“Train your mind to see the good in every situation.”
I read this quote by a respected leader I know, and I felt myself feel tension in my thoughts towards ideas like this.
You see, over the past year I’ve been learning what it means to feel pain, to acknowledge hurt, to understand disappointment, and to allow myself to sit in those moments WITHOUT trying to see the positive side.
I grew up believing and being taught to always see the positive, and not to dwell on the negative. That we must never be sad or angry or frustrated or discouraged for too long, because that would somehow be a reflection of a lack of faith. And while seeing the positive in all situations that doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing, let me share with you how that impacted me as I developed into an adult.
As I got older, I found myself unable to relate with people when they were hurt or angry or upset or frustrated, because I had never allowed myself to feel those things. On top of not being able to relate, I found myself feeling impatient when someone couldn’t “pull themselves up” or “see the positive”. I would spend my energy trying to convince them that everything happens for a reason and that God had plan.
Here’s the problem. It’s not very comforting when you’re in the midst of deep hurt or anger and someone tries to put a God-spin on it… when you’re feeling very REAL, VALID emotions, and someone seems to not care and instead tries to force you into a happy place. Sometimes as Christians we can be pretty lousy friends. We’ve trained ourselves to rebuke, to challenge, to resist, to persist…. but what happened to sitting quietly next to someone in pain and allowing ourselves to enter into that with them? What happened to empathy, compassion, mercy, love, kindness, gentleness, patience…? These were things that were sadly lacking in my interactions with people who were hurting.
Thankfully, God started opening my eyes to these things, and began showing me how to change the ways I interacted with those who were hurting. Instead of trying to find the solution, I let them cry, rage, vent, sit in silence, question…. All the things we may need to do in order to release what we are feeling.
However, there remained a missing link in my own story. While my response to those in pain changed significantly, internally I felt blocked off from them because I was having a difficult time relating to the feelings they were experiencing. I knew I had things in my life that should have made my angry and sad and hurt and traumatized… But I had never felt the emotion, and started to realize that wasn’t healthy. For about 27 years of my life I didn’t allow myself to feel the weight of those difficult emotions. I had it so engrained in my mind since childhood that those not-so-lovely emotions were bad, and therefore best kept hidden inside to never be seen by others. I didn’t know what it looked like to express those emotions and not feel guilty about it.
Once again, God gently showed me the ways in which ignoring my own hurt was actually unhealthy. For being someone who aims to be genuine and authentic, there was a big, gaping hole when it came to my pain. I felt guilty to say I was upset, I felt ashamed to admit I’ve had traumatic experiences in my past, and I felt fear of what people would think if they knew that alongside the deep, tremendous joy I have in Christ, there also lies mourning and sorrow for the difficult roads I’ve walked.
One of the ways God revealed this missing link in my life was through loneliness. I started feeling like I wasn’t fully known…. that my friends were only my friends based off of the good things about me, and that if they truly knew the areas I was broken that they wouldn’t see me the same way. But I came to a point where I realized that I’d rather be fully me and know that I am being the most real, authentic version of myself I can be, than continue feeling like I am not fully known.
So I began letting people in. I started introducing more difficult truth into my vocabulary. I began taking steps towards healing and freedom through counseling.
For the first time, I’ve heard friends use words like “brave” and “courageous” and “real” and “strong” and “beautiful” and I’ve believed them. You know why I’ve believed them? I believe them because they have seen me cry. Not cute, sniffly teardrops…. but full on snot-filled uncontrollable sobs that contain so much hurt and doubt and fear and shame and pain that I KNOW they have seen the true me. Boy have they seen the true me. They’ve allowed me to recount painful memories. They’ve allowed me to express intense emotions. They’ve allowed me to question. They’ve been silent when I needed a moment to process, spoken gently when I needed care, and encouraged boldly when I needed truth.
Now these moments aren’t shared with everyone. I’ve chosen who I’ve allowed myself to enter into these difficult emotions with, and in the right timing… but in those moments it’s been transformational. My eyes have been opened and as tears have fallen, a weight has been lifted and new life has been given.
“Train your mind to see the good in every situation.”
As I go back to this phrase, I come to this conclusion: As we train our minds to see the good, let’s also train our minds to acknowledge the bad. We live in a fallen world, where sin and destruction are present. They affect our lives in very real ways, and ignoring them is an unhealthy way to react.
However, we are not without hope! This process of me revisiting the hurt in my life has been anything but hopeless. In fact, the further I’ve leaned in and wrestled with these things, the more I’ve seen God at work. I’ve experienced his love in entirely new depths. I’ve understood his mercy in completely new ways. I’ve relied on his gentle strength like never before. I’ve seen my vulnerability breed authenticity in relationships. I’ve felt the weight of my brokeness, but the beauty of his redemption.
We will never truly see the good if we can’t acknowledge the bad.
You see, the more I understand pain and brokenness, the more I see God. Somehow, in the midst of this chaos of life, God has shattered every human understanding of cause and effect, and redefined the good that can come from the bad. It shouldn’t make sense that as I acknowledge my hurt, I feel more joy… and yet that is exactly what God is doing in me!
So to all of this I say: embrace who you are. The ugly, messy, sinful parts, along with the beautiful, redeemed, gifted parts. Seek to be authentic, even in pain, and train your mind to know the truth of who God is and his heart to see redemption in His people. That is the good we can see in every situation, my friends.
And now I leave you with this video clip of the movie/song I named this blog post after: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Random fun fact: I used to (ok, sometimes I still do) play a version of this song transcribed for piano and it was one of my favorites to play on piano.