Healing the heart is not a science or a linear process but an inward journey of discovery, reflection, and emotional consciousness that leads to deep healing. It does, however, require a significant mental decision and commitment. Why? It takes time, personal transparency, and a willingness to discover the suppressed reality that lies within. This discovery process is not easy and often uncovers pain that we inherently like to avoid which is likely why we stuffed it originally. When pain accumulates, it causes us to deep six our hearts and shut them down, in effect sealing the hatch to the submarine to avoid the storm within.
This was the case with a good friend of mine, Mike, who is a successful project supervisor, leader, and manager. I will never forget the day I stood next to him and said, “That is a great act you have going on.” He said, “What act?” trying to avoid any transparency. I continued, “Oh that happy go lucky, life of the party fun guy that everyone loves. I wish I had that natural charisma. It would greatly help my non-profit.” He then said, “It’s not an act.” With a smile on my face, I said, “Pinocchio, underneath that happy fun act you are bleeding to death inside. You are hemorrhaging and wondering if this is all life has to offer.” He looked me in the eyes, with tears forming in his, and said, “How did you know?” My reply? “I have lived it, I have been there and it is miserable.”
When we avoid looking within and dealing with the stuffed pain, before we know it our hearts get in the way of our relationships, just like Mike was. The storm within Mick began when he was a child. He had managed to keep it submerged for almost his entire life, but it was creating problems with his wife, his family and to a degree even his work. It kept him in the position of needing to help and rescue other people in order to feel good about himself. It looked great on the outside and even had him loved by others, but it was an act leaving him to feel alone. His shut-down heart led to a black and white view of life, right and wrong, and his approach with his kids which was pushing his family away. This never-ending cycle kept him going constantly and feeling more and more alone.
How Do We End Up in This All-Too-Common Place?
I believe it is due to the traditionally accepted paradigm that permeates parenting culture around the globe, which focuses on our kids’ conduct, behavior and performance. Few kids truly manage to measure up to the lofty ideals and desires that their parents set for them. When you add this painful shortfall to the fact that kids are not given permission and encouraged to grieve losses, traumatic life changes or hurts that happen with all parents, it leads to their stuffing their hurt within. They often stuff their hard, painful feelings believing that their parents will not listen, understand or accept them. This leads to significant self-doubt and they pretend everything is fine to keep their parents happy in a futile attempt to measure up. In the end this leads to kids that have less confidence, have limited if any vision and will not attempt big things as they are sure they will fall short once again.
Unfortunately I find similar hurt, pain and acting from kids who have “friend” parents and seek to avoid issues and conflict. These kids feel alone, and unloved because they are getting no guidance. Even worse is the fact that some kids place the blame on themselves, as kids are often prone to do. Kids tell me, “I should be able to do all of this, make good decisions, act perfectly or be different so my parents will care and be involved in my life. I wish my parents accepted and love me for who I really am.”
Is There an Alternative?
So how do we break the cycle of kids stuffing their issues, putting on an act and losing their confidence in our families? In our love and desires for our kids, how do we avoid inadvertently passing this on to them? I believe the answer is to turn and face the storm within and work towards healing our own hearts.
Fortunately, for the follower of Jesus there is help from God. As I said last time, He is a Heart Specialist. In Psalm 139:23 David says,”Search me, Oh God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” God is the one who can perfectly diagnose the problems of the heart and mind, and this heart/mind team of ours develops emotions, attitudes and patterns that deeply affect us with personal and familial relationships. And the psalm continues, asking God to “lead me in the way everlasting”. That is a way of wisdom and success. As David did, invite God into your healing process!
For me it was a difficult but rewarding journey. I am now much happier with myself, which makes it so much easier to be happy with those around me. The impact in my life and with others reaches far wider than I would have ever imagined possible.
So why does it take a strong mental decision and commitment to undertake a journey of the heart? Because it is hard and it makes us face things about our families and ourselves we would rather bury at the bottom of the ocean. In short it is painful. Along with God’s help, strong support from a close friend, family member, counselor or coach is essential, because there are times in the process everyone wants to give up and once again just shut the hatch on their hearts.
I have seen people dive in and press through the discovery, emotional transparency and pain and come out more alive and enjoying life like never before. However, others hit the pain, bounce off of it instead of going through it and pursuing healthy grieving, which is something our culture does not encourage. Often these people feel like they have completed the journey because they felt the pain and cried, but that is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bringing true healing to their hearts. This is why we need the support of family friends or coaches who will help us move forward into and through the pain when the time comes that we want to stop pressing into our journey of deep healing.
So before you read on in this series consider the cost of not taking the journey. Weigh it against the impact of the storm within that can sink your heart on your own joy and peace. Consider the closeness of your relationships and the legacy you could unwittingly build into your kids’ lives.
Influential parents lead from and target the heart. This is the reason their kids draw close, listen, help and serve their families. Their family brings joy, peace and healing into their lives rather than creating pools of pain they are forced to stuff.
Too often we are more concerned about what others outside our family think of us. We worry about how they view us, which is why we get so good at putting on masks and acting. If we become trapped in our minds because our hearts are burdened with too much stuff, we cannot be the father, the mother, the parent, the guide and shepherd we desire to be for our kids.
So join me next week to talk about another facet of healing our hearts. “Looking within and the journey toward emotional transparency with ourselves.”
Have you enjoyed this series or missed the first blog?