Stop Stuffing Your Stuff

One of the primary ways people avoid dealing with pain is to “stuff it.” So often, when people hurt us, we stuff it down deep in our hearts instead of dealing with it. And when we stuff pain for too long, it finally explodes in one big ugly fit of anger. It took me years to understand why I would explode over some seemingly minor situation that certainly was not sufficient cause for my ridiculous behavior. I now know that the explosions came from many negative emotions I had stuffed deep inside and was refusing to deal with. The incident that seemed to be the problem was just the trigger for the explosion that was hidden and ready to go off at any time.

I was ignoring the real problem and blaming my bad behavior on anything and anyone I could. No matter how spiritual I pretended to be on Sunday at church, my friends and family knew the real me. I managed to ignore the problem for years by making excuses and blaming others, but eventually I had to let God “clean out the refrigerator” so to speak, and get to the root of the problem.

God uses the truth to set us free (see John 8:32), but it is not the truth about someone else that sets us free; it is the truth about ourselves that we need! Facing truth about myself has always been very difficult for me, as well as emotionally painful. But it is also the beginning of my healing. Whatever the truth is, go ahead and admit it. If you’re angry, admit it. If you’re afraid, admit it. If you’re jealous of someone, admit it. Go to God and say, “You know what, God? I know I have a bad attitude. It really stinks and even I can smell it. I want to understand why I have this problem. What is in me? Will you please show me why I have this problem?”

Maybe the Lord will show you immediately what your struggle is. Perhaps you are insecure; maybe you do not know who you are in Christ. You might be comparing yourself to others too often. Perhaps you suffered a major hurt or disappointment years ago and you have not been willing to forgive or allow God to heal you yet. Make a commitment to start being honest and owning our feelings. Refuse to stuff them and immediately stop making excuses and blaming others for your negative emotions. You will probably have to talk to God a lot, and you may even need to seek help from a trustworthy friend or your pastor. But whatever you have to do is worth doing it if it helps you to be free and enjoy life.

Whatever has hurt, angered or offended you, determine today that you are going to go through the pain of facing it and dealing with it. A friend of mine told me recently that when he has a day where he feels depressed, impatient, frustrated, or easily upset, he asks himself what happened the day before that he has not dealt with. He said God almost always shows him something he did not deal with properly, and helps him recognize that as the root of his bad behavior. That is a much better approach than ignoring what you’re feeling, or stuffing your emotions deep inside you.

As believers, we have an enemy. He will oppose us any way he can. He uses our own thoughts and feelings against us. The devil actually sets us up to get upset. He knows we cannot enjoy power if we have no peace. He knows that the love of God cannot flow through us if we are upset. I have heard it said in AA meetings that anger and resentment cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. The devil will always attempt to upset us, but we can learn to stay calm, cool, and collected at all times. Of course, it takes practice and it takes the grace of God. The next time something happens that could easily upset you, ask yourself if it is worth it. Will being upset change anything? Can you afford to waste your energy being upset? Will it distract you from God’s purpose for your life? Every day we are faced with good and evil. We decide which to choose.

Every time we suffer hurts, injustices, or offenses, we need to remember that people are not our enemies. Satan is our enemy. God has given us a secret weapon, one that is sure to defeat the devil and destroy his strategies and plans. You have a secret weapon against the enemy, and he hates it because he knows he cannot stand against it. I call it a secret weapon because most believers completely miss it. Your weapon is your God-given ability to be good to people who offend you. Your flesh may want revenge, but God says press through your pain by repaying evil with good. This is difficult to do when you are in the flesh. When you are emotionally distraught or offended. It is much easier to do if you can train yourself to remain calm no matter what the devil is doing.

We should pray to God for this ability to forgive, to love, and to let go of offenses. We’re instructed in the Scriptures to forgive others no matter what the offense. We need to access God’s blessings and righteousness and forgiveness, remembering that we must also forgive, or we will not be forgiven. Mark 11:25 says, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us? “Seven times?” Peter asked. Jesus answered him, saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times. Every day. Even if it’s the same offense over and over. In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of others.

When you do not think you can obey God’s command to forgive others, all you have to do is say, “God, by Your grace and mercy I am going to be good to that person. I am not going to tell others what he has done to me. I will not speak ill of that person, but I will pray for him, as You want me to. If I see the person who hurt me, I am going to walk right up to him and say hello. I am going to be kind and obey Your word and overcome evil with good.” You may not have warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person who has hurt you, but as a Christian you must deal with your anger in a biblical way. Do that, as an act of your will, and the right feelings will eventually follow.

To me, freedom means I am able to make choices about how I will behave and not be a prisoner to negative emotions. I can act according to God’s word instead of reacting to situations. The devil may be alive and well on earth, but he is not going to control me any longer. He has no right to control you either. God is on our side, and that makes us more than conquerors. So rather than harboring resentments against others and stuffing our anger and disappointment, we need to seek God’s grace in dealing with those negative feelings and letting go of the offense. If we don’t do this, things build up like a pressure cooker, and we explode at what others perceive to be the littlest things. The more we practice this, the easier it gets to accomplish it.

