The Hardened Heart of Self-Protection

A deep wound, a broken heart, disappointments, bitterness, and unforgiveness can cause the heart to become hardened with time. It causes us to put up walls. Our defenses go up. We self-protect, and we don’t let anyone in including God.

Self-protection leaves us running on reserve and is the cause of intimacy issues and conflict in relationships. It seems that it’s easier to be hard than soft and vulnerable because we don’t want to get hurt. But you were not created to live that way. God made you to be tender and responsive.

It’s hard to shape stone.  As long as your heart remains hard, you will miss out on the abundant life Jesus came to give. So let the living God come into your heart, heal your wounds and tear down your self-protection and defenses.

The amplified version of Ezekiel 11:16 says “And I will give them one heart, a new heart, and I will put a new Spirit within them, and I will take the stony, unnatural hardened heart out and give them a heart of flesh, sensitive and responsive to the touch of their God.”

Give your hurts to the Lord. Let God shape you. When you do that…He will leave His fingerprints all over your heart.

 

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The Root of Negative Behavior

People even in the church can behave in very unloving and ungodly ways. They can act out in pride and holier than thou attitudes or lash out in anger, addictions, slander and malice towards others grieving the Holy Spirit in whom we were sealed. It’s easier to judge the sinful attitudes and behaviors on the surface without taking a step back and gain God’s perspective on the matter. But doesn’t Scripture tell us that God judges the heart and not the outward?

People don’t wake one morning with a hardened heart. What could have happened to an individual who acts out so negatively, rudely and hurts self and others? What kind of hurts are they carrying around inside? Please understand that whatever hurts are buried deep inside a hardened heart does not excuse the sinful behavior. God hates sin, and we are allowed to hate it too. Nevertheless, by peering into the heart of God and seeing things through His eyes, it will help us understand the reasons why people act out and will help us gain compassion and not personalize the sinful behaviors of others.

Painful wounds in our hearts can always be traced back to the effects of sin, whether our own or someone else’s. Disguising pain with either good or bad habits, or addictions create a vicious cycle of guilt and shame. Whatever the coping mechanism, until the root of the hurt is dealt with the wound will continue to fester allowing sinful negative behaviors to continue. God wants to heal your broken heart. No matter what you have been through, God is bigger than anything you have experienced or are experiencing now. No matter where you’ve been, what you have done or what has been done to you … the Master Healer, Jehovah Rapha, can transform your innermost hurts into conduits of His blessings. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can heal and restore you. He only asks one thing…”Do you want to be made well?” Healing is a choice.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.…”

Ephesians 4:30-32

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The Ripple Effects of Bitterness

“Bitterness is like a rock thrown into a placid pond; After its initial splash it sends out circular ripples that affect the whole pond. It starts with ourselves, expands to our spouse, then to our children, friends, and anyone we come in contact with.” (Pastor & Dr. Chuck Lynch)

People hurt, mistreat, abuse, abandon and betray us.

God sees and validates our pain. But he also tells us to pursue peace so that we do not fall short of His grace and let bitterness take root to defile us.

Bitterness comes when we hold on to hurt and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. It affects everything around us and causes us to have a hardened heart. We can even take on a victim mentality where we feel constantly wronged by others. It will pollute our overall view of the world and affects how we treat people.

No matter what we are not entitled to our sinful responses to how others have hurt us. Doing so only causes separation between God, ourselves and others. We can’t change people or make them see the error of their ways but God can. But we can take our wounded hearts, bitterness, and unforgiveness to the one who has shown us how to love mercy instead of demanding justice.

Bitterness hinders repentance and forgiveness in relationships. The cure for bitterness starts with our hearts. It’s not something we do flippantly or dismissively without considering the cost of the sin committed against us, its effects and the wounds left behind.

Ask Jesus to help you process the hurts and choose to forgive. You will then have a beautiful gift to offer others – true forgiveness from the heart. A heart that says what you did to me hurt me deeply, but I choose to forgive you and release you from a debt you cannot repay just as my precious Jesus forgave me and released me from mine.

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The Prison of Unforgiveness

root-of-bitternessUnforgiveness is like taking a drug because it has the same effect on us. It numbs the pain so we don’t have to feel and replaces it with anger, rage, and bitterness. It becomes a coping mechanism to deal with the pain and violations. We become entitled to our unforgiveness not realizing that it hardens our hearts and pollutes everything around us.

See if I have been violated and hurt by someone and haven’t dealt with it I can begin to harbor and overall spirit of unforgiveness and can start to see everything in life through that negative filter, and I can become a compensator in relationships and start to keep score. What I do versus what you do. I can get very resentful.  Unfortunately for them, the poor people in my life will always lose out. Heck, they don’t even know that I am keeping score. They have just come to believe that I am a very giving person but inside I’m very resentful because I have to do all these things for these ungrateful people who probably never even asked me to do anything for them.

Somewhere along the way I took on a compensator role and began taking care of everybody. And I will get very bitter and feel victimized. What happens then is that I will spend my life living behind spiritual bars imprisoned because I’m still living in the reality of the hurts of the past. My past own me. And I will enter all my relationships bringing that wound with me expecting and demanding that I be treated a certain way and when I’m not…Watch Out! It can be brutal.

What happens is that old wound is still speaking into my life, and now it’s infected with anger, bitterness, and resentments. It’s spiritual cancer. Sadly the people in my life are paying the penalty for the sins of those who have hurt me in the past.

Pastor and counselor Dr. Chuck Lynch, author of “I should forgive but” says that bitterness and unforgiveness are like a rock thrown into a placid pond. After the initial splash, it sends out circular ripples that affect the whole pond. It starts with ourselves, expands to our spouse, then to our children, friends, and anyone we come in contact with. That’s the saddest part of all.

When we hang on to unforgiveness we give power to the person, and they continue to violate us. Furthermore, if we don’t deal with our unforgiveness issues, we can carry our victim mentality over to all our relationships. Making people responsible for our unhappiness and now people have tremendous power and control over us. Be free from the prison of unforgiveness where those who have violate, hurt, or neglected us wield power over us and continue to torment and defile our hearts.  If we don’t get help and release our hurts and learn to forgive, without realizing it we can transmit the disease of bitterness.

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