Fear & Hiding: Lessons from Adam & Eve, Part One

I love the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve. I have learned countless lessons from studying what took place in the Garden of Eden. But perhaps the lesson that has been richest and most meaningful to me at this season of my life is a lesson regarding shame.

The first reference to shame is found in Genesis 2:25: “And they were not ashamed”. The first account of adan y evaexperiencing shame is found in the following chapter.

We read in Genesis that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and partook of the forbidden fruit. After eating the fruit, we learn that they became aware of their nakedness, which instilled a sense of fear and they felt a need to hide: “And [Adam] said, I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (Genesis 3:10).”

The Bible Dictionary provides additional insight, stating:

“The first effect of Adam’s sin was that he was afraid (Gen 3:10). Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God’s child should feel in a loving Father and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt.”

One of the first effects of being exposed to the effects of a broken law was to feel fearful and ashamed.

The story of the Fall contains considerable symbolism that can provide additional meaning to the events in the Garden, and to our experience in mortality. Consider the significance of the symbols of nakedness and clothing.

Nakedness

When I think of how Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness before partaking of the fruit, but were ashamed afterwards, I wonder if perhaps it is because of what their exposure represented.

The prophet Jacob mentioned nakedness figuratively, or perhaps spiritually, when he spoke of a day of judgment saying “we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness…”(2 Nephi 9:14). Here he pairs nakedness with feelings of guilt and uncleanness.

One interpretation of the symbolism of nakedness is that it represents being exposed to the effects disobedience and of a fallen world.  It can represent being vulnerable to painful consequences.

Partaking of the forbidden fruit was a transgression and a sin. It was an action in opposition to God’s commandment. Accordingly, after partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve were now subject to the consequences of sin and of a broken law. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were exposed to God’s all-seeing eye, but they were not seen to be guilty of any sin. Thus they felt no shame.

After the Fall, they were exposed to the effects of their transgression, and to the effects of a fallen world. They would be seen in their sin. And they would have to stand accountable for the consequences of those sins.  Thus their desire to hide and cover themselves.

Before the Fall, though naked, Adam and Eve were not exposed to the effects of the broken law. After the Fall, they had a need to be covered from the consequences of the Fall.

Clothing

References to clothing are common in the scriptures. For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote “God…hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness”. Here clothing is paired with salvation and righteousness. It is also referred to as a covering.

adam_and_eveAs it relates to the role of clothing in the account of the Fall, there is reason to believe that the article of clothing, a coat of skins, and its mention in the Genesis account are intentional and instructive.

Elder Carlos Asay commented on this, teaching, “Prior to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were clad in sacred clothing. We read: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21) They received this clothing in a context of instruction on the Atonement, sacrifice, repentance, and forgiveness (see Moses 5:5-8).”

He suggests that the clothing is intended to be instructive regarding the Atonement, sacrifice, repentance, and forgiveness. How so?

We’ve touched briefly on how clothing can be a symbol of salvation and righteousness. It is also meaningful to ponder on the relationship between covering as it relates to being exposed. But it might be most instructive to consider what Adam and Eve were clothed with in the garden and its origins. We read that they were clothed in “coats of skins”. Where did those coats come from? It would be reasonable to assume that they weren’t purchased at a store, and that they didn’t appear out of no where.

Most likely, to obtain the skins from which the coats were made, an animal had to die. atonement-what-can-the-scripturesAnd since we understand that the Garden of Eden was a place where the lamb and lion could lie together and where animals were not predatory, it seems safe to assume that an innocent animal’s life was offered up as a sacrifice in order to provide a covering for Adam and Eve. The Old Testament says much about the sacrifice of animals. And we know that these sacrifices were in similitude of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Though sinless, He took upon Him the sins of the world and offered himself a sacrifice for sin.

It is very probable that an innocent animal was sacrificed, as a type of Christ, to cover Adam and Eve from their exposure to the effects of their sins and to heal their shame. Truly, it is the Atonement of Christ that covers us from the eternal consequences of sin when we repent.

