February 14, 2019

To my broken friend on Valentine’s Day

To my broken friend on Valentine’s Day,

About a few times every week I get an email from one of you asking me the same question, “How do you learn to trust again?” So today I would like to talk about that, and explore some thoughts for you to ponder as you walk down that journey of finding trust again—ultimately your pathway to forgiveness.

Whatever we go through in life, there will be times when people do things—despite who we are—to lead us to question if we should trust. Infidelity and murder might be extreme cases, that you haven’t personally had to go through, but the concept of trusting another human being has, or will, most likely come into question at some point in your life.

For the purposes of exploring different concepts—and knowing we all have our own experiences—I am going to be talking about some of the extreme cases that I have encountered, or others have shared with me . . . and how they have effected us. It is my prayer that as you read this, the spirit will guide you on how you can remember your truths, and be able to apply them to your desire of seeking trust after you have been wronged deeply by someone you love.

As a woman in her third marriage, I can say for sure . . . this was not my plan. Devotion and fidelity have been strengths I have carried through all of the relationships I have been in, but I haven’t always been blessed to get that back. Reflecting on those times—when I found out about affairs, or caught, the one person who was supposed to be protecting me, doing things against that promise—every time it cut me deep, left me wondering what about me made them choose to look somewhere else for what I was willingly giving with love. I have spent a lot of time battling that fear—that something was just wrong with me. Many days I carried the blame—of another person’s choices—on my own shoulders . . . thinking that maybe if I was something different, they would have loved me as much as I was willing to love.

Then one day it hit me—it wasn’t about me.  Sharing those fears outloud, has not only helped me heal, those experiences have lead me to create relationships with thousands of others who have been there too. Each one of us at one time or another feeling alone, isolated, and forgotten, but eager to hear that others know the pain we thought only we had felt.

Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of people who have dealt with this sort of betrayal, most of the stories with common themes—even down to the words that were yelled at them during the darkest days—of fear, pain, and extreme heart ache. Each of them expressing how those words filled with so much hate and darkness—made them feel so small. Crazy—every single one of them felt crazy; the blame always shifting to them when they would ask for answers. Alone. Scared. Hopeless. Worthless. Depressed. Triggered by PTSD. Afraid to go into public. Hideous. Fat. Panic attacks. Suicidal thoughts. Lack of faith. Crippling fear. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Every story completely unique—yet so similar.

Many have shared, “I just wish I could have saved him.” “I just wish I could have changed so (s)he would have seen me.” “I just wish I could be the person I was before I found out. I am broken now.” “I must not have been good enough.” “Well she was younger than me . . .” “I still wonder if he ever did love me.” “Now I have to be a detective to make sure he isn’t out doing things he shouldn’t”  “My life is over . . . and everything I have done is a waste.” “I can’t look at myself in the mirror.” “I am in a fog.” “I have never felt so alone.” “My world went black when I heard the truth.” Men and women full of fear and now so insecure, because they were forgotten—they were not protected; no matter how devoted, loving, and supportive they had been—their life was now changed by the actions of another person, and yet they had come to believe it was all their fault.

And this is where the hope becomes a challenge—you step out ready and wanting to love, and then your fear tells you to retreat . . . tries to remind you of the times when your power has been taken from you. Your PTSD—and yes this a real thing and not just in military survivors who were in combat—kicks in and showers you with panic. What if  becomes your constant companion, and you start to believe that you just no longer have what it takes—to trust, to love, to be open and vulnerable, to let down your guard—to let someone in.

So here is the secret many of us have finally learned. Through my own detective years . . . and now removed from it all, but hearing the same stories over and over we are finding a common thread. The ones who are thriving have begun to believe in forgiveness—not to save the other person . . . but to save their selves. We aren’t here to save each other. We are here to be the best version of ourselves, and not everyone is going to protect that. Some people aren’t even going to be capable of seeing how amazing we are—or seeing us at all. Not because of anything we do, or don’t do . . . but because of their own personal insecurities, fears, and bad choices. We have to let them own it. We have to stop taking on their struggles as if they were ours, because the minute we do—we become worthless, and that my friend is the lie. If we live in the lies . . . how can we trust ourselves again, let alone anyone else trying to come and see the good in us? We want someone to love us, but we forget to love ourselves.

Being able to trust another human being is a personal ability we all have—nobody can take that away from us . . . though many will try. Narcissists exist, selfishness is real, and there will be those we care about who don’t care back, but they CANNOT take away our ability to love—and to trust again. There will be moments when love will be one sided—there might be a time when God asks you to stop putting your love out for someone, because He knows that your gift could be used better somewhere else—spending time remembering how to just love yourself, or He might lead you to a person who will honor that ability you have willingly been giving.

Forgiveness is the how . . . and it takes empathy and faith, and a whole heck of a lot of love. Forgiveness doesn’t have to include letting an abuser back into your world . . . but it does include letting yourself back in. It might not lead to that person ever seeing you, or the hurt they caused, but it gives you permission to see yourself and the powerful being that has been strong through a storm. You start to let go of the fear and for the first time see yourself as a brave survivor instead of a worthless victim—believing in all the good you are capable of, and letting go of all the lies that told you: if you were different this wouldn’t have happened.

So here is the bottom line. It wasn’t about you. Don’t let another person’s choices stop you from moving forward on all the paths you have tried to walk before—or the new ones that have been paved. You are worthy of kindness, love, and being seen for all the wonderful things that you are, but it has to start with you. Let yourself back in—have your back even when nobody else does. You are freaking awesome. This wasn’t your fault—and it does not change your worthiness of trying again.

Sometimes people just don’t see you. And that’s ok. You are too precious to be forgotten. So remember . . . you are enough. Say it out loud a million times today until it is all you can think about. Your worth is great in the sight of God. Your being is important to Him. Your life—your fears, your joy—matter to Him.  Go to Him in prayer, He will help you. He will send you what you need, and in many of these cases, we have been surprised at moments of exactly what that was, but as we have trusted in not only ourselves, but in God . . . we have found that light again.

If you are living in the darkness of another person’s shadow, today give yourself permission to step out into the light. They didn’t break you—they just spent a lot of time showing you how broken they were. Today you get to start living free of those chains . . . because they were never yours to carry anyway. Each of us has a Savior, and He will never ask us to do His job. We cannot force another person to use the power of grace, but—with Him—we are always capable of using it in our own story.  

To the brave survivors on this Valentine’s Day—you are not alone. You are way more than broken—you are brave. Trust that truth and it will become part of the stepping-stones to free you from the shadows. Your gifts are not dependent on the receiver . . . they will always be worthy of giving again. Get yourself a box of chocolates this year and celebrate your ability to love.

Can't wait to see all of you brave survivors on March 1st. A Reason to Stand .org for tickets and more information. 


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