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The Three Bears of Handling Hurt

Do not allow this to drive you into a hole, do not allow this to drive you into an extreme of mistrust of everyone around you, of actions fueled by anger, of words shaped in pain

You know that moment when you realize you’ve done something that you swore you’d never do again? That sense of immediate regret followed by the recognition that this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this exact thing. We’re not talking about anything nefarious, at least I hope we’re not. I’m referring to those moments when you realize that you trusted too many people, maybe trusted the wrong person, confided in someone who used your words to against you, told more people than you probably should have, trusted more people than you probably should have, opened yourself up and made yourself vulnerable in a way that you swore you never would do again.

But then again what did you expect? I hope you don’t read that question as pessimism, but rather pragmatism. We live in a world surrounded by people who, like yourself, have their own issues and their own situations. Maybe you work with disadvantaged children who rarely experience the love that you try and show them through your own means and methods. Maybe at some point they’re going to push back, push away in a way that hurts you emotionally. Maybe you work in the business world where people are trying to get ahead. Where you may have friends, and even family members that are seeking for every little advantage that sometimes places you in a vulnerable position and you get hurt. Or maybe work in a church setting where, despite the negative stereotypes that may get thrown around, the correct view of people within the church is broken and hurting people that are imperfect and yet you put your self in their service every single day.

One of my favorite authors, Paul David Tripp, says it this way, “we live in an imperfect world surrounded by imperfect people in imperfect situations.” Do we really think that all that together adds up to a world of no hurts, no pains, no issues?

Of course not. That’s why there is hurt, that’s why there is pain and struggle and suffering. That’s why there is hurt feelings and harsh understandings, disorders, struggles, and suicides. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that we are going to deal with hurt. How we respond that hurt determines the course of our lives.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that we are going to deal with hurt. How we respond that hurt determines the course of our lives.

So we come to the three bears of response. I’m never been much into nursery rhymes or fables so I don’t know exactly which bear represents which in the story but I know where they seem to fit here in my mind.

Papa bear‘s response is too harsh. He walls himself off from the world after he has been hurt. The drawbridge is put up, the guard is tripled, no one gets in, nothing gets out. His isolation is complete and total. It is physical, it is situational, it is emotional. He’s been hurt like this before and he doesn’t want to be hurt like this ever again. The only way for him to protect against that hurt is to keep anyone from getting near him. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances. He drives his heart and his mind so deep that he feels barely recognizable to even himself. His personality is stifled and he spends much of his day feeling like a spectator to his own life. In total control of himself, but feeling out of control because he has none over his situations and surroundings.

Baby bear’s response isn’t mature enough. Baby bear views the situation as its own fault so it’s response is weak and turned in on itself. Because it thinks this their fault it try to please everyone to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Baby bear goes around apologizing for things that don’t need apologizing for and taking responsibility for things that were never baby bear’s responsibility in the first place. It doesn’t hold people accountable rather it tries to befriend people in such a way that no one would ever think bad of baby bear ever again. Baby bears blame themselves for the situation and think that if they would’ve handled it differently maybe they’d still be safe, maybe they wouldn’t be hurt, maybe they wouldn’t have to deal with the situation ever again. They sacrifice their being at the altar of everyone else’s happiness.

But mama bear handles the situation much differently. Mama bear handles the situation with grace, with dignity, but firmness. Mama bear doesn’t wall her self off but she does double the guard at the gate. She draws in her inner circle to make sure that the community around her has her best interests at heart. In that community she is open and honest with them so they are aware of what’s going on in her life but still protects herself from those outside that circle. She does not blame herself though she does examine the situation and see where the issues came from. If there are actions of her own to correct then she corrects them. But she does not change who she is though she may go about changing how she handles the situation in the future.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: maybe this situation is your fault. Maybe the responsibility does rest primarily on your shoulders because of something that you did, something that you said, or some other action you took. Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe the fact that we live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people and someone decided to use your heart against you, use your words against you, or twist something that you did or said for their own benefit has placed you in a familiar situation of hurt and pain. Maybe it’s one of these extremes or maybe it’s one of the thousands or millions of examples that are somewhere in between; but there is one simple conclusion to all of this. The responsibility rests on your shoulders to move forward. This does not mean that you are solely responsible for moving the situation forward. No, it means that you are responsible for moving your heart and your mind forward. No one else can do that for you in the same way that you can’t control how someone else handles their situations.

The responsibility rests on your shoulders to move forward.

Do not allow this to drive you into a hole, do not allow this to drive you into an extreme of mistrust of everyone around you, of actions fueled by anger, of words shaped in pain. We don’t swallow our feelings to never take action and allow our hearts to be torn apart time and time again and our minds to be so beat down that the thought of the struggle of another day becomes too much. We evaluate, we act, and we move on. We don’t allow our night of sleep to be bothered by someone who didn’t give a second thought to their actions once they walked out that door or hung up that phone. What happened may have been hurtful, but don’t allow that moment in the past to have power over you right now and moving forward. We all deal with the consequences of our actions and of those around us, but it is us to shape our responses to those consequences.

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