With these symbols in mind, we will next explore why and how we hide, and how we can turn to Christ to be covered when we feel exposed, ashamed or vulnerable:

https://waxingstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/fear-hiding-less…dam-eve-part-two/

Defining and Distinguishing Guilt & Shame

shame_thin

Growing up, I used the words “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably. I assumed that they meant the same thing. I used both words to describe a feeling that accompanied acting in a way that was inconsistent with how I felt that I should have acted. I have since learned that those two terms, while related, represent two distinct concepts and experiences. Understanding their difference has made a world of difference in how I respond to my regular shortcomings and missteps in life.

In the book Uncovering Shame, authors Harper & Hoopes offer insight into distinguishing between guilt and shame. They wrote:

“Shame is an emotion in response to a negative evaluation of one’s self, whereas guilt is an evaluation of behavior. When people recognize that their behavior has violated some standard that has meaning to them, they feel guilty for having done it. Guilt is emotionally healthy and a necessary process of living with others.”

I’d like to break down the three sentences above and provide some additional insight.

Shame is an emotion in response to a negative evaluation of one’s self, whereas guilt is an evaluation of behavior.

This first sentence notes the key difference between shame and guilt. Allow me to elaborate on that distinction, as it is a little bit subtle. Shame is how you feel about yourself; guilt is how you feel about your behavior. To state it slightly differently: Shame is about who you are whereas guilt is about what you did. Shame says, “I feel bad because I am bad”. Guilt says, “I feel badly because of something I did (or didn’t do)”. There is an enormous difference between feeling bad and feeling badly. Feeling badly about something you do leads to a desire to change or repair the error. Feeling bad as a person leads to discouragement and justifies inaction and stuckness. Ultimately, guilt can lead to hope, whereas shame can lead to despair.

Dr. Brene Brown, a shame researcher, has studied, spoken and written extensively about shame. In her descriptions of shame, she has identified shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” She has also noted, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” This feelings of being flawed, unworthy, broken and not good enough leads to thinking that we can’t change and that we don’t deserve for things to be better.

Shame attempts to prevent healing and progress. It tries to convince people to lose hope and give up. And it invites people to hide parts of themselves and to avoid the people they care most about. Because a person in a shame state feels unworthy, they want to hide that part of themselves from others. They believe that others would also view them unworthily and reject them. They fear disconnection. And so, ironically, they disconnect. They disconnect from their potential, from people who love them, and from spiritual sources of strength. Self-imposed disconnection and abdicating agentive power is the danger of consistently evaluating one’s self rather than one’s behavior and living in a shamed state.

When people recognize that their behavior has violated some standard that has meaning to them, they feel guilty for having done it.

Everyone has standards. When I think of what the word standard means, I think of a ruler. A ruler is a reference ruler-clipart-bcyx4rqcLfor measurement. When objects are measured against it, the ruler provides a standardized way of identifying its length.  Similarly, our actions are often measured against the moral code and standards that we have learned and assumed in our lives

Standards for behavior and morality can be learned at home, in families, in social groups, from religions, and through media. Standards tend to be based on values, and different people value different things. For this reason, certain groups may be more inclined towards guilt than others.  Two individuals can even engage in the same behavior and one feel guilty and the other not.  A perfectionist may feel guilty after failing at something they attempted, while another person may feel grateful that their failure taught them something new.  There are some people who may feel extreme guilt for  consuming certain unhealthy substances or watching movies with certain ratings, whereas others would not see anything wrong with such behaviors and thus feel no guilt because of their assumed moral code and how they were raised.

Because many people assume standards that are unnecessary or unhealthy, not all guilt is good.  However, when a standard is appropriate, it can be a healthy measure that encourages morality.  For example, many people value the standard: Be kind.  Alignment to such standards leads to satisfaction, fulfillment, order, safety, healthy relationships and a more functional society.  Deviance from such standards invites appropriate guilt which invites realigning to those standards that are helpful and productive.

Guilt is emotionally healthy and a necessary process of living with others.

I love appropriate guilt (not to be confused with excessive or inappropriate guilt, shame or other emotional counterfeits). Guilt plays an important role. I think of the role of healthy guilt as being comparable to the function of the body’s capacity to discern pain.

electric-stove-burner-types-1.1-800x800Consider the example of placing your hand on a hot stove. If you were to put your hand on that hot surface unknowingly, you would immediately feel pain and instinctively and immediately remove your hand from the hot surface. Pain, a protective warning system, would both signal to your brain to remove your hand from a damaging stimuli and teach you to not make that same mistake in the future. It would protect you in the moment, and provide learning that would help protect you from similar threats that could occur in the future.

