Recently, a close family member passed away unexpectedly. It’s kind of rocked our family as a whole in all kinds of ways. And this person’s death has challenged me to think about loving well. Do I love well?
As our family grapples with the giant hole torn into the fabric of our relationships, I’ve realized, no, I have not always loved well.
I let hurt feelings get in the way of forgiveness.My sense of rejection colored the way I perceived interactions. The enemy’s lies filtered into how I understood interactions with others.
And, at times, I’ve withheld love, either to punish them or to protect myself.
We think we have all the time in the world . . . until we don’t.
Somehow, we believe we have time to make amends later, when we’re done holding onto hurts . . .
. . . opportunities to send a card or reach out with a phone call . . . when our schedule allows
. . . willingness to say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. Want to chat?” when our pride is silent.
But the thing is? We only have so many days, and none of us knows how many that is.
Life is too short to hold onto hurt feelings.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are times when we must keep our distance because someone may be toxic to us. I’m not saying lay aside all boundaries and expose ourselves to that toxicity.
What Loving Well Begins With
But, loving well often begins with forgiving. This act (sometimes chosen over and over) releases our hearts from bitterness.
Forgiveness is a continual choosing to “lay aside our right to get even” or to hold a grudge or to hang onto the pain of past interactions.Forgiveness is a continual choosing to “lay aside our right to get even” or to hold a grudge or to hang onto the pain of past interactions. #tellhisstory #forgiveness Click To Tweet
Relationships are messy. So it’s easier to talk about than it is to actually live out “loving well.”
Like most families, our family has experienced the hurt feelings and lived with the decisions that impacted other members in a painful way. We’ve made mistakes and omissions in our interactions. And these can’t be brushed over or ignored.
What it Looks Like to Love Well
Perhaps “loving well” looks different in different relationships. Some people in a family are easy to love. We connect with them and share deeply. We trust them."Loving well” looks different in different relationships. Some people in a family are easy to love. We connect with them. We share deeply. We trust them. #tellhisstory #lovingwell Click To Tweet
Other members are harder to entrust with our hearts because they’ve stomped on them and hurt us. There are lots of verses we can cavalierly throw around to make it sound like loving well has a pat answer.
“Love others as you love yourself.”
“Live with your wife (can I say, ‘or husband, or other family member’) in an understanding way.”
“Love is . . . ” from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
All of these are true. But perhaps, before we can love well, we must come to terms with the hurts we carry? Do we need to confess to the Lord our reluctance to engage? Could it be we need to lay our hearts bare before our Father and ask Him to show us the reason we have trouble loving well?
Again, there are relationships where, for our physical/emotional/spiritual/mental safety, we must keep our distance. But, if we entrust our vulnerabilities to the Lord and ask for His healing, maybe that’s where loving well begins.
When I talked with Jesus, He showed me the hurt feelings were the root of my reluctance to engage with another. Sometimes, I’d clutched the pain like a security blanket rather than releasing it to God. That hurt took a deep dive into my heart, my thoughts, and my perceptions, coloring the way I viewed that person.
Healthy relationships must have some boundaries if they are to stay healthy.
Loving Well When We’ve Been Hurt
- Begin by asking God to reveal hurts in our hearts and help us work through them
- Pray that He will enable us to view the other person through His eyes, not ours
- Ask God to fill us His love for the other person
- Request His guidance to show us which boundaries need to stay in place, and we look for ways to love within those safe boundaries
- Pray for the people we want to—or are called to—love well
- Be intentional in our connecting with them (or not)
- Ask God to help us to interact with them in a gracious way. I know, this is MUCH easier said than done
None of this is easy. I’m currently baby-stepping my way into living some of this out. As our family navigates grief, I’m realizing I’ve become lazy in loving well. And that needs to change.
The change will begin with humility on my part and asking the Lord to show me what needs to change in my heart and thoughts. I’ll need God’s help to do the things He shows me so I can love well.
What about you? How do you deal with hurt feelings caused by those close to you? What have you learned that helps you to love well?
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I love “Forgiveness is a continual choosing to “lay aside our right to get even” or to hold a grudge or to hang onto the pain of past interactions.” Great insights on why we need to forgive and some practical ways to do that! Thanks, Jeanne!
Kathy, thanks for your kind words. I appreciate you!
It looks like you’ve struck a tender chord with this post, Jeanne. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. You’re right … we always think we have more time until we suddenly have no more time. It leads to some pretty intense soul-searching, doesn’t it? I appreciate your transparency in describing the work this experience has started in your heart. It’s hard to face these things in ourselves, but if it enables us to make good changes going forward, I think it’s worth the struggle. Hugs, friend.
Lois, thanks for your words. I’m trying to remember the truth that we don’t know the time we have left with people in our lives. And yes, I’ve definitely been doing some soul searching, and I trust God is using this time and these lessons to conform me more into His image. Thank you for sharing your encouragement here.
Oh Jeanne, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for so openly and honestly sharing how it has challenged you. This tip is a good one for me to keep in mind – “Request His guidance to show us which boundaries need to stay in place, and we look for ways to love within those safe boundaries.” Sometimes I ask for God to help me see people through His eyes, but with some people, we still need boundaries, or they will keep hurting us. Love and blessings to you!
