Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Around the beginning of this year, I had a revelation about myself and how I relate to others and handle pain. I was driving alone in the car one morning and I had a thought. (That’s where I have most of my thoughts…it’s the best place for thinking.)
I was thinking about a person I know and her anger. Then I thought to myself, you know, if I have any anger or residual bitterness in my own heart, it needs to go. It’s just not okay.
So, I prayed a really short, kind of general, emotionless prayer, and told God that I don’t want to harbor anger or bitterness and that I agree with Him that it’s wrong. I said no to using those things and yes to forgiveness and unconditional love.
Now, that sounds simple, and it is, but living it has been a process. I did NOT become Pollyanna overnight. I did, however, set my heart in that direction, in a new and fresh way, and that counts for something.
My prayer seemed simple enough, and, as I said, I didn’t feel anything as I prayed, but immediately afterwards I began to see some things more clearly (I also cried for four days, but that’s another story).
In my mind I saw a picture of a heart. It was a big, plump heart, but it was coated in black. Imagine a chocolate dipped heart, with a hard outer shell. That’s how it looked. It was almost completely covered, apart from one small area.
What I realized is that the hard outer shell represented bitterness and anger. I had used those “tools” to cover and protect my tender heart. This is a skill I believe I learned early in life. If someone hurt me, instead of admitting I was sad, or feeling the pain, I’d get mad.
Anger is an easy path. Brokenness and pain is often a much harder journey. Anger feels powerful and proactive. Pain feels weak and, well, it hurts. You can project anger but you must absorb pain and then decide what to do with it. It takes work and often, the help of others.
It’s hard to sit with the feelings of being rejected or unwanted or overlooked or not likeable or not good enough or whatever the case may be. It’s way easier to just get mad at the person who offended you.
Anger is simply a mask, a cover, for something else, most of the time. Get past that and look below it and you just might get somewhere.
I’m in the process of getting somewhere. Thankfully, my heart wasn’t completely covered over. It’s still tender and the real me is still in here.
With God’s help I will become who I am…who I was meant to be.
Photo source: roswellpark.org