Similarly, guilt can play the role of a protective warning system that guards our consciences. If we act in a way that is inconsistent with a standard that has meaning to us, then guilt reminds us of the standard and of our desires for behaviors aligned with that standard. Guilt can remind us of our goodness (assuming that our standards are healthy standards that reflect our goodness) and can also invite us to change and act in a way in which we feel more peace and satisfaction.

From a religious perspective, it can be said that guilt invites us to repent. It makes us aware of our missteps, reminds us of who we want to be, and makes us aware that change is possible through Jesus Christ.

Healthy guilt, rooted in reasonable standards, invites us to act differently in a way that leads to growth.  It invites healing relationships and improving ourselves.  Ultimately, true guilt, when correctly interpreted, invites us to turn to Christ and be healed through Him.

Guilt, Shame & the Atonement: A Foreword

 

title_page_gsa

I would consider myself to be well-acquainted with shame.  I am not quite sure why I seem to be so naturally shame-prone.  But I am.  I tend to blame it on some mild, sub-clinical social anxiety and some not-so-mild perfectionism.

My shame manifests itself most during and/or after social interactions.   After spending time with friends or acquaintances, I will often replay various conversations or interactions in my mind and think of something I said or didn’t say, or something that I did or didn’t do, and I feel shame.  And it hurts.  On occasion, I can feel my body attempt to physically shrink and hide.  I notice that I subtly flinch in pain as I fear that I exposed my ignorance and incompetencies.  At times when I am alone and recalling a social interaction, the muscles in my body may briefly stiffen, I might clench my teeth and grimace; I may even momentarily ball my fists and raise my arms in a defensive position.  My body responds defensively in response to my feeling socially inept, flawed and exposed.

Rationally, I know that such reactions are unreasonable, and in any other moment I am confident in my worthiness.  I understand that my shame is a socially-constructed counterfeit.  I also understand that I am actually pretty capable socially.  Unfortunately, knowing something does not automatically translate into a change in feelings.

Still, knowing what shame is and giving it a name certainly helps.  At least that way I know not to believe the thoughts that try to convince me that my humanness and imperfections equate to inadequacy, incompetence or unloveableness.

Because of my own experiences with guilt and shame, it has long been a topic that has interested me and that I have studied and pondered.  Through my studies, both academic and spiritual, I have learned several lessons about shame’s origins, effects and antidotes.  I have found ways that an understanding and application of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help lead to healing from inappropriate shame.  I have also found that understanding certain truths about guilt and shame, and about Christ, have enabled me to better discern between what is true and what is counterfeit.  And I have found that being able to discern between guilt and shame is often a prerequisite to seeking the Atonement, which in turn helps me to heal from the effects of shame.

My hope is that the blog posts that follow will invite a greater ability to discern between guilt and shame; that shame can be transformed into guilt; and that guilt will be a motivating force that will invite turning to Christ’s Atonement to find forgiveness, grace and healing.

I am still working on my own journey of not allowing shame to limit my progression.  I do believe that I am making wonderful progress in my healing.  But, consistent with the nature of healing, it takes time.  If you have insights or experiences related to shame, guilt or applying the Atonement that you feel will forward this discussion and be of value to me or others, I invite you to share in the comment section.  I would love for us to learn and grow together.

A Change in Voice

In October 2015 I first presented a 45-minute address to a religious audience entitled Guilt, Shame & the Atonement.  I have since received a few requests for a written version of that presentation and will attempt to provide that on this blog through a series of blog posts.  I anticipate that it will take approximately six posts to present the information in a way that is clear and digestible.

This series of posts will reflect a different voice and direction for this blog.  In the past I have intentionally sought to avoid referencing overtly religious material.  This was largely motivated by a desire for my blog to be more widely applicable.  The choice to avoid religious references was also influenced by my desire to maintain a professional presence lest I am ever googled by clients.  However, I feel at peace about my choice to now incorporate spiritual and religious influences and references into these next several posts.

I consider my spirituality and my love of Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and of holy scripture to be central to who I am, what I believe, and how I make sense of the world.  In my quest for understanding truth and the change process, I am influenced by both scholarly and divine sources of knowledge in addition to lived experience.  I believe that my voice will be more authentic and that the information I share will be more enlightening as I free myself to use these multiple epistemologies.

