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Listening to the Heart

February 21, 2013

Listen-With-Your-heartDisunity isn’t just an issue affecting the Church. All we have to do is look at the divorce statistics to figure that out. We often have difficulty connecting with others, even with those closest to us. What causes that?

Each one of us yearns to be heard and understood. All too often, though, we forget to listen to one another’s hearts.

To listen, really listen, means to risk being changed by what we hear.

And that is often the problem, isn’t it? Particularly within families or marriages… or as John Bradshaw likes to refer to these relationships as “environments of shame.”

learning_to_listenWhen I am asked to minister to troubled couples, the biggest problem they usually face arises from this area of communication. They rarely listen to one another’s hearts. Not only this, they rarely hear the most basic of information being said to them. That is because we all have a filter with which we listen through… an expectation, if you will, that colors all our communications. An older movie, Being There, with Peter Sellers demonstrated this idea perfectly (not recommended for children).

In the movie, Sellers played the part of an intellectually handicapped but very well dressed, well mannered gardener. Consequently, you might not notice the handicap immediately if you did not know this about him. Because he inadvertently ends up in the household of a very rich and influential man, everyone supposes he is somebody important. Because of this, by the end of the show, his simple ramblings about gardening are misconstrued as great wisdom worthy of putting him in the political race for the presidency. In this case, the filter these hob-nobbing people were listening through was political ambition. They have been trained to get close to important people for the purposes of personal promotion. But the head of the household and his wife were listening to Seller’s character from a place of emotional need. She was a lonely wife with a dying husband hungry for romance, and her husband was looking at life from a different perspective in his dying stages, so the simplistic views of the handicapped man were comforting. As such the President of the USA both used Seller’s advice in a public appearance while simultaneously feeling threatened by him. The idea for part of this movie was, its not what you know but who you know that matters. And for the other part, people are so self-focused, if you can fill a need in their lives, if they are important, you can really go places.

Why is it so typical for people to hear what they want to hear? For one, people are basically only focused upon themselves. This is caused by various psychological and societal factors that is a topic for another article.  But in a nutshell, this emotional filter they are listening through they are often listening to any evidence of challenges to (or affirmations of) their worth.

You see, most people have not yet disengaged from using other people as their mirrors. People once served as our mirrors during childhood. They helped us gauge the rightness or wrongness of our actions. However, our interactions with others taught us a lot more than how to treat others or what was and was not socially acceptable.

We formed our identities based on these interactions!

Broken-GlassOur beliefs about who we are and what we are worth were formed by how well we believed that were received by others. Our own appraisal of ourselves determined what the truth was. This is referred to as the “reflected appraisal process.” Unfortunately, children often misinterpret the truth of a situation and make poor judgments about their worth or identity as a result.

But if the criticism from “our mirrors” was harsh  or if it came to us with the threat of abandonment, humiliation, or loss, our perception of our worth was challenged and our hearts often wounded in the process. So what does this have to do with becoming a better listener?

Well, when people are in conversation with others and they hear anything which touches on an old wound or resembles a blow they received to their self-esteem or identity, they will perceive a threat to their worth. This will frequently invoke a defensive reaction and their ability to listen to others with maturity and with an open heart will be completely lost. Often what ensues is a wounded reaction or a cycle of blaming and accusing will commence.

When you listen are you waiting to judge, dismiss, or find some point of contention? Do you have a habit of subconsciously gathering evidence to prove that you are right and others are wrong? Do people’s discussions tend to get turned around and end up being about you? Then it is possible that you are still allowing others to be your mirror. You likely have a wound in your heart that needs to be healed and you are not truly convinced of your worth.

Sadly, most people suffer from one or more painful wounds and doubts about their worth. This is the biggest detractor from maturity, inner peace, and relational harmony or Christian unity than any other thing. Unfortunately, we cannot convince ourselves of our true worth without first being healed and transformed. That is the crux of my ministry’s message. But Jesus Christ can help! Jesus wants to be your mirror. He will:

  • Reflected RoyaltyHeal your wounds:
    • Because He is God, He can heal them instantly, without decades spent on a counselor’s couch.
  • Erase your shame;
  • Help you to become more vulnerable by allowing you lean on His strength rather than your own;
  • Freely give you a sense of your priceless value, a value He gave you  without needing to earn it;
  • Teach you how His adoption of you gave you a royal heritage and identity.

