Most of us have experienced disappointment at some point in our lives. Someone said or did something to betray your trust-to burn you. Burn is right because the stinging and searing agony can leave damage long after the episode or relationship has passed.
The degrees and depths of the pain from being burned can be as far ranging as the cause.
How do you keep your heart open to others afterward? How do you allow yourself to be vulnerable again after experiencing it being taken for granted?
How do you choose to remain open to love again after repeated disappointments?
Because these are matters of the heart, getting over it can seem easier said than done.
The purpose of this post* is to encourage you to consider keeping an open heart after disappointments. I share three ways you could be unknowingly responding to relational hurt and a crucial step to beginning to turn it around.
I encounter people who feel like giving up or have given up on opening up in relationships, from business to friendships. You might have observed it, too.
You see it in the women who pride themselves only having men for friends.
You watch men whose friendships with other men go no further than competitiveness and shared activities.
You hear the pain and apathy in discourse about romantic relationships:
“Women don’t like good guys.”
“Maybe there is no one for me.”
“All men cheat.”
“Men are no good.”
Three Ways to Close Your Heart
When you approach life based on prevention of wounds, then you are driven more from unresolved pain. You might minimize, avoid, and find ways to overcome emotional scars, due to a tendency of conflating your identity with your emotions and wounds. When you approach life in this regard, we inadvertently close off your hearts using an array of strategies.
Here are three examples of how you might respond to relational disappointment.
1) Build that Wall!
You could be called “Not on my watch” Wanda or Waldo because there is no way you are going to be hurt by anyone ever, ever, ever again.
Did I not say “ever?”
You have built up a wall to impede any possibility of being hurt again.
While it is essential to guard your heart, you have taken it to an extreme. You have created walls to rival the Great Wall of China, whereas, politics aside, President Trump could hire you as a consultant for wall construction.
No one will ever get an inch and go a mile to contribute to you feeling the pain of disappointment because you will not allow anyone inside for a millimeter of space.
What you do not realize is that the walls treated to defend yourself has become self-imposed prisons. Your boundaries occlude your desire for closeness.
You strive to be in more control than Janet Jackson in the eighties and today. You figure that if you can control the variables, chiefly, other people, then, you won’t feel the powerlessness you experience from opening yourself to possible hurt.
You might micromanage and manipulate others to garner your desired outcomes. On the contrary, your unexplored fear compels you to push others around and lash out at people to get your way.
The heart of the matter is that you feel terrified to let your guard down. You feel scared that without trying to control and get your way, you will not have closeness.
In your perception of a dog eat dog world, you think that vulnerability is a one-way ticket to being wounded. You might even pride yourself as an emblem of strength.
Because you perceive vulnerability as a sign of weakness, your relationships lack authenticity and depth of intimacy. You might have a relationship, but over time, like any dictatorship, rebellion is bound to happen.
Even if people choose to walk on eggshells around you for the rest of your life, your weakened sense of self and closed off heart contributes to your perfunctory relationships. As much as you want people to draw closer, you push them away with your incessant controlling behavior.
You play the ultimate game of hide-and-seek, where you are hiding from yourself and others.
With expert cleverness, you find ways to escape into endeavors to mask your pain and fear.
You hide behind work, charity, religious pursuits, family, politics, and community-anything to justify why you should not open your hearts again or more. Perhaps, you look to outward markers, possibly material gain, to feel self-worth. You make excuses that you are too busy for anyone or anything else.
You justify staying in the same place because you claim you do not have the time.
You are right.
By making it a point to crowd your plate, so there is little to no room for risking getting hurt by anyone. You avoid feeling your emotions by keeping yourself preoccupied in service or work or hiding behind belief systems.
Been There Done That
I have occupied each of these roles at different times in my life, and I want you to know that you do not have to remain in any of them. You do not have to allow pain and hurt define your present or future.
Ever met a person who would give you the death stare if you touched her on the shoulder?
Yep, that was me.
Been there, done that, and where in the world did I put the t-shirt?
I used to be closed off to the extent that I cringed whenever someone would touch me. I accepted living as the quintessential “don’t touch me” type as part of my identity.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who practically refused to open up?
I am raising my hand, again, for it used to be like pulling profoundly impacted wisdom teeth with a thread to get me to open up emotionally.
I remember dating a guy, who, bless him, Lawd, sat with me for over two hours trying to get me to open up about some minuscule detail of my life.
In my mind, I knew it was not a big deal, but within my inner terrain, I had a spoon trying to chisel away at the concrete wall I had built up, trying to create an opening for my voice and to let someone inside.
