Healing of the Heart (pt 1)

Healing within makes a huge difference in relationships within a family.  Disappointments and wounds of the past cause fear, distrust or anger.  When those things trigger something within us, we often assess the full weight of the uncomfortable or angry feelings to something our kid or spouse said or did. Had those sensitive spots or pools of pain in our hearts been healed, the impact of what was said or done would not have kicked off such strong feelings of pain, anger or hurt.  This is just one of the reasons healing within is so important. Removing the pool of pain and triggers makes it far easier to be the type of loving, listening and strategic parent we desire to be.

A Personal Story

After a seemingly endless array of setbacks in my life that damaged my view of life, my abilities, my family and most importantly the beliefs I held about myself within, I checked myself in with a professional counselor named Pat.  Pat was an amazing woman in her early 60’s who had survived cancer. After nine weeks she looked at me and said, “You are the hardest nut I have ever had to crack.” I was surprised, a bit hurt and also offended by her comment because I had freely shared with her everything about myself and my perceived failures.

She told me, “This is the longest I have ever gone without giving an assignment in 22 years of counseling.” She then told me my heart was shut down.  This jolted me because I was all about the mind. At first I did not want to admit I had a guarded, wounded, shut down heart.

Unfortunately before Pat could finish working with me through my healing process she died of a heart attack. She initiated my quest to understand, open and heal my own heart so I could be the father I wanted to be. Now my guide was gone, confirming in my mind that everything I touched turned to mud. Her death complicated my journey making it harder and longer than it would have been if she had been there to guide me.

An Important, Foundational Point.

Did you know that the word Heart appears in the Bible almost 1,000 times? Might that speak to its importance to God and to us? Beyond its physical importance, the heart is seen as the core of one’s emotional, intellectual and moral life. And in speaking to the issues of our hearts God reveals His own to us. In this blog series we will explore the heart, its importance, its frailty and how we can heal within which will ultimately bring an infinite number of benefits to ourselves, our lives, relationships and especially our kids.

Back to My Story

To begin this series let me share that I was once, like many men, over the top driven, factual and mind-based. When I went off to college I told my entrance counselor that this was a four-year waste of time to make lots of money.  That was how I approached college. It was not the best time of my life; a number of things contributed to my arriving at this place as a child that we will touch upon at the appropriate point in the series.

My driven, mind-focused existence served me well in my initial jobs and when I began my company at the age of 26.  In the end, it was my company’s rapid growth and sudden failure that combined with a number of other personal and relational setbacks that triggered my call to Pat in the first place.  I was convinced that everything I touched turned to mud.

After Pat shared with me that my heart was shut down and that I had not grieved many of the things that happened in my adult life, my heart opened.  The dam broke on the pain of my personal experiences and deep sense of failure. The failure of my company kicked off what I had sealed, like the hatch on a submarine, deep within my heart.

I will never forget driving down the highway and crying so hard I had to pull over. I wish the tears alone had been enough, but I had a long way to go with no one to guide me. The two counselors and psychologist I spoke with following Pat’s death pointed me back to my mind, understanding, and coping mechanisms that only allowed me to cope, but not truly heal and change within.

The heart is not something we think about, address or deal with much in our society unless we have fallen in love.  Even then the implications of the heart’s existence often escape as they did me when I fell head over heels for my wife.  I plowed forward in life only to allow my shutdown heart to harm her and my kids as I tried to approach everything from a purely factual and intellectual perspective.  That was warm, understanding and compassionate, right? My approach did not work well with my first two kids, both pretty little redheads, who needed Daddy’s heart far more than his head.

A Heart Transplant

But the head has a powerful voice, and it tends to want to protect, to justify, to rationalize the rightness of our thinking. God talks about the “hardness of heart” that one can develop. That hardness becomes a shield against further pain, not recognizing the pain it might be inflicting on others. Fortunately, God loves to do “heart transplants”. He tells the prophet Ezekiel (regarding his people) that “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”.

It was not until my daughter was about nine and completely hurt and angry at both of us, that I counseled with Pat and began my research with kids to try to figure out what was going on with Heather our oldest.  I had no idea that the research I set out on with students would touch my heart and lead to healing deep within, giving me that “heart of flesh”.

Healing the heart is not a factual exercise or a linear journey. Approaching the healing of the heart is different for everyone. The elements that I developed over time as I healed my heart have helped many others as they sought to overcome issues in their lives by looking and healing within. The speed, timing and approach may be somewhat different for everyone, but the outcome is virtually always the same.

Changes of Both Head and Heart

As I set out to do my research and read other’s findings in my new non-profit, I was still deeply wounded inside.  Pat had opened the submarine hatch on my heart and I had cried deeply for the first time in 20 years, but the ghosts, recurring doubt, and fears kept returning.  To move past this up and down existence, I had to make a mental decision to pursue emotional healing within and face a number of things:

  • I had to make a committed decision to pursue healing no matter how hard or painful it would be.
  • I had to face the fact that I was not as put together as I wanted to believe.
  • I needed to not just give myself permission to grieve; I had to pursue it.
  • I had to honestly face what I believed about myself and push through the painful journey to heal and change those beliefs.
  • I needed to forgive myself and accept my true strengths and weaknesses.
  • I needed to reach a point of genuine heart forgiveness for those who had hurt me.

For this process to work in our lives, we must first come to recognize that our hearts and how we are doing deep within have a much more profound impact on our thoughts, ideas, decisions and behaviors than is generally thought in our society.

In my research, I too often found kids who were beating themselves up for all the bad decisions they were making. Eventually I came to see that for these adolescents they were in fact not decisions. Rather voids within or triggered feelings that moved them to do things they knew were wrong. They were truly not mental decisions. It did not take long at all to find the source of their negative perceptions. They did things they were not planning on doing that they knew were wrong and would not help them, but they did them in spite of themselves. Their bad choices were the function of emotional needs, voids and or hurts. They were moved to do the very things they knew would not lead to success, something they all desired but had come to believe was out of reach for them.

Does this mean we cannot make good and bad decisions? No.  It simply calls into question how often we are truly making conscious decisions to behave poorly versus being moved by unconscious negative beliefs and emotional triggers within to do things that are not consistent with the good intentions we wake up with every morning. One thing is clear.  It requires a strong mental decision / conviction to pursue heart healing.

We will explore why a strong commitment is required in part two of our series “The Multifaceted Journey to Healing Our Hearts.” If you’d like more information on how to bring our family’s together, come back for next week’s post.

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