Within the next week, look forward to my first post in this series in which I will attempt to differentiate the concepts of guilt and shame.  And hopefully, in the process, I can also invite an increase of both assurance and hope.

Perfection Paralysis & The Good Enough Cure

imperfect and goodConfession: I am a bit of a perfectionist.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at my messy laundry room or the chaotic jumble that is the contents of my desk drawers, but I assure you that I am.

My perfectionism comes out with a vengeance when I am faced with decisions.  If I believe there is a right or best choice, I end up stressing and stewing as I attempt to figure out what that best option is.  My fear of failure kicks in, and, more often than not, I become paralyzed and end up making no choice.  This is the primary reason I avoid shopping for clothes unless my wardrobe is unwearable.  This is also why I have often opted out of going out with friends to a restaurant if I’ve never studied the menu before.  And yes, this avoidant, unproductive behavior is absolutely ridiculous.  …Or is it?

I recently read an excellent address given by Dr.Tyler J. Jarvis in which he introduced me to what is known as The Traveling Salesman Problem.  And it made my decision-making paralysis seem at least a little less ridiculous.  He described the problem as follows:

An important problem that arises in many settings is the Traveling Salesman Problem.

A traveler must visit many destinations to sell her goods or make her deliveries. Her problem is this: what route will be the fastest way to get to all the destinations? A poor choice could mean she travels many times farther than she would if she made a good choice.

Obviously this problem is important to companies like UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, Walmart, and Amazon. For example, according to Wired magazine, UPS has roughly 55,000 delivery trucks running each day. If each driver could choose a route that shaves just one mile off the daily trip, that would save the company $30 million each year.traveling salesman

And this problem is not only interesting to companies involved in delivery. The Traveling Salesman Problem also has applications in computer chip manufacturing, DNA sequencing, and many other areas.

Consider the situation for three destinations—call them A, B, and C. One of the possible routes our traveler could take to these three destinations would be to first go to city C, then to city B, then to city A, and then home again.

Altogether there are six possible routes in this situation, so to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem with three destinations, I need only compare the six routes and see which is shortest.

With four destinations I must check a bit more: twenty-four possible routes. I can do that. With five destinations we have 120 routes. I am too lazy to check all those, but it is not hard to write some computer code to do it for me. You may have noticed that the number of routes to check is growing rapidly. For ten destinations we have 3,628,800 possible routes to check—a lot, but not impossible.

For twenty destinations it grows to 2,432,902,008,176,640,000.

Dr. Jarvis goes on to detail how utterly impossible it would be for a computer to calculate every route and determine the fastest and best route.  That would take decades to for a computer to determine.  And that is with only twenty options!  He then says of the problem: “With all these problems, as long as we insist on getting a perfect answer—the one and only very best route—we are utterly paralyzed by the size and complexity of the problem. You could say we are paralyzed by perfection.”

YES!  THIS!  This is me when I try to make decisions!  And perhaps this is also you, or someone who you know and love.  When we fixate on finding the perfect answer, we set ourselves up for failure or forfeit.  And we end up feeling frustrated and inadequate.  So what can we do about it?

According to Dr. Jarvis, there are four major steps to apply:

  1. Admit and accept imperfection
  2. Work hard to get your best approximation
  3. Get up and act on your best approximation
  4. Do it again

The above recipe for overcoming perfection paralysis is rather simple and straightforward, at least in theory.  We start by recognizing that perfection isn’t possible.  Once we are able to accept imperfection (which sounds easier than it actually is!), we commit our efforts to finding a solution that is good enough.  We look for something that might work.  And we don’t approach it haphazardly.  Good enough is not giving up, nor is it settling.  And it certainly isn’t refraining from trying.  It is replacing an intolerance of imperfection with an achievable goal and a willingness to fail in the pursuit of it.

You can’t fall while you are paralyzed.  This is perfectionism’s appeal.  But you also can’t progress.  This is perfectionism’s curse.  Pursuing a best approximation allows progress and it also allows setbacks.  But that is okay because setbacks can help you learn and move forward.  I like to think of this as “failing forward”.  So we accept limits (Step 1), work hard to set goals (Step 2), work hard to pursue goals (Step 3), and if at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again (Step 4).  And eventually, we achieve something great.

