The following post is part of the Year of Healing I’m doing on my blog, where I will explore monthly themes on different aspects of healing. February is the topic of Relational Healing. Please click here for more info.
Last week we talked about relational wounds and trauma. So maybe you’ve realized that there are unhealthy patterns in your own life or that you’ve been wounded in relationships. So now what?
Healing comes from three things:
1) It’s admitting that those painful things happened to you, realizing the roots of those lies and unhealthy patterns in your life. It’s facing the pain and honestly realizing how those things affected you. This can sometimes be the hardest battle, because we don’t want to honestly have to face pain.
2) Realizing that you are worthy of something different and that you can give something different to the people around you. You are loved, you are valuable, and better things can happen to you in your future. And these better things can be given to those around you. This again, can be HARD. If you don’t believe you are loved (because of wounds from the past), one of the hardest mentalities to change is that you are loved.
3) Then it’s starting to set healthy boundaries and learning to truly take care of yourself so that you begin to make NEW, healthier patterns in your life.
We covered step one in the previous article by giving you some practical questions to think through on relational wounds and trauma.
So what about step two? Learning how to give and receive love? What about accepting love inside one’s heart?
These are much bigger hurdles, and they are something that could be talked about for blog post after blog post. But here are some thoughts on learning to give and accept love (a blog on boundaries will come next week)…
On Giving & Accepting Real Love
Seek & Ask for Love
I really think at the end of the day, I started this blog to help myself face my own wounds and learn how to love myself and to accept love–both from God and from others. I started this blog after my senior year at college when I truly began realizing how deeply I hated myself. Yep. I’d begun to realize all the wounds festering in my heart, all the lies I believed about myself, and how much I truly despised myself. And I knew in my head somehow that God loved me, that I was worthy of love, that I was a unique and valuable individual. But I didn’t know how to truly jump that hurdle towards accepting love in the deepest parts of my heart.
So I asked God to show me the way. I pleaded with God and simply said, “I know I need to learn about Love. Show me! I will commit to this journey no matter what. I want to learn how to Love, and I will never give up until I find Love.”
So I started writing this blog–which was, at the time, the only way I knew how to cope. (I also started going to counseling, which was huge in my journey. And it’s a step anyone should take who may want to think through these things and grow.)
I wrote through my own pain for three long years. I wrote a lot about love on this blog–probably because I needed to convince myself that I could be loved. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started truly accepting love into my life. In fact, it was in Thailand on a media trip that I somehow breached that hurdle. I somehow accepted that I was loved, that God–this higher, greater Source–loved me. I tapped into some kind of supernatural love. You can read about some of that experience here, which is what I wrote after coming back from Thailand.
I can honestly say I’m still on the journey towards love, but I have come so far. All because I truly began seeking Love.
A friend of mine who has had deep relational wounds puts it this way:
All Love comes from God. You can’t transmit what you haven’t got. If you have a healthy sense of love, it’s because it was shown to you. If you don’t, it’s because it wasn’t shown to you. If you think it comes from you at all, you’re saying your love is confined by your own five senses – by your own finite limitations. That’s like tossing an anchor on a boat and then trying to win a race. It won’t work. You can’t limit love to what you know or are capable of. Doing so is guaranteeing you’ll never progress; you’re crippling love to what you are and are capable of. Letting something or someone greater than you transmit something greater than you into you is what makes you better.
That’s how all learning is. You have to be open to something you don’t yet know, and willing to change (think/work/exercise/pray/read/whatever) to accommodate that.
All people are always changing. What you are changing into depends on what you are receiving. So choose the greater things.
I think that most of us can agree that love is some kind of transcendent, beautiful power. No matter what you believe, human beings all over the world have been celebrating Love that is unexplainable for centuries. Whether you believe in God or not, real Love seems to come from some greater Source. There is something beyond us propelling Love.
So why not ask God–or the Universe, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it at this point–to help you learn to give and receive love?
Maybe God is too abstract for you. And while I do believe God is the Source of Love, I also believe God has given so many beautiful examples of love to the world through people. Start researching the beautiful people who have truly moved this world in positive ways. Jesus was a beautiful example of love, and there are so many examples of others across cultures of great people who exemplified love.
Or if you can think of personal examples of love, start there. Think back to the best, kindest, most giving people in your life. Commit to start learning what it means to give and receive even a fracture of that kind of love in your own life.
Start on the Journey in Some Kind of Tangible Way
Like I said before, I knew I needed to learn how to give and receive love. I knew I needed to heal. So what did I do? I started doing things about it. I went to counseling. I began writing this blog. And I also did a whole bunch of other things to explore my own heart, my body, my self.
- For example, I started dancing, which I’ve written about here. I knew that because of past wounds, part of me hated my own body. So I decided to take up dance classes to explore my own body. Was I an amazing dancer? Heck no! But I did learn to start embracing this body I was in, to start inhabiting it, to begin loving it in tangible ways. Yoga has now become a huge part of my own journey towards love and acceptance in this physical expression of my humanity.
- I started reading amazing books on healing and love. There are probably so many amazing books, but Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, and Dr. John Townsend are three of my favorite authors on the subject of healing and love.
- I volunteered at nonprofits here in Colorado that helped victims of human trafficking and learned how to do horse therapy. I explored art therapy and yoga and lead retreats on how those things help you heal. I gave of myself and tried to carry the pain of others in tangible ways, too.
- Last year, I started cooking really good, healthy meals for myself. This used to be something I thought was ridiculous. I certainly wasn’t worth cooking for! But I began realizing that good food was an amazing way to help me learn that self care was important.
The main point here? There is an important element of giving love as you’re learning to receive it. Giving love to yourself (even if you don’t necessarily feel it) and giving love to others (even if you don’t necessarily feel it). It’s a give-and-take, a dance between the two.
And be okay with failure. If you’ve been wounded in relational aspects, chances are that you will make a lot of mistakes. You will probably push people away, you will sometimes react in fear, and you will not be loving sometimes. You will not be perfect in this quest. And that’s okay. Just keep picking yourself up every day and ask yourself, “Have I progressed on this journey of love and healing?” If the answer is yes, then that’s what matters.
I love this thought from another friend on the healing path.
Chose the next best thing. Depressed? Suicidal? Hate God, the world, and yourself? Well, right now you need to eat a snack (Snickers!), or have a meal, or go for a walk. Let the future worry about itself. Right this second, do the next best thing–an email, a phone call, a suicide hotline, a business meeting, whatever. The next best thing. Once you are stagnant and apathetic, it’s very difficult to generate momentum. So keep moving–no matter how slow or insignificant.
I love this thought from another friend on the healing path. Choose the next best thing for yourself. Keeping yourself moving, no matter what. Don’t get stuck. Don’t get stagnant.
It’s actually kind of exciting, if you think about it.
Why do I say all this? Because it’s no easy formula. Every single person is different. Maybe your journey will be learning how to garden, or volunteering at a nonprofit, or painting out your story without words, or moving overseas and embracing adventure.
The journey has to be about your journey. The important thing is to truly, honestly admit that you are wanting to find healing, to find love. Just simply admitting and asking God to take you on the journey–and then starting the journey through counseling and other tangible ways–is the first HUGE step.
The point is: What are ways you can start experientially exploring Love?
This is the question you will ask yourself and continue to ask yourself as we explore so many different concepts over the course of this Year of Healing.