So… I’m gonna put it out there that I’m not necessarily the most empathetic person you’ll ever meet.
In fact, when I came across a post of someone asking for advice on how they can stop caring so much that other people, good friends, have differing opinions about their home education journey, my first, sarcastic response was, “Just… Stop It.”
I was channeling Bob Newhart and this sketch, which I still think is one of the most hilarious things ever put on video:
Did you take a moment to watch it? Because if you didn’t, even if you’ve seen it before, you’re missing out on a chuckle right now. At minimum a giggle. Who wants to miss out on a time to laugh?!
I think one of the reasons this is so hilarious is because many of us have experienced people giving the “Stop It” advice in real life… and we know it’s not really useful.
In fact, I can remember the pain of an encounter – easily 20+ years ago – when someone told me to “build a bridge and get over it.”
It was not the kindest thing to say… and it didn’t have the desired affect!
The reality? Just like every day is a new beginning and opportunity for amazing things…. each day is filled with people and troubles and opportunities for emotional bruising. Some of those emotional bruises heal without much effort, others are deeper and linger longer.
So what do we do about this?
Well, I think one of my first principles is that I’ve (mostly) decided I’d rather feel all the feels, even the yucky ones, than insulate myself from the world.
It’s been years since I came across this CS Lewis quote – but the principles have guided me powerfully:
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”CS Lewis
Now, you’ll notice I said I’ve (mostly) decided to feel the feels.
There are toxic people in my life that I am not in a safe place to allow into my everyday circle. And that’s ok for this season!
I have, for the first time in all of my years of facebook usage, actually blocked someone who was (maybe) using that platform to send out ugly, pointed messages. Since I can’t necessarily confront them, yet seeing those posts caused my temper to rise and created within me an unholy desire to powerfully plunge my fist toward their nose…. I’ve decided a better course of action forward is to remove that person from my awareness.
It has been a wise decision. And, as a result of not having little digs cross my eyesight… that decision has been a major part of helping me heal.
So, here are three methods I’ve been repeating as I walk through a “conscious uncoupling” with folks who don’t agree with my actions:
1. Give this Over to God. This may seem kind of crazy, but my prayer life has gotten so rewarding! That very person I blocked on facebook because they were making me SO MAD? I’m praying for them repeatedly, regularly throughout each and every day. And the prayer isn’t that they’d trip and fall into a sewer drain! I pray for them that they will know the deep love and acceptance that God has for them, that they will gain a heart for loving others, that they will find a new position that is a better fit for their skill set, that their family will grow in their knowledge of the Lord, and that they will seek and find peace.
You know the organization that I’ve consciously uncoupled with over the last weeks? Every day at 11 am I have a notice that comes up on my phone and I stop and pray for that organization, that the leaders would be creative and find ways of finding and fixing holes and problems, that the great good that has been done by that organization over the years would not be undone, that there would be a reckoning and that the clarity gained from it would result in a changed, compliant, and cutting edge organization that can be used by God for His glory. I pray for that central advisory team and their wisdom and motivations… I believe God is a phenomenal redeemer and while I recognize some deep, deep issues that MUST be addressed, I also see the potential for great good if there is significant change.
I see this as a Biblical response, a natural outflow of the instruction to pray without ceasing. So when we have our hurts and pains, my first step is to pray through it (sometimes with fury or wailing and gnashing of teeth) and allow God to change my heart while also having confidence that even when it seems He isn’t acting… He’s fully aware and in control of every single situation and all things will come clear in time.
So, in short, Give it to God: Pray for them with sincerity, checking in with the Holy Spirit to correct you if you’ve gotten something wrong, and when necessary… cry in the shower.
2. Firmly Own Your Thought Life. I can get caught into really destructive thought patterns of insecurity and hopelessness. I’m not the only one, right?
When I catch myself in the crazy cycle of thoughts, I stop short to intentionally notice whether I’m taking deep breaths. Just breathing all the way through to my belly button has been so useful in taking the edge off of the tension of crazy making.
Then, if I’m still reeling, I take some Evening Primrose Oil or Sweet Chestnut Oil, and maybe also rub on some Stress Away oil or Promise oil. Yep, I’m a believer in the essential oils because I have found they work for me!
Next, I get my hands busy. Taking up crochet has been incredibly beneficial for me (even though I hate what I produce!). There is an interesting field of study that looks at why people often feel emotionally better after taking a walk (it’s a foundation of the therapy technique called EMDR). Basically, it states that bi-lateral stimulation in a repetitive and consistent pattern is incredibly soothing.
Simple exercises like butterfly hugs or tapping are also incredibly useful tools for managing our thought cycle that can be used anywhere at any time and help us move out of the adrenaline rush and into healthy decision making space.
So, in short, Own Your Thoughts: Take advantage of simple tools that can be an asset to the work that God is doing in you to help you gain clarity of thought.
3. Identify their Role. This is a hard one because it might feel kind of calloused, but clearly identify whether that person is important enough in your life to pursue… at this moment.
We know that God gives us friendships for different purposes. There’s a catchy phrase that states there are three different types of friends: Friends for a Reason, Friends for a Season, and Friends for a Lifetime. We can and should love and cherish each type of friend for the role it plays. But the different purposes mean that you have freedom… you don’t have to cling desperately to a friendship when the shared common interest has changed.
It’s possible you’re in a spot of losing friends who were there only for a season because of a shared interest. It’s also possible that the friendships you’re currently mourning will be renewed as time heals the wounds.
It’s possible that you need to initiate a reconciliation and pursue someone you’ve hurt with your words or actions. You may be at fault here… so pray over the situation and the people and when the truth is revealed of the importance of that relationship in your life… move on it without delay.
So, in short, Identify their Role, and let go what needs to leave and cling to what must stay. Yet ultimately, recognize that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes. So seek HIM to understand the rhyme and the reason of whatever is happening.
As you can see, I think the emotions around friendships are typically a lot more complicated than a simple “Stop It” or “Build a Bridge and Get Over It” will address. Those feelings are real and they can seriously derail you! Don’t work so hard to tell yourself you’re being stupid for feeling that you don’t take the time to truly grieve the changes in relationships and everyday structure.
Take the space to acknowledge and feel… without becoming incapacitated… and remember that God’s in charge…
… Or I’ll bury you in a box! (That’s a reference to the video clip. If you didn’t watch the video clip you really need to do that!)