Softening Our Stony Hearts

Getting hurt hurts. Ironically, healing can hurt even more. Physical hurt, emotional hurt...the painful process is still the same. Step Six of the LDS Addiction Twelve Step Recovery Program highlights this difficult dilemma. It states:

Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses (p. 35).

Frankly, I don't like the term "character weakness" in the context of addiction. It sounds so harsh to me. Addiction, for the most part, runs in families. If our parents and/or grandparents struggled with some form of addiction, then we too will struggle in addictive behaviors or mindsets. In other words, how our parents dealt with pain, so will we--not necessarily because of our personal character flaws but because of what our parents modeled to us. Therefore, I will emphasize the idea of becoming aware of our weaknesses and negative propensities by humbling ourselves before God rather than assumptions about our characters.  And through our humility our healing comes through Christ's atoning power. Nevertheless, our healing is a process and takes years. And letting go of our coping mechanisms for pain and anxiety is also a process.

A couple of months ago, I had a conversation with my stake president. He asked me to define humility and its application in my life. My answer: "I feel I'm humble because I'm not afraid to hear hard truths about myself. I often ask the Lord to show me my weaknesses."  I can testify that humbling ourselves with a willingness to hear and embrace difficult truths about ourselves will eventually strengthen us. The LDS Twelve Step manual underscores this truth:

As you come unto Jesus Christ, seeking help with this step, you will not be disappointed. If you trust Him and have patience with the process, you will see your pride gradually replaced by humility. He will wait patiently for you to weary of your own unaided effort to change, and as soon as you turn to Him you will witness once again His love and power in your behalf. Your resistance to letting go of old patterns of behavior will be replaced by an open mind as the Spirit gently suggests a better way of living. Your fear of change will diminish as you realize the Lord understands the pain and hard work it requires. As the process of coming unto Christ takes hold in your heart, you will find the false beliefs that fueled negative thoughts and feelings gradually replaced by are not beyond His power to heal. The desire to blame others for the condition of your character or to rationalize your way out of a change of heart will be replaced by the desire to be accountable to Him and submissive to His will" (p. 35).

I have found that defensiveness is a form of pride. Those of us who struggle with self-esteem issues know how hard it is to hear criticism about our flaws. (Actually, no one likes to hear less than flattering things about themselves.) However, people who suffer from addiction and/or struggle with insecurity find criticism to be unbearable---making them vulnerable to addiction and/or compulsions to medicate their pain. To mend their broken hearts, they mistakenly harden their hearts into stone. Alongside the stony hearts are great emotional bulwarks of defensiveness. These bulwarks serve to justify addictive mindsets and behaviors. Hence, the stony heart and bulwark becomes an almost impenetrable fortress of pride. The only person who can break in and break down is Jesus Christ--if we allow Him. And letting Him hurts. A lot. No pain, no gain.

President Ezra Taft Benson describes this paradox well:

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in.  The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again" (Conference Report, 1985, p. 5-6, Ensign, 1985, p. 6-7).

As the pain lessens we become stronger. Again, I quote from the manual:

Whether your addiction has been to alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, self-destructive eating patterns, compulsive spending, or another behavior or substance that represents your need to run and hide from stress or challenges in your life, you can come to realize that it all began in your mind and heart. Healing also begins in your mind and heart. As you become willing to be changed by coming unto Jesus Christ, you will learn of His power to heal" (p. 36).

Humility is a choice. Pride is a choice. We have the power to choose. Choosing Christ exponentially increases our power.

Tired of slumming?