Sometimes the only obstacle standing in the way of our growth and healing is us. It may be difficult to acknowledge and accept but, often, we are the ones keeping ourselves stuck.
The Bible cautions us to guard our hearts and take our thoughts captive. But why? Because our thoughts shape our choices and the directions we choose take. Since we can easily end up under the influence of our flesh (emotions), we may end places we never thought we’d go.
Not only that, we often find ourselves in situations that feel almost impossible to get out of.
While there are many paths that can lead us away from the growth, healing, and wholeness that Jesus offers us, below are a few that scrape the surface.
Problem #1 : Self-pity
Interestingly, pity and compassion are synonyms for each other. However, when applied personally, self-pity is the enemy of self-compassion.
Having compassion for ourselves is about being understanding, gentle, and encouraging. Self-compassion allows us to make mistakes and learn from them. It fosters growth and nurtures self-trust.
Self-pity, on the other hand, leaves us feeling like a victim—hopeless and helpless. Instead of inspiring action and helping us to grow forward, it becomes justification as to why we believe we cannot do something. It causes us to give up on ourselves without ever having put in a consistent effort.
We can learn to use self-pity to our advantage. Instead of taking on a woe is me approach to life, we can journal the things that we find pitiful, pray about them, seek wise solutions, and work on ways of overcoming our obstacles.
When we take these steps, we begin to realize that we aren’t just floating through life at the mercy of other people and our circumstances. We understand the things over which we have control and trust in our ability to take action in our best interest.
Problem #2: Complaining
People say that comparison is the thief of joy —so is complaining. Though we may not realize it, the negativity that comes along with constantly focusing on and sharing our grievances can easily change our moods, attitudes, and outlooks.
When we focus on the negative, we blind ourselves to our blessings and we decrease our ability to appreciate the simple things in life. Our minds become trained to notice what’s wrong in life, instead of seeking what’s right, lovely, peaceful, and joyful.
Not only does complaining steal our personal joy, but it also has negative effects on those around us—especially when it is our primary mode of communication.
Practicing gratitude is the quickest way to derail a complaining brain. Start as small as you need to. Throughout your day, look for the things that:
- bring you joy
- put a smile on your face
- add peace to your spirit
Teach yourself how to appreciate the simple things.
Problem #3: Blame
In my lifetime, I have experienced unfair treatment, betrayal, and my fair share of disappointments. It would be incredibly easy to look back and lay blame; and, on many occasions, I have.
Unfortunately, blaming planted seeds of bitterness that have been hard to remove from my spirit. It caused hard feelings and hardened my heart.
Blame also disempowers us and relieves us of our responsibility.
When we are stuck in a pit of blame, we don’t understand that we have the ability to climb out of it. We become more focused on how we ended up there.
No matter how much fault we rightfully assign, the truth of the matter is that we are in circumstances that we don’t want to be in and we have to be willing to pull ourselves out.
Guiding our mindsets away from blame takes prayer, time, effort, resilience, patience, and willingness. It is not an easy process.
There are things that have happened and will happen to us that are simply beyond our control. Yet, it will always remain our responsibility to heal from them and move forward.
As my growth continued, I had to take it upon myself to begin to heal the things that happened to me through no fault of my own.
Through self-compassion, prayer, therapy, and the support of friends and family, I was able to unearth my buried hurts and pain and start the process of recovering from them.
Problem # 4: Fears
Simply put, fear is bondage. Living in fear can keep us chained and stuck in mental, emotional, and spiritual darkness. Fear torments, manipulates, eats away at us, and holds us captive.
Though we know we are somewhere we never wanted to be, we don’t have the clarity to recognize the various paths to freedom. In many cases we end up being afraid to leave.
Pray and ask to understand the root of your fear. Is it:
- making the wrong decisions?
- what people may think?
Each of us has our own personal root or roots that we allow to shape, guide, and mold our actions—instead of relying on scripture and our relationship with Christ. The good news is that God does not hold that against us, he will come along side us and be our strength in those weak moments. He will reach out to us as we sink in the waters of doubt.
By asking God to reveal our hearts, we get the opportunity to bring him into our storm, rather than continuing to be overtaken by it.
Problem # 5 : Pain and Discomfort
Growth is a challenging and sometimes painful process. While we often focus on the rewards of growing and moving forward, there are drawbacks, like the times when our growth and healing require us to let go of what was keeping us in place—which can be excrutiating.
In the past, not only did I fear emotional pain, I went to great lengths to avoid it, distract myself from it, and numb it. I had no idea that my actions were feeding my fears and preventing me from addressing, healing, and moving beyond the obstacles that my wounds had put in place.
Part of the growth process is understanding that our lives will require pruning. We will have to get rid of the habits, behaviors, thoughts, mindsets, and circumstances that no longer serve us.
That’s hard to do and I am the first to admit that emotional pain can be absolutely frightening.
But, as we become healthier, there will be people that simply are not able to accompany us on our journey. This is often intensely painful— for them and us. However, once we place our trust in Jesus and the process of becoming whole, we can rest in his strength. Because our flesh will try to take the reigns, we must take our pain and burdens to the only One that is equipped to help us carry them.
The Path Forward
Growth and healing start with us being willing to move down a path that we may be:
- uncertain about
- afraid of
- uncomfortable with
Just like Peter, we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zones—in faith. No matter how anxious we become or how far we sink, we have to be able to hold onto the knowledge that Jesus will not let us drown.