If you don’t care for the wounds of your heart, you will always get hooked into bad communication habits. If you do learn how to care for your heart, you’ll find that you get hooked less often. When you do get hooked, you’ll know how to care for your heart to get yourself unhooked and back into healthy dialogue.
For most of what your heart needs to heal, you can take the skills presented here and apply them yourself. You may find that you need help doing so. Fortunately, there are professional helpers, aka counselors, who can help you along the journey if you need it.
Practical Help Caring for Your Heart
Personal Care involves your well-being — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. God addresses the care of these five areas, and exhorts us to rest, moderate our pace and activities, focus on what is lovely and honorable, treat our heart kindly as it is the wellspring of life, and allow our mind to dwell on what is good and worthy of praise.
While we may be good at tending to our well-being, our own heart is often the area most neglected in our lives. Emotional self-care is perhaps the most difficult to understand and apply because our culture’s message teaches us to neglect this part of self: We are told, “Get over it.” and “Be strong.” Displaying or even having emotions is viewed as a sign of weakness. We also learn that “another completes me;” “I will be whole once I’m in a relationship.”
The truth is, we all have emotion, whether we recognize it or not. What most people see is not our true emotion, but our attempt (reaction) to cover up the wounds at our core. Our core (heart) motivates us to react (in body). What we do and what people see, then, is the reaction, not our heart-felt emotion. When we react, we are rarely considerate of our self and likely not considerate of others.
Eventually, when we don’t care for our own hearts, the neglect will manifest somehow. It will show up in one of the other areas of our well-being. When we do not attend to that area, the other areas falter as well—just like one domino falling against the next, resulting eventually in a fully collapsed line of the small rectangular blocks.
Emotional care is critical care. It is life-breathing, life-giving. It is living waters provided by God. Proactive care can happen on a regular basis. It replaces familiar unproductive actions. We keep repeating our old behavior because familiarity breeds security. We are like Israel wanting to return to Egypt and frightened to enter the Promised Land.
When we are triggered by some event, situation, word or phrase, or the actions of someone else, we don’t have to think about how we will react. It just happens; it’s automatic because our brain has literally memorized its defenses by the time we reach adulthood. In adulthood we learn the valuable truth that our defenses don’t always get us what we want. Instead, they take us further away from what we desire.
The good news is God has given us a brain that can memorize healthy, productive responses as well. We are all capable of becoming a new creation, a new person, and delighting in the renewing of our mind. In so doing we are able to eventually leave behind the unproductive reactions. Now we may respond with integrity toward self and others.
Personal care done routinely helps you recognize your intrinsic worth and value. It opens the door for personal and relational growth. It is in your best interest. Others benefit, too, because you are more prepared to be available to them in healthy ways. Now you can respond with your full God-given potential from a heart of abundance.