Monday, July 5, 2010

Is Hoarding Rewarding?

I recently saw someone who had hurt me badly. I knew the meeting was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier. My stomach dropped like it does on a rough plane ride when I saw the person. Old pain returned instantly as I recalled and rehearsed the ways this person had betrayed my confidence, attacked my character, even physically threatened me. Both “fight” and “flight” presented themselves as equally attractive alternatives—and for a moment I wasn’t sure if I was going to run away or punch them in the gut. It made me wonder--what do you do when old feelings flow over you in an angry flood?

Me—I tend to be a hoarder. Just come over to my house and you’ll find all the books and cool stuff I’ve “saved” in storage. My garage ostensibly houses cars; alas, now one can barely squeeze in past all the stuff I’ve hoarded. (Notice when it’s mine I call it stuff, if it was yours I’d call it junk.) So just to be consistent I hoard up all the hurts from the past and store them conveniently where I can get to them when I need them. Somebody hurt me? Well, I may have to haul out the junk I have on them and just share it with somebody at just the right moment to do the most damage. Or if I have a chance to help someone, may have to check my emotional attic to see what “junk” I have hoarded up against them.

You know what I’ve discovered about my system, however? Not only does my emotional “house” get really cluttered and hard to get around, I may be killing myself. Come on, really? Researchers have demonstrated that the way husbands and wives argue over those old wounds, you know the hot button topics right? Money, children, sex, dirty socks on the floor (I was going to move them honey, I promise!) …the way we argue over them can actually cause hardening of the arteries. All that junk I was hoarded up seems to have landed in my arteries!

So what’s a hoarder to do? It’s simple really. If you had a bunch of outstanding checks that were floating around out there, and you’ve never really figured out how they affect the bottom line of your checking account, what would you do? You’d reconcile your checkbook, right? That’s exactly what we need to do with our emotional debts, reconcile them, and in Bible terms that means forgiveness. Remember that phrase in the famous prayer? MT 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. That means we have to find all the junk in the basement and just throw it out. Go to the person if possible and let them know we forgive them. You know how much fun it is to go down the checkbook and see all those nice little check marks beside outstanding checks? That’s what it feels like to be reconciled—all outstanding debts accounted for, all the junk thrown away, instead of hoarded up in my arteries where they’re killing me!

What's in your emotional attic?


Laurie said...

Great, thought-provoking post! My question for the rev is this: what do you do when the one who has hurt you WILL NOT deal with you? When you've tried over and over again, for years, and yet been repeatedly rebuffed? When the grace we're supposed to extend to one another somehow doesn't make it all the way to you? I've really tried to deal with it as much as possible from my one-sided end, but every once in a while I'm surprised again by the tears, by that awful mix of hurt and anger--sometimes fury, sometimes grief-- over feeling betrayed, misunderstood, rejected, misrepresented... Anyway, how do you "clean house" of all these negative emotions when reconciliation and restoration are not an option? I've apologized multiple times for any wrongs I've committed--and even apologized for and acknowledged who I am--a weak, frail, human sinner at the core of my being who can be and often is a jerk--but to no avail. What does one do with that? I've turned it all over to the Lord, but I know that it is all still in there somewhere because every once in a while, I turn the corner and find the tears...

kiddrev said...

Laurie, what a great question. I'm so glad to meet someone who takes this forgiveness thing seriously, and wrestles with the next step--finding the other person as cooperative as a stone.

I certainly identify with your struggle. In truth, the object of this post (who will of course remain nameless) has been just such a multiple year (ok, it's more than a decade now) nemesis, with many hurts, wounds, slights, and betrayals. My attempts at forgiveness and walking in peace with a "clean house" of emotions have not changed this person. To live in the analogy a bit longer--every time I clean up my emotional "house" the children come and mess it up again! (can you identify?)

I think that short of heaven, there really is no ultimately satisfying answer. Would that obedience could fix all our problems. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily change our adversaries... but it always changes us. The power to forgive is like a muscle; when exercised, it increases in capacity. That process is never enjoyable in the physical domain, nor is it in the spiritual. Yet you are the more Christlike for the struggle. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do..." Jesus forgave even when the powers that crucified him had not repented nor repented from their injustice.

Know that I will pray for you with empathy, and understand as we re-present Christ to the world through our forgiveness and sometimes our suffering.