Thank you for your kind words, Trudy. I agree with what you said about asking God to help us see people through His eyes. And you’re right. With some people, we still need boundaries in place. I so appreciate you stopping by!
Oh yes, life is far too short (and even more unexpected) to hold grudges! At my age, you think I would have that truth down pat…but, sadly, I need the reminder. The need to protect your own heart (or those of your children) is always strong…but never at the expense of bitterness and regret. So sorry for your loss, Jeanne.
Jennifer, I’ve grappled with this truth as well. Knowing life is short, but then getting caught up in something and forgetting to love well. There’s such a balance between protecting our hearts for our sake at the expense of the chance to try again and love well and protecting it because it genuinely needs protecting.
Thanks for your kind words, friend.
Thank you for your vulnerability in this. And I’m sorry for your loss. Praying for you and your family now.
Lauren, thank you for your prayers and for your kind words. They are much appreciated.
Forgiving can be a process. Loving well can take time, but we are called to love each other. 🙂
Amen to all of what you have said, Melissa!
Your post made me think about being knocked down – and the need to shake it off and get right back up – to persevere, to not give up. In relationships that’s really hard – that’s pushing aside pride and self. I remember praying, “Show me how to love ______” – and God showed me how to see them through His eyes. It’s hard – it’s so selfless – I am so glad God shows me how to both persevere and to love! We so need – as you say – to not be lazy about loving! I am so sorry for your loss – but rejoice at what God is doing in your heart! Only God can take loss and turn it to God gain!
Maryleigh, your prayer about asking God to help me see the hurtful person through His eyes has been one I’ve prayed many times. It’s such a valuable perspective-shift when we see others through our Father’s eyes. It does require humility though, doesn’t it? Thank you for your kind words here. And I’m thankful for what God’s doing in my heart too. He is kind of amazing in the ways He works.
What an awesome and vulnerable post. You really laid it out so well. We think we are somehow protecting ourselves by hanging on to unforgiveness, when in reality we are locking ourselves in a prison of our own making. Just because we forgive, it doesn’t mean we need to forget – only God can do that. I have learned that finally letting go of terrible hurts can be very freeing. I try to visualize the people who have hurt the person who is hurting me…see them as a hurting person has helped. Still, boundaries are necessary. Great post!
Bev, thanks for your kind words. 🙂 I agree with your thoughts about forgiving and forgetting. But you’re right, we can come to a place where we forgive and let go. I so appreciate your idea about looking at the people who have hurt me and try to visualize the people who have hurt them. This is such a valuable practice. Thanks so much for sharing your insights!
Sorry to hear of your families loss, Jeanne. Forgiveness is so necessary but can be so hard! I know my sense of justice can be a barrier to fully forgive. You’ve reminded me to daily ask God to search my heart of any grudges that are an obstacle for living and loving others presently.
Lynn, I have a strong sense of justice too. At times, it’s been challenging to set that on a back burner in order to choose forgiveness and to love well. I need to ask God to search my heart daily too. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom!
We had our own family tragedy a few days before Christmas. So much of what you said, resonates with me deep down in my soul. Thank you.
I am so sorry to hear about your family tragedy! I am saying prayers for you and your family. I’m glad God’s used these words.
First, I am so sorry for your loss. I am sending you virtual hugs and prayers. This post contains such good advice, Jeanne. Several years ago, I was hurt by an older family member. I didn’t react very well and an estrangement followed. After following most of the steps you laid out in this post, I was able to forgive and the relationship was mended. If I would have read this back then, it could have happened faster and with less pain. I would have had more time with my loved one, who passed away not long ago.
Laurie, thank you for your kind words, for the hugs, and for the prayers. They are much appreciated. It always takes time and a willingness to forgive (and learn how to live that out) for a relationship to mend, doesn’t it? I’m so sorry you’ve lost a loved one as well. Sending you a hug and prayers for comfort.
Jeanne, I’m so sorry for your loss. Even when we want to love well it is easy to allow distractions to put off expressing the good intentions in our heart.
Deb, thank you. I appreciate your words. We must be intentional about loving well, right? It is easy to get distracted from loving well. Thanks for sharing your insight!
Jeanne, these words resonated with me, “Sometimes, I’d clutched the pain like a security blanket rather than releasing it to God. That hurt took a deep dive into my heart, my thoughts, and my perceptions, coloring the way I viewed that person.” There was one person I kept being unable to forgive and I finally realized it was partly because that remembering his injustices towards me and our family made me fell better than him (he did something I would never do, giving me a self-righteous attitude). I also wanted to not let him hurt us again. Wrestling with the benefits we get from holding onto the anger or bitterness is one of the steps for me. I have also learned that forgiveness is a many stepped process and that different things will trigger our past hurts from this person, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven them, it just means we have more work to do (maybe more forgiving or more healing from that hurt). It also helps to know I don’t have to forgive the person 100%. I can do it in increments and ask God to help me with the rest. Two wonderful books I have read are Lysa Terkeurst’s book Forgiving What You Can’t Forgive (still reading this), and Harriet Lerner’s book Why Won’t You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts. Harriet says we will rarely receive an apology for the things that have hurt us the most. So what are we going to do about it. We have a choice to forgive and move on, or not. Like you, I am trying to forgive so I can heal and move on.
