Pain is one of life's greatest teachers.
It only takes touching a hot stove once for a child to learn to avoid doing that again. Some of the lessons that pain teaches us are really that obvious and that quick to master.
Most of the time, though, I've found them to be a bit more complicated.
The times of greatest brokenness in my life often present two potential lessons for me to learn—one grounded in fear and one grounded in love.
Like the lesson a hot stove teaches, fear-based lessons are often my first response to pain.
I focus on questions like: How do I keep this from happening again? How do I keep myself safe from this kind of pain in the future?
Those lessons can be helpful and important in teaching us how to be more discerning in future choices, but they can also very easily tip over into unhealthy over-protective mechanisms that hold others at a distance to give us a false sense of security.
My own times of brokenness have given me both helpful lessons in discernment that have served me well and some not-so-helpful lessons that easily lead me into isolation and over-protective walls, if I'm not careful.
On the other hand, my experiences of brokenness have also taught me lessons of love. I've seen how easy it is for us to deeply wound those around us with careless words and decisions from the receiving end of those blows.
Experiencing that kind of pain myself has made me more committed to using greater care in how I treat others to do my best not to contribute further to the brokenness of the world around me.
That has been a driving force in pushing me to deal with a lot of my own emotional baggage to reduce the triggers that cause me to lash out unthinkingly. It's driven my quest for personal growth and health in the wake of life's broken places so I have more to offer others.
Even more than I want to avoid feeling the pain of brokenness myself (a fear-based reaction), I want to do all that I can to avoid being the instrument that brings the pain of brokenness to others (a love-based reaction).
The challenge comes when those two goals become hopelessly intertwined. How do we make the best choices when protecting ourselves from pain may cause pain (or at least disappointment) for others?
There are no easy answers, but I have found that assessing the degree to which fear or love are contributing to my decision is a helpful guideline.
The more that the gentleness of love for others and myself is contributing to my choices, the more likely they are to be healthy for all involved (even if it involves disappointment or hurt for one or both parties involved).
The more that the harshness of fear of my own future pain is contributing to my choices, the more likely it is that those choices will be ones that I later regret for the brokenness they cause.
The key is learning to clearly and honestly recognize the difference between these two motivators in the moment. (Fear has an uncanny ability to disguise itself, if we aren't watching carefully!)
I'm still working on this one, and I still have so much more room to grow, but learning to watch my own motivations for love and fear and to make my choices accordingly may be the greatest lesson of kintsugi gold that I have taken away from the broken in my life because it drives all of the other lessons.
How have lessons of fear and lesson of love shown up in the wake of your own times of brokenness in life?
How well do you distinguish between love and fear as you make choices?
How do you move toward love when fear raises its head?
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