I designated vulnerability and the touchy-feely huggie bear interactions to the weak.
Today, I am a self-proclaimed hugger. I send virtual hugs. I even hug trees!
The fact that I am blogging demonstrates a modern-day miracle for yours truly. Unless you are not a person who has ever closed down shop on your heart, you can relate.
No matter where you fall under these types, whether you are hiding, controlling, or trying to construct a wall around your heart, the “heart” of the matter resides in all the ways you allow pain, wounds, and experiential narratives to occupy the driver’s seat of your life, and more likely than not, you are scared to trust, again.
And the more significant truth is: Your heart is a beautifully wonderful tender space.
As a human, you are designed with a heart of flesh and not stone. If you want to have a heart of stone, forgo humanity and take a daily roll around in a gravel pit for your relationships.
However, you probably do not want to be in a relationship with rocks, stones, and gravel because you were created to be in a relationship with humans.
Willingness and Grace
I want to encourage you, to whom this post applies, to take this one merely profound step in expanding your heart. Just like you make thousands of decisions each day, I believe you can make this decision, as well. I invite you to develop a willingness.
Willingness exists as a crucial step for you to walk with an open heart.
Your will for a freedom to love and to live your true self overrides all the tactics you have learned to keep yourself from experiencing or avoid dealing with hurt. I notice that willingness, openness, and honesty with myself, engender progress.
You can access an abundance of resources available from friends, psychiatrists, gurus, teachers, pastors, psychologists, healers, counselors, coaches to books and online programs to support your growth. However, they offer little to no help if you live in self-deception and an unwillingness to look at yourself.
If even a hint of mendacious fog hovers in your approach self and spiritual development, you render your efforts futile. Your self-dishonesty will impede progress at different turns along the path of salvation or enlightenment.
You do not need to feel guilty for taking time to nurse your wounds and tuck away to heal. You do not have major surgery and then run a marathon the next day.
To this end, one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves is in the title of the blog: grace.
Gosh, I feel like I am ever a student in learning about grace. What would life look like if we were more graciously curious and willing to explore?
If you are not at a place of willingness, then I ask that you do not judge yourself for it, either. Like God, I request that you give grace to where you are in this season of your life. It is your life and your choice. It really is.
Conclusion: Take a Trip
Something otherworldly seems to occur when I choose to risk again that touches on the Divine. Great power lies in deciding to be radically honest about me for freedom and love instead of lying to myself through hiding and putting up walls in fear.
Herein lies real strength from fortitude. Power is not found in how many people I can keep out, it is the challenge of expanding my capacity to hold the peaks and valleys of humanity.
It resides in choosing to allow love to be perfected in my life so that all fear is cast away.
Talk about new life goals.
Doing all things through Christ who gives us strength takes on new meaning.
When we allow ourselves to feel our emotions without attaching the feelings to our identity and very being, our hearts can expand and develop enhanced plasticity.
A number of us live unaware of the possibility to allow ourselves to be human and have human experiences without attachment to our emotions.
It is possible, for, with God, all things are possible.
Such possibilities await us when we elicit boundless curiosity and wonder into our lives.
I am not going to promise you that you will not feel hurt again. Most likely you will in some form because we are human.
On the other hand, when we close off our hearts, we miss out on some of the most amazing experiences and relationships and opportunities to grow.
Life can expand beyond superficial social exchanges we substitute for meaningful relationships.
Life can transform past pursuing ephemeral highs to fill our emotional chasms because you, beautiful being, are worth more than the sum of all your fears.
I desire that you have profound hope. I am giving you a big, loving hug with an unwavering belief that you can let all of your life wounds be part of your testimony.
Knowing that every time you seek to connect with another person has inherent risk, I am standing alongside you, applauding, knowing how scary it can be to open your heart, yet again, or in ways like never before.
I am not standing on my pedantic mountain tops, proclaiming my grand spiritual and emotional arrival. As I continue on my path of awakening, expansion, and awareness, I encourage you to have a willingness-a willingness to expand the journey.
Life is an adventure- a grand journey. You can get out here and take hold of the fullness of it or remain locked in fear because of the possibilities of getting hurt.
I invite you, through God’s grace, to behold this mysterious adventure before you. You might discover that the trip of a lifetime happens to be your life.
* This post does not pertain to severe traumatic experiences or to dealing with sociopaths, narcissists, or psychopaths. Moreover, this post is the expressed opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for counseling, psychiatric care, or advice/support from any professional mental health care provider.