Theresa, I so appreciate your transparency. I definitely agree…forgiveness is a multi-layered, continually-choosing-to-forgive process. I’ve found that I forgive on one level, only to have the pain of the offense come up again at a different level and I’d have to choose to forgive the person and the offense again. I’m so thankful we can ask God for His help in the process and know that He will help us. I so appreciate the book recommends and the insights you shared. Thank you!
I held with joy unto the pride
I felt when I’d been hurt;
the demon laughing deep inside,
my manner cold and curt
to push away apology
(although I said all’s fine);
conceit replaced doxology
as I drew disdainful line
around my self-protected soul,
but in barrier there’s now a breach;
my body is no longer whole
for cancer’s come to teach
that standing ‘fore the gates of hell
it’s just too late to not love well.
Andrew, I so appreciate your poem. I, too, have been the one who’s held onto hurts. I never thought of it as pride, but I believe you’re spot-on, my friend. I am thankful that, as long as we have breath in our lungs, we can choose to love well. Thank you for that poignant reminder, my friend.
I’m praying for you and Barb.
Oh, Jeanne, I’m so sorry for your loss. Loving well lis a full-time job, isn’t it? Thank you for this reminder to seek out the rough relationships and pray for improvement. I have a ways to go in this department!
Anita, thank you. You’re right, loving well is a full-time job. 🙂 I like what you said about seeking out the rough relationships and praying for improvement. We always have a choice, don’t we? May we carry the aroma of Jesus into those difficult relationships. Thanks for your thoughts here, friend.
Jeanne, you’ve expressed one of those things that probably challenges us all. My tendency is to pull-back when I’ve been hurt instead of seeking to overcome evil with good (prayer, forgiveness, kindness and love) (Rom. 12.17-21). Thank you for reminding me that it’s all too easy to wait until it’s too late. Live is short. Better to live without those regrets. Blessings!
Donna, I’ve been the person you described…pulling back rather than seeking to overcome evil with good. Life IS short. Living without regrets takes more effort in the moment, but leads to lasting peace in the long run! Thanks so much for stopping by!
I’m so sorry about your losing a close family memory, Jeanne. 🙁 My sister-in-law just lost her mother. She had been in bad health, but contracting covid made things worse. May we all be more mindful each day to love each other with more abandon! I know I have room for improvement to love better.
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Lisa, I’m so sorry for your sister-in-law’s loss. Even when the loved one isn’t in great health, it’s painful when they leave us. I am working to remember to love well, even those who are hurtful. It’s difficult at times, but I’m also seeing that sometimes our choice to love those in our lives who are difficult is the evidence of Jesus’ love for them and can soften their hearts toward Him.
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Jeanne, like how you said, “Healthy relationships must have some boundaries if they are to stay healthy.” It seems we’ve learned some of the wrong lessons in forgiveness. Sure, we forgive repeat offenders (I have one of those in my family), but we also set boundaries to protect our hearts, both are biblical truths. Thank you for this insightful post.
It’s a grace-guided walk here, isn’t it?
The balancing of boundaries and vulnerability would be impossible without the Spirit of God to inform us.
Yes, Michele, it’s a grace-guided walk indeed! We really need God’s guidance to live in the space with boundaries and vulnerability. We need His wisdom to know where and how much to share, don’t we?
I agree, Karen. We have learned some of the wrong lessons regarding forgiveness. It seems like oundaries are necessary to protect our hearts, aren’t they? Finding the balance between loving well and keeping healthy boundaries can be a delicate affair.
“We think we have all the time in the world . . . until we don’t” – this was brought home to me this month as a number of my close friends have lost family members. Praying for comfort for you Jeanne and your family and everyone who is grieving right now. May God help us to “entrust our vulnerabilities” to Him and love others even when we’ve been hurt.
Wemi, I’m sorry you’re walking alongside so many who are in times of grieving. Thank you for your prayers. We truly appreciate them. And yes, I’ve been working to trust my vulnerabilities to God in this season and to choose love. Thank you so much for your visit and for sharing a bit of your heart, friend.
Praying for you as you process the loss, the grief, and your thoughts. May God give us all wisdom to know how to navigate challenging relationships and the hurt they can cause. May He guide us in knowing when to reach out in love, and when to let go when we have done all that He has required of us.
Joanne, thanks so much for your prayers. We appreciate them. I can’t imagine trying to navigate difficult relationships without God’s guidance. I love your prayer suggestion here. 🙂
This is so good and so vital. It’s easy to think we’ve forgiven yet still keep our distance. Sometimes, as you say, that’s needed. May God give us grace to know what boundaries to set up and to release hurt feelings and reach out in love.
Barbara, I’ve been that person who keeps my distance even after forgiving. I’m with you in looking to God to give us grace to know which boundaries to keep in place and which ones we need to let go of. I’m finding releasing hurt feelings is more of a process than a “one and done” action.