My heart is heavy again as I so often see and hear of people hurting one another when they could choose not to. So many choices we are faced with each day, many times throughout the day, and the consequences of those choices run deep and reach far.
Sometimes we learn as little children how to hurt others as we watch those we love hurl verbal or physical darts, wounding before our eyes those closest to our hearts, while we watch in utter helplessness. This can lead to hopelessness and apathy in some, to anger and hostility in others.
We may think that we will never live that way once we are older, able to choose, that we will never wound or harm in the ways we have been hurt and seen those we love harmed, but those old behaviors are ingrained in our minds, emblazoned upon our consciousness, and may arise in our own behaviors long after those early environments are no longer our homes.
In psychology we talk about breaking unhealthy cycles, and I know so many people have done just that. Why then, do some never make the break, never turn fully away and walk in a new and better path? I’ve considered this, pondered it again and again as I’ve walked in the midst of many suffering families. Some days I would see 10 or 11 patients in a day’s time who were in severe mental and emotional crisis. Some had reached such depths they attempted to take their own lives. Oh, the agony, the suffering I witnessed! I tried to find common threads. What made the difference between those who came through once for help, and finding it, became healthy and whole, compared to those who were there again and again and again, seemingly unable to get a foothold on solid ground.
I’m not talking about cases of severe mental illness here as that is not what I predominantly saw. I’m talking about circumstantial difficulties that overwhelmed people to the point of being unable to function at home and at work and who were in a state of deep sorrow they couldn’t seem to escape. They were riddled with relational problems feeling unloved and desperate.
So many people truly wanted help. They reached out. They listened, and they applied what they were taught. Some were truly willing to look at themselves, to acknowledge their own unhealthy patterns and behaviors. They were receptive to the notion that they would NEVER change another person, that they could only change themselves which would require learning new ways to think and behave.
Amazingly research reveals that attitudes and feelings follow behaviors. Did you get that? We should act in the ways that we want to feel. We should act in the ways that will draw us ever closer to attitudes of kindness, love, and gentleness if we are desiring to have healthy, strong, and rewarding relationships.
I often think of the scripture that tells us that those of us who lose our lives will find life…seems contradictory, but it is true. Relinquishing our death grip of attempted control over people and circumstances over which we are powerless gives incredible relief. And, we are only truly fulfilled when we are able to disengage from a selfish existence and genuinely love others. It perplexes me again and again how so many of us drive others away, robbing ourselves of the thing we crave most…their love.
I hate the pride that often underlies a person’s resistance to owning their own misdeeds and seeking forgiveness. If only we would maintain a healthy dose of humility, how much less suffering would there be in the world?
The other scripture that has stayed with me throughout the day is Joshua 24:15, “…choose you this day whom you will serve…” Motives of some kind drive all of our behaviors. Our worldview determines both our belief system and our understanding of our place in this world.
If we are choosing to serve God, we may find in His Word what we are to think, what we are to say, what we are to do…One of the things we are told to do time and time again is to love, another is to trust God, another is to forgive, and one of my favorites, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” If only we would do these things, we would cease to wreak havoc on others and we would also find a deep and lasting contentment that cannot be found elsewhere.