Saturday, August 22, 2009

Healing Tears and Forgiveness

Last night God nudged me in a new direction.

I had read an article on the healing power of tears. Some studies have shown that tears carry stress-chemicals out of the body, perhaps explaining why one sometimes feels refreshed and cleansed after a good cry.

God confronted me with some information about myself. It's actually hard for me to cry, and I tend to be uncomfortable around others when they are crying. Through my early childhood experiences, I learned to be ashamed of crying, to see crying as a weakness that is both childish and foolish. Even now as an adult, I mistakenly have thought that tears are irrational and the result of wrong thinking, inevitable sometimes, but regrettable and to be avoided.

That was wrong. Tears are a valid expression of overwhelming emotion. By suppressing my tears, I have cut myself off from a full experience of life's pain but also it's pleasure. I have lied to myself that what hurt me no longer hurts, but by rushing past my hurt, I have stunted the healing process and numbed myself to a deeper experience of joy as well.

Last night I thought about many of the slings and arrows of my past. Times when I was told to stop crying lest the person give me something to cry about. Names I was called and labels I was given at home and at school that wounded my spirit. I saw them in a new light. Those things DID hurt, and it's okay to acknowledge that and feel the full force of the hurt. I pictured God comforting me, affirming his understanding of the hurt and fully accepting me as I began to cry about it.

And then a surprise: an overwhelming desire to offer forgiveness for each of the hurts, whether the perpetrator was a family member, schoolmate or even myself. I recognized that they didn't fully understand what they were doing, and had their own set of hurts that they were reacting against, and that my wrongs against others have been equally bad if not worse.

I think I had misunderstood forgiveness in the past. Even though intellectually I thought I understood forgiveness, somehow I operated as though forgiveness equaled denial of the wrong and suppression of the emotions caused by the wrong.

I slept very well last night, feeling much lighter without the burden of denied hurts.

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