Rather than that problematic saleman or delivery man spending all day in his vehicle calculating the fastest route, he can determine a good enough plan and get to work and accomplish far more than he would have otherwise.  The same goes for us.  Truly, when we abandon a pursuit of perfection, we are free to progress.  In the words of John Steinbeck: “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

Hugging Porcupines

hug_machine

From Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell

I recently started a new job working full-time as a Marriage & Family Therapist.  To celebrate my new employment, I ordered a few children’s books that I’ve had my eye on for a while.  One of them is a gem of a book titled Hug Machine.  Hug Machine is a book about a young boy who hugs anyone and anything he sees, including adults, crying infants, mailboxes, snakes and giant whales.  After showing off his hugging prowess in various settings and on myriad subjects, the boy encounters a porcupine who seems to anticipate being the exception.  “I am so spiky.  No one ever hugs me.”

The next page shows a beautiful image of this boy, decked out in oven mitts, a catcher’s mask, and other protective gear, giving a big hug to that porcupine while assuring him (or her), that all those hug-withholders “are missing out!”

This image, and the concept of hugging a porcupine, is powerful.

My therapy office is no stranger to porcupines.  Not literal ones, of course.  (Unless you count my porcupine puppet!)  Rather, many of my clients share some attributes with porcupines.  Many of them have evolved spike-like defenses that protect them, but that also make them seem unapproachable, and, in turn, make them feel unlovable.

Consider angsty teens whose body language, and perhaps even their overt spoken language communicates that they don’t want you to come near them.  Are they too spiky to hug?  Think about a significant other who, after extended periods of hurt and frustration, is characterized by defensive mechanisms such as blame, denial, snarky comments, and the silent treatment.  Is he or she too spiky to hug?  And what about the individual who experienced so much abuse and neglect and betrayal growing up and in past relationships that they don’t know how to be vulnerable or open or trusting, nor do they feel safe doing so.  Are they too spiky to be hugged?  Further, underneath all of those spikes, do they actually want and need be hugged?

I am a big believer that everyone, whether they know it or not, yearns for connection.  Everyone desires to be seen, valued, cared for and loved.  Everyone wants to be huggable.  Everyone wants to be hugged.

It is easy to allow obstacles to connection (such as defensive mechanisms) to keep us from expressing acceptance and love.  But oh how the world needs more hugging machines and fewer lonely porcupines.

Self-Nurturing Kits: A Portkey to Peace

portkeyI consider myself to be a fan of the Harry Potter book series.  I have read each book in the series multiple times, I have a collection of Harry Potter pick-up lines, and I have attended more than one midnight showing of Harry Potter movies on their opening nights.  And, at least twice I attended them in costume.  Yes, I was one of those people.  However, in recent years my my zealous celebration of all-things-Harry-Potter has mellowed out considerably.

However, I was recently thinking about a magical item from Harry Potter’s wizarding world. That item is called a portkey.  A portkey is an object, often a regular, everyday item such as a shoe, football, broom or trophy, that has been enchanted so that it can instantly transport the person who touches it to another predetermined location.

In the Muggle (non-magical) world, there are instances in which the touch (or sight) of an item has the potential power to transport an individual to another place emotionally.  For example, for a person suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, exposure to external cues (which could be sights, textures, sounds, smells or tastes) that remind them of their past trauma can transport that individual into a state of severe physiological distress.

A more desirable example of an external object having the capacity to transport an individual into different emotional state is the self-nurturing kit.

Self-Nurturing Kits

I was introduced to the concept of the self-nurturing kit when I was a Master’s student studying Marriage & Family Therapy.  I was preparing for upcoming interviews for PhD programs I was considering, and expressed to my supervisor that I was feeling anxious about it.  Sometimes, when I feel anxious or intimidated, I have a tendency to withdraw inside myself and become quiet and start to feel similar to how I did when I was an insecure teenager.  I didn’t want to present that side of myself in my interview.  My supervisor suggested that a self-nurturing kit may be a tool that I could use to connect to my more confident, competent self.  I was intrigued.

blankeyThe idea of a self-nurturing kit is to find small, everyday items that can represent and remind its owner of things that they find nurturing and that connect them to feelings of peace or confidence.  Some individuals may choose items from nature, a picture of a person or place they love, a fabric that reminds them of something or someone that makes them feel safe, an object that reminds them of a goal or a memory, a sentimental song, or a figurine of an animal that represents attributes they have developed.  The possibilities are endless.  The concept of a self-nurturing kit is, in some ways, similar in effect to how a security blanket or teddy bear that helps a young distressed child feel safe and calm.

