If you are a woman, or if you know one well, then you know they are their own encyclopedia of emotions. Along with the excitement, joy, and gratitude, they can also harvest resentment, embarrassment, and offense.
For reasons no one (except another woman) could understand, things that probably shouldn’t hurt us do. And things that should only hurt for a little while hold on for a lifetime.
It is our lot in life to be emotionally vulnerable. And the emotions we feel help us to feel great joy when others feel joy, to feel empathy for those in need, and gratefulness at the blessings bestowed upon us.
We are not, however, to entertain the negative emotions to the point where they interfere with our lives, change our personalities, and run our days.
So how are we to control our emotions when they are so good at controlling us?
Pray For Those Causing You Pain
Praying for those that cause you pain is hard. Often at first it feels artificial (and maybe it is). But persistence in pleading for blessings for that person—not just for them to change—often leads to a change in our own heart.
I have witnessed this first hand. Someone in my life who wanted to hurt me, thought it was fun and did it whenever s/he could (in my mind at least) was the last person I wanted to pray for blessings for.
I wanted to pray for his/her change of heart, attitude, and even love or appreciation of me. But no, that wouldn’t do.
After years of praying for God to bless this person, I couldn’t begin to convey to you the immense level of love I now feel for them. In fact, it is hard for even me to understand—especially when this person otherwise hasn’t changed.
Find Boundaries, And Keep Them
When someone accidentally steps on your big toe, you move it away so it doesn’t happen again, yes? You may even joke with that person by jumping far away next time they come close. These are forms of boundaries.
More than that, both are either visible (moving of your foot), or implied/ communicated (jokingly jumping away). You know the boundary and so does this person.
Of course this is overly simplified, but emotional hurt also needs boundaries to ward off another offense as well.
Take for example two women at church. Woman A wants to comfort woman B, who is not happy in her marriage.
Consequently, woman B continually brings up traits in her husband that are undesirable. In an effort to comfort her, woman A jokes, “you know, my husband isn’t exactly Prince Charming either.”
Even though woman A has not outright insulted her own husband, it eats at her that she would joke that he is anything less than the amazing man God picked out and she then chose by free will to marry.
Over time, this is a repeating pattern. In an effort to console woman B, woman A is not honoring her husband, and the habit is becoming more frequent.
Woman A now wants to avoid the other instead of comforting her. She is unable to not only control her emotions when she wants to sympathize with the other woman, but without boundaries she can neither heal this repeating problem, nor fix the new distance between the two of them.
She comes to avoid the woman she wanted to help, and it’s eating away at her heart and causing unbearable pain. She needs a boundary. She needs to be able to tell the other woman that she wants to help her, but does not want to sit around and dishonor either of their husbands when they get together.
There are ways to do this gently. And I wouldn’t suggest doing it without prayer first. Just because you recognize a situation as potentially toxic and see your own sin that you want to change, does not mean the other person feels the same way.
Give It To God
Growing up, I only desired healthy relationships. When someone intentionally hurt me, no matter how hard it was, I walked away from that relationship. I saw too many people in relationships where it was okay to intentionally hurt each other over and over and then return to normal.
I wanted to be loyal. And I could only be loyal if I trusted someone. Truth is, once you know that someone will choose to hurt you on purpose, it’s hard to ever trust that person again.
In my late 20’s (early 30’s?) God started molding me in this area. I needed to keep forgiving, but instead of walking away, I needed to stay around, humble myself, and keep trying.
I didn’t want to. I really felt I had plenty of great, honest friends who had no desire to hurt me. Why did I need to keep hurtful people around?
The Lord called me to understand that these were people He loved. They were part of His bride too. I needed to try to have unity with everyone in the church.
So I tried.
I prayed and I prayed for God’s help. Help me to… Heal my heart… Give me the grace to forgive and look past this… Help me to not care that he will never say he’s sorry…
God’s hand on this story was amazing.
And…I started hurting… A little with this person, a little with that person. Some people I worked through pain with and we stayed friends (not great friends, just friends).
But after a while, it became too much. I kept asking for God to help me. And in many situations, I felt like I was the only one trying. What am I supposed to do when the other person doesn’t care? Or doesn’t think he should have to change anything?
I sat down one afternoon and was in tears as I came to God.
God, I keep asking for help, and you keep giving it to me, but I can’t do it. Some things I just can’t do—even with help.
Take this [situation]. I give [this person] and all the hurt to you. I can’t do it.
It’s hard to explain, but I vividly remember hearing one sentence in my heart about that person, and I understood why s/he couldn’t change too. And I felt free of the pain of that person.
One by one, I gave 5 situations to Him, admitted that I couldn’t do it—even with help. It was going to have to be Him.
One by one, I felt released.
I won’t tell you that pain hasn’t come back. Most of it has been when I’ve broken a boundary—I’ve accepted a lunch date with someone whom I knew was a gossip, or I’ve fallen for the polite, “So how’s your relationship with [a person she knew intentionally tries to hurt me] going?”
I will tell you also from experience, that if you aren’t 100% honest with God when you say I lay it on your feet, and I’m done trying to fix it, He knows—and He doesn’t fall for it.
When you’re ready to go to Him and let go, make sure you’re 100% ready.
It’s not always easy to keep boundaries. And when I don’t, toxic situations and emotions come right back in. And sometimes when I do, the other person is offended.
It’s not always easy to pray for blessings on others who like to see me in pain. But when I don’t, my love for them creeps away…and that eventually leads to bitterness.
And it’s not always easy to give it to God. Women feel like we need to work through things, and not give-up on people. It’s hard to let it go in a healthy way.
Which of the above have you found to be the most helpful in keeping your emotions from controlling your thoughts and actions? What other biblical principal(s) would you suggest?