“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” With maturity comes the revelation that familiar childhood chant just isn’t true. The sting of negative, hurtful words can scar a person and burn low self-esteem, negativity and despair into the very soul.
When learning standard first aid protocol for physical burns, the first rule is: stop the burn.
If your arm were burned by steam as you reached over top a pot of boiling water, you first need to stop the burn. Immediately remove your arm from the source of heat.
This stops any more heat from further burning the skin. But did you know your skin will continue burning from the heat already on the skin?
To completely stop the burn, you need to run your arm under cool water to reduce the skin temperature. The burn you have already sustained keeps hurting and damaging until it’s been cooled.
You must stop the burn.
What about spiritual burns?
When someone has hurt us, and although maybe we’ve distanced ourselves from the initial burn, the memory of what was said or done continues to burn in the mind.
We need to cool off and forgive.
Sometimes, really hard.
Sometimes, seemingly impossible.
Yet, if we want to preserve ourselves, we must not allow the memory of the pain to burn anger into our very souls.
How can we reduce that white-hot temper?
- We distance ourselves from the source, at least temporarily.
- We care for the wound by speaking truth to ourselves by reading God’s word.
- We seek to cool the burning wound by forgiving the offense.
Sometimes that process takes more time than we think it ought. But while we are slowly progressing through the steps, we are healing.
And, just as the skin eventually heals, we know God can heal our hearts and help us to forgive so we may stop the burn.
“Do not le the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26b- 27 (NIV)