My PhD interview self-nurturing kit was small enough to fit into my pocket.  I included three items: a jump drive, a monkey ornament, and a rock.  The jump drive held lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations I had used in teaching, and reminded me of my ability and desire to teach and make a difference to others.  The monkey ornament reminded me of my fun and playful side.  And the rock reminded me of walks I would go on as a child with my Grandma in which I would pick up rocks along the path.  It reminded me of my loving Grandma and of peaceful times in nature.  When I would get nervous at my all-day interviews, I would put my hand in my pocket and remind myself who I was, why I was there, and think of times and relationships I associated with feeling calm and safe.  Touching those items was my portkey to peace and confidence.

Create Your Own Self-Nurturing Kit

Anyone can create their own self-nurturing kit.  It may be small enough to fit in a pocket; it may keep it in a box, or it could even be a file on an electronic device containing meaningful and nurturing pictures and music.  I find it helpful to have at least some items be tangible.  There is power in touch.  Having items that connect with other senses can also be powerful.  Smells and tastes that connect you to more nurturing times can have an affect on your brain that helps you move away from your anxiety and toward connecting to calmness.

When trying to come up with items to include in your kit, think of what is or has been nurturing to you.  chocolateThink of things that you look forward to.   Think of times in your life you have felt most hopeful, confident, safe or loved.  Find objects or items that represent those memories, hopes or experiences.  It can be meaningful to include pictures of people or places.

A self-nurturing kit is by no means a cure for clinical-level anxiety.  However, it does have the potential to better provide a connection to positive thoughts and feelings in many circumstances.

And if nothing else, if you include a piece of chocolate in your kit, at least you’ll always have something to help you recover from Dementor attacks.

Fixing vs. Healing

fix-it-felixI recently had a conversation with a self-proclaimed fixer.  When he sees something wrong, his inclination is to figure out what the problem is and then fix it.  If the sink leaks, he fixes it.  If the car won’t start, he fixes it.  And if his buddy is being a jerk, he confronts him about it and does his best to fix that too.  The approach is straight-forward and the objective is noble.

But, unfortunately, fixing isn’t always an option.

Consider the analogy of the carpenter vs. the farmer as it relates to fixing and healing.

The carpenter takes raw materials, follows a well-prepared blueprint, and uses various tools to construct those materials into something useful and beautiful.  

A farmer takes a seed or seedling.  They plant that seedling in good ground.  They provide optimal conditions for growth by providing water and access to sunlight.  They provide protection.  There may even be some pruning or fertilizing.  They help the plant to grow and fulfill its potential.  The process is slow and the results can vary.

Both roles are significant and valuable.  But neither process can achieve the results of the other.  A carpenter cannot construct wheat.  And a farmer cannot grow a chair.

So, back to the idea of fixing vs. healing.

Fixing is great for things that are broken.  Healing is great for people who are injured.  Unfortunately, people often confuse the two.  It is not uncommon to hear clients describe themselves, their lives, or their relationships as being broken.  And often times they have tried everything they know to try to fix those things.  But it hasn’t worked.  And so they become discouraged and assume that their lives or relationships are broken beyond repair.

But perhaps the reason their well-placed efforts haven’t been effective is partly because they aren’t dealing with a problem that requires fixing.  Perhaps they are dealing with is a wound, an injury or a hurt that requires healing.

And just as nurturing a plant differs from constructing a building, healing differs from fixing.  Healing requires time.  It requires hurting.  And its course and outcome isn’t exact.

It is hard for a fixer to see someone they care about hurt.  Hurt often appears like a problem to be fixed.  And so they try to fix things.  And hurt does often fill the function of letting us know that something is wrong.

But sometimes, feeling the hurt is also a part of the healing process.  Sometimes, attempts to save someone from their hurt prevents that someone from being able to heal.

If you are a fixer, thank you for your good heart and the good that you do.  But (yes…you had to know that that ‘but’ was coming), if you being a fixer is about you being a helper and a relief-giver, then I invite you to learn about the healing process, and learn how to be with others in their pain rather than immediately making efforts to save them from it.