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Posted by on May 28, 2015

“I’m much better now, thank you,” she said; “Facebook is such a great therapist.  Where else can you get priceless counsel from dozens of people from all over — and it doesn’t cost a thing?”

Really?  Let’s think about that.

A person having received counseling does not a counselor make.  First, was the counselor any good?  If so, even with sound counsel, what the hearer latched onto may resemble what they were told like a slice of bread resembles rusted rebar.  One unknown therapist remarked, “We are constantly encouraged to attend to the shiny surface of things and to move on when we get a little bored.” 

Painful yet true.  We love to hear the unvarnished truth as long as it’s about somebody else.  When it’s directed at us?  Nope.  Don’t even want to admit it.  Even good people tend to cast around, trying to lay blame everywhere except where it belongs.

There’s a difference between a counselor and a therapist.  Most ordained ministers have a few classes in marital and family counseling, and sufficient experience to gently dispense the most basic kind of counsel.  They can very quickly get in over their heads, though, and the wise ones live by the unofficial-but-very-applicable beatitude:  “Blessed are they who know when to refer.”

Clinically-trained chaplains wade a little deeper in the pool, having the benefit of more sustained training and experience in both counseling and mild therapy.  Even they, however, will readily admit that training and experience gives them a quicker eye to discern when a patient or client requires the services of trained and credentialed psychotherapy.

Facebook does not qualify.  That’s as silly as listing your iPhone as your primary care physician.

I mean, c’mon, people.

Having said all that . . .

You can have therapy enough – real, live therapy – to know what’s happening to you, why it’s happening, why you feel about it as you do, and that you need to accept it in order to move on.  But none of that takes away the hurt or nullifies the damage.  Gandhi once said, “It’s always been a mystery to me how people can respect themselves when they humiliate others.”


I love to spend my quiet time in the mornings taking mental walks between the rows of words in The Message.  It heads a Proverbs 5 passage with, “Never Take Love For Granted”.  Listen to how it starts with verses 15-16.

Do you know the saying, “Drink from your own rain barrel,
    draw water from your own spring-fed well”?
It’s true. Otherwise, you may one day come home
    and find your barrel empty and your well polluted.

I appreciate the translators and writers making this a generic truth rather than a gender-specific one.  I’ve lived long enough and listened to too many stories to ever believe anything dealing in matters of the heart only goes one way.  That’s convenient; but it’s not in the same area code as real.

We all know better.

Be careful how you treat someone else’s heart.  Hearts full of honest intent and affection can overlook a lot and are remarkably tensile.  Yet once betrayed, one’s heart is irreparably bruised, horribly scarred and never again the same toward you.  There’s no reason to expect any different.  “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” (John Steinbeck) 

A mistake repeated more than once just became a decision.  The longer that decision keeps being repeated, the more damage it does.  All the promises and assurances in the world mean nothing; our choices define us all.

Forgiveness must be real and quickly, freely given.  That’s true.  Betrayed, broken trust is another matter.  Forgiveness can be total and rancor gone.  Broken, shattered trust is always going to be that.  Here is where I believe the matter of “forgiving and forgetting” is awkwardly addressed.  You’ve heard, “I’ll forgive but I can’t forget”, and have observed the verbal dogpile.

“If you can’t forget, you haven’t forgiven!”  With respect, you don’t know that because I don’t think you heard the intent behind the words–nor do I think the one saying them said them well.  Others try to explain it with, “You can forget the hurt without forgetting the occurrence.”  I think there’s still a piece missing.

Most of us are barely articulate in the empassioned realization of serious, intentional hurt.  Betrayal and rejection from one of whom you believed better is unforgettable.  It just is.  You may forgive freely and completely, yes.  To heal and move on, you must.

Forgiveness and forgetting are not adversarial.  There must be both.  To openly, unconditionally forgive without remembering why it was necessary is to open yourself up to go right back and make the same mistake again.  It may help you to stop, go back and reread this paragraph a couple more times. 

If something doesn’t work, quit trying it.  Doing more of what wasn’t working and still isn’t working doesn’t work.  Forgiveness is part of the process, but only a part.  Break with old patterns, those set ways that have proven nonproductive and caused the need for forgiveness in the first place.  Turn your back on what isn’t working.  This frees your attention and energy to lock on to new patterns you need to establish that will work for you.

No.  Everything won’t magically go back to the way it was.  It is usually too late for any relationship so traumatized.  You can move forward, but the cast of characters will have changed.  Some personalities are more damaged by such hurt than others; but I know of no one who likes being used, controlled, manipulated and taken for granted.

Trying to force Forgiveness into the role of Fixer of All Else will only frustrate all concerned and put yet more stress on hearts desperately trying to once again experience love to whatever degree it remains available.

There are greater, better things to do with hearts.

 Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it
 because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.   – Proverbs 4:23, The Voice

Can a wounded, scarred heart be sincere and pure again?  Yes, I think so.   That’s part of the healing process.  Yet I believe it will be thus toward someone else.

That’s why I chose today’s title.  I think there’s an unspoken, yet hugely-vital additional truth within that proverb.  Since it’s so important, Solomon said, to diligently guard your own heart, then it seems equally important to guard the heart of those close to you as well.

To get this, understand what ‘guard’ means.  Standing guard over your heart – your affections, your very life – presupposes it’ll be savaged and kicked to the curb if you don’t.  What does it mean, then, to keep a sentry on 24/7 security detail over your heart?

  • Joyfully, positively profile everything – every potential relationship – that approaches it.  Use God’s own guidelines, beginning with Proverbs, to scrutinize all.  Where the wellspring of your life and love is concerned, being politically correct is a fool’s errand.
  • Deny entrance to anything or anyone that poses a legitimate threat.  Some things may be general in nature, but others will be specific to you, to your heart.  You know your own history better than anyone else.  Pay attention to your own details.
  • Only allow in those things that strengthen and provide spiritual, mental, even physical wellness for your heart.

Questions about any of those may be directed to God.  The Bible’s full of a passel of great guidance.  Then, too, the Holy Spirit is flawlessly able to direct your thinking and decision-making.

I’d even recommend Him as the commander for your personal heart sentries.  He’s got a knockout resume and a, ah, mighty impressive track record.

Take care of your heart.

© D. Dean Boone, May 2015

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