Picture of burned trees at sunset in Yellowstone . . . symbolic of how we sometimes feel when it's hard to forgive

@JeanneTakenaka

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. 

A heart-shaped scar on a tree after a branch was cut off. A symbol to remind us of the importance of loving well.

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.

A silhouette of a tree at sunrise near the ocean

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. 

Trees backlit by light clouds and sunlight a reminder of the freedom that comes when we're loving well

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.

Trees silhouetted in a pre-sunrise sky with the ocean in the foreground

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

Tall, healthy trees that symbolize the health of a person when they are loving well

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. 

Trees with burn scars silhouetted by a sunset which remind that there is beauty in forgiving that helps us love well

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
Meme that says, "But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection." on a backdrop of a sunrise sky over the ocean and beach

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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