Tell the Story, Name the Hurt
(Quoted Scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.””
‘Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.’ (Psalm 91:14-15)
These verses from Psalm 91 are just a few of many I would turn to as I struggled with the marital problems Joe and I were experiencing about 18 years ago. I would turn to God again and again, knowing that I could trust Him to be my refuge and my fortress. I knew God was with both of us, as we struggled with the problems we were facing. I loved God, and I knew God would provide what I needed to either stay with Joe or have the strength to leave.
God did provide everything we needed. Someone gave me the name of a Christian Counselor, and I called and made an appointment. I put her information on the refrigerator and told Joe I was going, giving him the option to call and make an appointment if he chose.
As I counseled with this Christian counselor, she encouraged me to tell my story, to acknowledge the hurt I was feeling, to bring things to the light that I had hidden deep inside of me. I discovered that I had been blaming everything on Joe, and through telling the story and naming the hurt, I began to see that I was to blame as well! How could that be? You mean everything was not his fault!
I began to pray Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Joe and I continued our Christian Counseling until we arrived at the place where we could engage in a conversation of healing. We renewed our marriage vows on July 29, 2000, reaffirmed our baptismal vows by immersion in Lake Superior and have been partners in ministry since then.
We’ve been doing a series on Heart Forgiveness, using Desmond Tutu’s The Forgiving Book as our guide. I understand that not everyone needs this teaching, yet as we progress through this series, I’m finding out there are many who have discovered it is unforgiveness that has been causing their spiritual, emotional and often physical ill health.
Today we address the issue of telling the story and naming the hurt. Why is it important to tell our story? Neuroscientists tell us we have two kinds of memories, explicit and implicit. The explicit memories are those we remember about the event. That’s what most of us think memory is. Implicit memories are those we bury deep inside, refusing to acknowledge them, often denying they even happened.
In his book, Desmond used the illustration of his granddaughter being attacked by a pair of Dobermans when she was four. For years his granddaughter would flinch whenever a dog approached her. She didn’t have the explicit memory of being bitten, yet she had the implicit memory that caused the reaction. When she was able to bring the implicit memory to the surface, she began to heal from the trauma.
When we begin to tell the story, we must start with the true facts. As we begin telling the story we put together one memory at a time, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Often when we have kept our hurts inside, our memories become distorted, revealing the true facts is important.
To whom do you tell your story? Ideally if you could tell your story to the person who hurt you, and they would be receptive and ask forgiveness, this would be the quickest way to begin the healing process. However, in most situations, this is not going to happen. Many people who hurt others will not acknowledge they have done wrong, and some do not even know they have hurt you. Remember Desmond writes, “To forgive another does not depend on them and it is not for them. It is for you.”
Find someone you trust with your deepest secrets and hurts. Someone you are confident will keep your story to themself. A Pastor, a close friend, or family member, a Christian counselor. It should be someone who will not question the facts or make you feel as if you are under cross examination. Someone who is willing to listen and not judge, someone you feel safe with, and who will empathize with your pain. Once you’ve found someone, the next step to true Heart Forgiveness and healing, is to name the hurt.
Desmond writes, “Often it can seem easier or safer to dismiss a hurt, stuff it down, push it away, pretend it didn’t happen, or rationalize it, telling ourselves we really shouldn’t feel the way we do. But a hurt is a hurt. A loss is a loss. And a harm felt but denied will always find a way to express itself.”
In The Forgiving Book we read that neuroscientist have shown that a psychological wound, such as being excluded, stimulates the same part of the brain that is stimulated when there is a physical wound. In other words, our brains process and feel these injuries in the same way. They do not distinguish one type of hurt from another. This finding dispels the old children’s rhyme that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words do hurt us. They can cut us to the quick.
As you begin to name the hurt you are feeling, know that no feeling is wrong. Each of us is the sum of all our life experiences, and what we are feeling is true for us. In The Forgiving Book, Father Lapsley is quoted as saying from his book, Redeeming the Past, “People must be encouraged to feel to the fullest, no matter how uncomfortable…. People need space to be weak and vulnerable for a time before they can become strong.” If someone is telling you how you should feel, find another person with whom you can share your story and name your hurt.
When we deny our pain, it festers inside of us and will grow bigger until it destroys our health, our families, our jobs, our friendships, our faith and our ability to feel joy. Desmond writes, “We must do everything possible to dig the hurt out at the very roots. We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts.”
If you have been suffering from the bonds of unforgiveness, I pray this series of Heart Forgiveness is helping you to heal.
If you are sharing this with someone you know who is suffering from unforgiveness, and you are wondering how you can be a trusted listener for them, Desmond’s book lists way you can help.
Listen, without trying to fix the pain. Do not minimize what they are telling you, and do not offer advice. Do not respond to their story with a story of your own. Keep confidentiality. Offer your love and your caring. Empathize with them and offer comfort.
It may not be easy to listen to the painful feelings of people we love and care about, yet if we are to help them, we must do so from a place of love and caring.
Today we have learned that to move ahead to true Heart Forgiveness, we must tell our story to someone we trust, learning what the true facts are and identifying our feelings and naming the hurt. We have to come to a place of vulnerability, so we can move forward in our healing.
You have another prayer insert in your bulletin and some homework to do with your stone. We continue to learn how to break the chains of un-forgiveness that bind our hearts and souls, and experience freedom through true Heart Forgiveness.
PRAYER: God of grace, give me the courage to continue on my quest for true Heart Forgiveness. Create is me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
Reference: Tutu, Desmond & Mpho, (2014). The Book of Forgiving; the fourfold path for healing ourselves and our world. Harper-Collins e-books.
Note: Because this is an e-book, I cannot reference the page numbers of the quotes. All the ideas and some of the illustrations for this sermon series come from this book.
Heart Prayer 3
from The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu
To whom shall I tell my story?
Who will hear my truth
Who can open the space that my words want to fill
Who will hold open the space for the words
that tumble out in fast cutting shards
And the words that stumble hesitantly
into the world unsure of their welcome
Can you hold that space open for me?
Can you keep your questions and suggestions
and judgments at bay
Can you wait with me for the truths that
stay hidden behind my sadness, my fear
my forgetting, and my pain
Can you just hold open a space for me
to tell my story?
Meet me here, Speak my name
I am not your enemy, I am your teacher
I may even be your friend
Let us tell our truth together, you and I
My name is anger: I say you have been wronged
My name is shame: my story is your hidden pain
My name is fear: my story is vulnerability
My name is resentment: I say things should have been different
My name is grief, My name is depression
My name is heartache, My name is anxiety
I have many names and many lessons
I am not your enemy,
I am your teacher
Whispering to the Stone
from The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu
1.Pick up your stone and tell the story of what happened in as much detail as you can. Remember to speak the truth, as much of it as you can remember. Speaking to the stone can be an emotionally safe way to prepare for speaking your story to another person
2.Open your journal and write your story. Fill as many pages as you need.
3.Writing is a very powerful way to tell your story. As you write, you may remember details you did not recall when you were speaking.
4.If you feel safe or more comfortable, you can read what you have written to a person you love and trust
Clenching the Stone
from The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu
1.Take your stone in your dominant hand.
2.Name out loud a hurt you are feeling. As you name it, clench the stone in your hand
3.Open your hand. As you release your fist, release the hurt.
4.Clench and release the stone again as you name each of your hurts
5.Write in your journal all the things you have lost: someone you love, your trust, your dignity, something you cherished, your sense of being safe
6.Name the feelings that accompany these losses. I am angry. I am sad. I am heartbroken. I am afraid. Use your own words. What does your heart tell you? Name it so you can heal it.