As we go through life, we can also receive scars on the inside of us that are not visible on the outside. Childhood slights and cutting remarks, childhood neglect and abuse, inconsistent parenting, manipulation, broken hearts, disappointments, trauma, as well as poor choices on our part, can leave scars on the soul. I say soul, not our eternal soul, but I am referring to deep down inside where we as individuals may not be able to see them. We may have addressed the cause of the injury, or at least thought so, and the issue taken care of. On the other hand, perhaps we just tried to push it aside and forget about it, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Or so we thought, until we find that we are having difficulty dealing with the stresses of life. Perhaps moments of uncontrolled anger, relationship challenges, taking the blame for things unrelated to us, difficulty being confident in life, to name a few. We may not recognize that the root of these problems may be found in the scars deep inside.
Everyone faces hurts and challenges in life, and everyone processes them in their own way. God made each of us different with our temperaments and characteristics. He did not want us all the same, like a cookie cutter mold. Diversity makes for a balanced life, like it or not. Sometimes we may think, “If they would only see it like I do, it would help!” Well, there may be a time and a place for that, but diversity of thought helps keep a balance in life that we would not have if we all thought the same way. This diversity of thought also creates the potential for misunderstandings and being misunderstood. That is human existence and if we can accept it, it will aid in the healing process. Those who suffer from scars may not always benefit from only those who understand their situation or think like them. Sometimes it takes another way of thinking to help them understand themselves.
The sad part of scars is that the effects may be more visible to others than to the affected individual. They have learned to cope with life in the way that life has taught them works. Unfortunately, this is not always best for them nor does it mean they are able to live to the full potential that they could be. It can hinder relationships with those around them. But they continue on through life, some for better and some for worse. I suppose to some degree or other, everyone has hurts, even though it may not be evident to those around. Hurts and pain are a natural part of life, however, there are some that go deep and may have lifelong effects.
Some of the deepest scars may not be from the injury itself, but from the lack of affirmation and understanding from those around us. This is for both children and adults. We all will be hurt because we are human and we live in an evil world, however, if we have supportive, loving parents and friends we can weather a lot of storms and setbacks. On the other hand, a child or even an adult who is told to, “move on,” “get over it,” or “it wasn’t that bad,” without addressing the real need perceives they really do not matter in the real world. They swallow the pain as well as the lack of affirmation, withdraw, become silent, and build a wall of defense around themselves to protect from more pain, while further altering their already unbalanced view of life. Behind that wall of defense and fear, they feel alone and may develop symptoms of suppressed anger, self-destruction, and other unhealthy actions which may help them feel better for a while, yet in the long term, leaves them empty and feeling more alone. For many a simple acknowledgement or apology would go a long way, yet not everyone gets it and must move on with life without it. Without that small act, the individual may continue to carry a load of assumed responsibility, for things which are not their fault.
Unfortunately, there are hurts in people’s lives that can spill over affecting children and families for generations. Unresolved issues that go back to someone somewhere who did not, or was not able to deal with their own problems in a redemptive way. Without addressing these issues in families, they have the potential of continuing from one generation to the next, remaining unresolved and leaving brokenness in their path.
Because of pain our view of life becomes altered, and we may find ourselves reacting to what we feel are injustices, based on our own life experiences. While it is true experience gives understanding, unhealed painful experiences make for unhealthy responses. These in turn cause more pain, insecurities, and heartache, leaving individuals feeling misunderstood, and unloved.
There is no way to put a time factor on the healing process. While counselors, and friends can promote and guide in the healing process, there is nothing that can heal and help like our Heavenly Father. True healing comes when we trust Him and by His strength we are able to face these difficulties in life. There may be times of clarity, other times of disappointments and discouragements. We may not get it all fixed once and for all, but we know the Heavenly Fixer. The most touching gospel hymns were often written in someone’s darkest hour.
Today is the day to find rest and security for past wounds and hurts. We cannot change the past but we can change the future. We may not eradicate the effects of the past but we can by God’s grace build a positive future. There are many self-help books and many counselors with good advice which can help with deeper understanding. However, here are a few simple things we can start to do.
Stop the blame game, accept responsibility for your current life situation. This does not mean the one who caused the hurt is free, it means that I no longer allow what has transpired to be a controlling force in my life. In some cases, the Lord may ask you to forgive that person for the wrong they did. Forgiveness does not always mean trust, because in certain situations that will need to be earned. Forgiveness sets us free, regardless if the other person acknowledges or takes responsibility for what has happened or not. It cannot be forced, but it is something to consider between you and God. In His time He can do that work in your heart if you are willing to let go.
Nurture a relationship with God. Treat Him like a father, a friend. This may be challenging for some as they may want to blame God for not protecting or being there when they really needed him. If you feel that way it is completely normal, however, it will hinder healing. It will take special effort to reach out and trust Him. What happened to you was not His fault, but because of sin and evil. Therefore, evil would also not want you to turn to Him, who’s love is boundless, full and free.
Learn to become vulnerable. This could be a real challenge for some people who have suffered broken trust. Maybe doing this slowly at first with someone you know you can trust, can be a window of light for the darkness within.
Open up past situations if you need to with a friend, your pastor or a counselor. You may need all three.
Get your topical Bible and look up all the verses that talk of His promises.
Learn to pray and express yourself to God. Verbalizing your prayers may help you. Hearing yourself speak your troubles may help with the muddle of thoughts inside. Part of praying is also listening. Waiting quietly in reverence, instead of jumping up to continue your day, gives time for meditation and God to speak. Sometimes there are no words to pray, only tears. This is your heart talking, which God hears. Romans 8:26 KJV Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Matthew 6:8 KJV Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
In conclusion, we may not find all the answers to all the hurts and painful experiences in life. But we have come to know our Heavenly Father, the Healer, to whom we can go and find comfort and direction through all the changing scenes of life. And we hope, like the physical scars that become less noticeable over time, that you will also grow into a beautiful, better person in the care of our Heavenly Father.
What I have written is not professional advice or diagnosis, and some points I lifted out may be disputable. This is not a perfect world, so it is not possible for everyone to always know how their words and actions are affecting the next person. Most people do not intentionally hurt people, yet the potential of it is always there and care should be taken accordingly.
We may need to place responsibility where it belongs, but for us to continue to blame others for our current situation is like a dark tunnel with no light at the end.
What is written are things gleaned from personal experience, observation, and a little reading along the way. I hope you can take this as one friend encouraging another on the healing journey. Most of all, I want to lift up Jesus who is the ultimate healer and our ever-present friend. He is our refuge in the storms of life.
*Scars On My Soul, Geraldine Koehn
In the section for Emotional Health we’ve added
Running On Empty by Jonice Webb
The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick