The reality is, within the framework of any family or team, we will all have to deal with hurt at some point.
In fact, some of the greatest hurts in our lives will likely be associated with the people who love us the most.
In any case, you can bet that how you choose to handle hurt will have lasting effects on your quality of life and leadership.
That’s why I want to walk you through what I am calling “The Way of the Wounded” — an exploration into what happens when people handle their hurt in an unhealthy way. My hope is that it will help identify destructive patterns and behaviours in your life, so that you can isolate them, before they isolate you.
A perfect case study of unhealthy coping is found in 2 Sam. 13 (NIV).
In it, we read the story of Absalom, King David’s son, who held the praise of God’s people, and carried the promise of becoming someone of great influence for Israel.
Unfortunately, all of this was short lived, greatly due to the fact that he refused to properly process his family’s failings in a healthy way. After discovering that his father had committed adultery and murder, and that his half-brother Amnon had sexually violulated his sister, Absalom let his heart grow hard, which ultimately led him to spearhead a revolt and rebellion that cost him his life.
What a shame, what wasted potential, when a wounded warrior becomes a wayward warrior, all because he or she fails to weather their wounds well.
Sadly, it happens far more than it should. If only more of us could better navigate the negative emotions that come with a hurt heart, our families, teams, and workplaces would be so much better for it.
In any case, allow me to walk you through the way of the wounded:
They Are Wronged.
There is no denying it, Absalom was wronged.
“Amnon… had forced his sister Tamar.” (2 Sam. 13:12 (NIV))
Absalom had every right to be offended, he just had no right to stay that way for as long as he did.
As Pastor Brian Houston says, “no mature Christian who is seasoned in the Word of God has any reasonable excuse to live their life offended.”
Offences will come.
Hurts are gonna happen.
It is only a matter of time before we’ll be wronged or wounded — whether perceived or not — by the actions of somebody around us.
What’s critical at this stage of the game, however, is your next step.
How will you choose to move forward from here?
As for Absalom,
He Emotionally Shut-Down and Shut-Out The One Who Hurt Him.
“Absalom quit speaking to Amnon — not a word, whether good or bad — because he hated him for violating his sister Tamar.” (2 Sam 13:22 (NIV))
Absalom closed up and retreated relationally.
He chose to distance himself and cease from any form of interaction with his brother.
Rather than express his hurt, he chose to suppress it.
How often do we respond in a similar fashion?
At this stage of offence, while everything may appear fine, there is often a storm of negative emotions brewing under the surface; and while our natural response may be to avoid and evade the people responsible for our pain or offence, I promise it will only ensure future trouble. (Prov. 10:10 (MSG))
In any case, rather than confronting the brother who hurt him, Absalom chose to hide his hurt, and as a result,
He Wallowed in His Woundedness and Festered in His Offence
You know, it was no secret that “Absalom hated Amnon,” and yet for “two years” he sat with hurt and hatred in his heart. (2 Sam. 13:22, 23 (NIV))
You see, when you don’t deal with your hurts, your hurts will eventually deal with you.
Straight up, you can’t actually hide a hurt and not begin to harbour that hurt.
Festering in his offence only made way for Absalom’s heart to be stewed around a negative theme, rather than be stirred by a noble one. (Psalm 45:1 (NIV))
At any rate, at this stage of offence, it’s imperative you weed out the bitter root before it goes on to defile many (Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)) because let me assure you, the more you stew, the more you spew. You will talk. The question is to whom.
That’s why it’s important you determine to talk to those who hurt you, and not about those who hurt you. It’s that simple.
Because if you don’t, you will inevitably,
Search For Friends To Share in That Offence & Pollute People’s Perspective of the So-Called Perpetrator
“Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying […] So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded.” (2 Sam. 13:28-29 (NIV))
When wronged and wounded, any normal person is going to go on the hunt for someone to agree with them; we all want to be heard, understood, and legitimized.
In this case, rather than go to the one who sinned against him (Matthew 18:15 (NIV)), who was Amnon, Absalom decided to go to his friends instead. As a result, Absalom enlisted many friends to his cause after they listened to the sad and painful path he and those closest to him had endured.
Consequently, those listening friends of his had their perspectives polluted toward the person responsible for his pain.
Beware all you listening friends out there: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)) #ThereAreTwoSidesToEveryStory
Furthermore, just because someone is offended doesn’t mean they are right. Just saying.
More to come on this subject in a future post.
You see, the problem with Absalom’s friends is they never allowed room for proper protocol. Amnon was automatically guilty in their minds, and therefore they were out for blood. Rather than allow for leadership and the law of Moses to run their proper course, his friends punished Amnon how they saw fit.
As a result, they rose up carrying a secondary offence, took matters into their own hands, and carried out the unthinkable.
They Attack and Assassinate the Character/Person of The One Who Hurt Them. #HarbouringHurtAlways LeadsToHate
“Watch now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!’ then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.” (2 Sam. 13:28 (NIV))
You know, you can only harbour hurt for so long until it eventually turns into hate.
Two years gave Absalom plenty of time to rehearse, nurse, and curse his offence.
Is it any wonder that, given all that time, Absalom didn’t even have to raise a hand against Amnon himself? He had already spewed enough hurt and hate, and skewed enough people’s perceptions of Amnon, that they went on ahead and “took care of things” themselves.
Again, how often can we do the same thing when we fail to handle the hurt in our lives?
We may not go as far as having someone physically assassinated, but we could be found guilty of having someone’s character assassinated.
What also interests me is the setting in which all this took place: it was a social gathering, a party.
Today, we can be found guilty of doing something so similar. We gather with friends to have a “good time” — be it to watch our favorite show, Monday night football, post-church hangs, etc. — yet use all that as a front to come together and secretly slander or attack the character of someone who has offended us.
It starts subtly, but let’s not underestimate how quickly conversation can get away from us, hey?
Despite the fact that Absalom was not directly responsible for Amnon’s assassination, his guilt was obvious.
As a result,
He was Forced to Flee Into Isolation. #TheirPainBecomesTheirPrison
“So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years.” (2 Sam. 13:38 (NIV))
Now, I’m not sure if you caught it, but Absalom ran himself into self-imposed exile for three years — and no one was chasing him.
I’m reminded of a passage in proverbs: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1 (NIV))
This verse ultimately speaks about conscience. It illustrates how our conscience condemns us when we have done wicked, and therefore feel the urge to flee. However, it is contrasted to someone whose conscience is clean, and therefore is able to stand confidently and boldly.
What’s interesting about this is the fact that Absalom fled; which to me only demonstrates the guilt he felt within.
You see, I would propose that because Absalom failed to handle the hurt in his life in a healthy way, his actions and guilty conscience forced him to flee into isolation, and his world started to grow a whole lot smaller.
There were now places he could not freely go, and people he could not see.
In my books, that is the definition of restraint, and being held back in life: Absalom allowed his pain to become his prison.
Are there places you can no longer boldly go because of how you responded to hurt? People you can no longer confidently face?
At the end of the day, my encouragement is simple: don’t ever allow hurt to hold you hostage.
Deal with it before it deals with you.
Learn to forgive people, and experience the wide open, spacious life that Christ so desperately wants for you.
‘Cause when it comes to forgiveness, it has much more to do with your freedom than theirs.