The Problem With Being Offended

Pride keeps you from dealing with the truth. It distorts your vision. You never change when you think everything is fine. Pride hardens your heart and dims the eyes of your understanding. The problem with being offended is you focus on the other person and not yourself. This keeps you from the change of heart that will set you free. Pride causes you to see yourself as a victim. Your attitude becomes, “I was mistreated and misjudged; therefore, I am justified in my behavior.” Because you believe you are innocent and falsely accused, you hold back forgiveness. Though your true heart condition is hidden from you, it is not hidden from God. Just because you were mistreated, you do not have permission to hold on to an offense. Two wrongs don’t make a right!

Jesus said our ability to see correctly is another key to being freed from deception. Often when we are offended we see ourselves as victims and blame those who have hurt us. We justify our bitterness, our unwillingness to forgive, our anger, envy and resentment as they surface. Sometimes we even resent those who remind us of others who have hurt us. When we blame others and defend our own position, we are blind. We struggle to remove the speck from our brother’s eye when there is a plank in ours. It is the revelation of truth that brings freedom to us. When the Spirit of God shows us our sin, He always does it in such a way that it seems separate from us. This brings conviction, but does not bring condemnation.

The Bible speaks a lot about love. There are two main types of love. There is agape love, which is the love of God. The other is phileo, which is defined as the love between friends. Agape love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Agape love does not put itself first, as we do when we are offended and refuse to forgive the offender. Agape love is the love God sheds abroad in the hearts of His children. It is the same love Jesus gives freely to us. It is unconditional. It is not based on how the other person behaves, or even if it is returned in kind. It is a love that gives even when it is rejected. Do you realize that without God’s help and His example, we can only love with a selfish love — one that cannot be given if it is not received and returned? Agape love, however, loves regardless of the response. This is the love that Jesus shed when He forgave from the cross. How could you or I possibly forgive our tormenters as Jesus did?

We have to realize that when we sow the love of God we reap the love of God. We need to develop faith in this spiritual law — even though we may not harvest it from the field in which we sowed, or as quickly as we would like. I came to realize that the love I express unconditionally (which is not a frequent occurrence) is made possible by the Holy Spirit. Eventually, I would reap those seeds of love. I don’t know from where, but I knew the harvest would happen. No longer do I see it as a failure when love isn’t returned from the person I am giving it to. This freed me to love the person even more! If more Christians recognized this, they wouldn’t give up and become offended. Usually this is not the type of love we walk in. Our love is a selfish love that is easily disappointed when our expectations are not met. We need to lower our expectations and increase our acceptance. We will be much happier.

If I have expectations about certain people, those people can let me down. They will disappoint me to the degree that they fall short of my expectations. But if I have no expectations about someone, anything given is a blessing and not a debt owed. We set ourselves up for offense when we require certain behaviors. The more we expect, the greater the potential offense. We construct walls when we are hurt to safeguard our hearts and prevent any future wounds. I offended someone recently and they all but cut me off to avoid being hurt again. We become selective, denying entry to all we fear will hurt us. We filter out anyone we think owes us something. Here’s the thing. Without us knowing it, these walls we build eventually imprison us.

The focus of offended Christians is inward and introspective. We guard our rights and personal relationships very carefully. Our energy is consumed with making sure no future injuries will occur. If we don’t risk being hurt, we cannot give unconditional love. Unconditional love actually gives others the right to hurt us. Love does not seek its own, but hurt people become more and more self-seeking and self-contained. The love of God cannot express itself in this type of environment. An offended Christian is one who takes in life but because of fear can’t release life. As a result, even the life that comes in becomes stagnant.

Get this. When we filter everything through past hurts, rejections and offenses, we find it impossible to believe God about the abundant life we can have through Christ. I read something in a book about Hinduism that if we remain offended by someone in the past and don’t deal with it, our present actions are more driven than they are undertaken. In other words, we lack the freedom to chose how to behave or how to react. Our past chooses for us. If we are offended and in unforgiveness, and refuse to repent of this sin, we have not come to the knowledge of the truth. We are deceived, and we confuse others with our hypocritical lifestyle.

We must come to the place where we trust God and not our flesh or our emotions. Many give lip service to God as their source, yet they live as if they were orphans. They take their own lives in their hands while they confess with their mouth, “He is my Lord and my God.”  I hope by now you see how serious the sin of offense is. If it is not dealt with, offense will lead to death. But when you resist the temptation to be offended, God brings great victory. Of course, we have to adopt a God-like love, the agape love, in order to walk this most difficult walk. The good thing is, we can choose this path anew every day, always coming back to unconditional love, by the grace of God.