a Gift! : ) <3 xo

    3. Thank you, Amelia! :)
      I read the book a few years ago and loved it, except for one part towards the end that had me confused, as it seemed a bit like mysticism....but after reading much of her writing, I think it was just the way she communicated that part, because her doctrine seems to be solid from everything else I have read since then. The message in "One Thousand Gifts" has really changed the way I look at life for sure. I'm not always good at applying a grateful attitude, but I'm sure convicted to find more joy in the little things and be less frustrated with the many challenging moments life throws my way. :)
      Blessings to you, and wishing you a wonderful week-end! <3