God made human beings in His Image, so He made everyone of us with the need to look to Him as our mirror. We are transformed in His loving and approving gaze, as follows.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory… (2 Corinthians 2:18a)

If you are a Christian, you may be agreeing with me right now. You already realize that all of this can be obtained by being born again and then reading the Bible. Unfortunately, this, alone, does not always bring about the quick healing or maturity that one needs to walk in total peace, harmony, and wholeness. If it did, then the churches would not be full of people who have been Christians for decades who can still be heard in their neighborhoods screaming obscenities at their family members, getting divorces, or taking medication for depression.

[For those of you who are not born again, to be born again, we merely have to open our hearts to Jesus in that all-important first step of faith or trust. That is simple to understand, isn’t it? Trust is required for any new relationship to begin!]

The subsequent learning that is required for full transformation to take place is much quicker to be obtained by attending a non-shaming Church and engaging in Bible studies with people who are there to affirm and build others up rather than tear them down in judgment.

shame-on-you1It also helps to find a church that believes healing the heart rather than one that invariably ends up shaming others into submission. (Although some people respond well to shame, shaming does very little to help people and actually does more harm in the long run).

But tragically, even many of your more loving, “grace” churches fail to have programs that bring healing to the heart. They often believe in the strategy of suppressing and denying their pain with Scriptural truths rather than dealing with the pain honestly, openly, and compassionately. Of course, God’s word never returns to him void, but there is a faster way to be transformed.

Unfortunately, knowledge to heal the heart is not readily available to every pastor or church organization. Consequently, those that want to help are frequently not always sure of how to help. That is why many people inadvertently end up getting hurt even in the best of churches. Sadly, in most churches very little attention is being paid to this area of emotional healing. That is where I would like to help.

Nelson_Transformation_R3-2If you need help healing from your wounds and understanding the Bible better so that you can quickly be healed and transformed, I recommend that you read ACCELERATED TRANSFORMATION: MATURITY, INTIMACY, AND UNITY THROUGH EMOTIONAL HEALING by me, Tracey Nelson, M.Ed. You can find it here normally – But for now, during website construction, please go to (see below)…!goals instead. Thanks.

I will also come to your organization or church to train people such as your pastoral staff or whomever is interested in setting up a healing and transformation program. You may contact me at Currently, I have a limited number of openings to coach/mentor people individually into wholeness. But if I am not available, I can connect you to someone who is.

In the meantime, try to become a better listener. Try not to listen with your wounds. Put yourself on the shelf while you listen to your loved ones and those with whom you interact. Assess your conversations to see if you turned the subject around to be about you or if you really listened. Then determine what it was about that conversation that made you need to do that. If you react to something said, analyze the interaction and maybe you can find out where that wound originated from in the past or how the words spoken to you seemingly challenged your worth or value. Take that discovery to the Lord and ask Him to heal you.

I pray that this information has been of assistance to you and will make you a better listener.

If it has, will please let me know in the comments, below? Feel free to share this helpful article with others by using the buttons below. Don’t forget, you can sign up for email reminders when I post new articles on this blog by using the subscribe button in one of the columns to the right.

Thank you for reading and God bless!


© Tracey Nelson

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute my words in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document is required. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by The Spotless Bride Ministries. Not everything in this article is owned by the author, so please give credit where credit is due to those quoted or other elements shared and seek proper permission from those authors, artists, and composers when necessary. Thank you.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Tracey Nelson, M.Ed., author Accelerated Transformation , © February 20, 2013. Website: The Spotless Bride Blog (Some images, songs, & videos not owned by author).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peyton permalink
    November 15, 2014 1:09 am

    How can a person who was saved as a teenager, and then rededicated their life as an adult, be put through so much emotional pain from being rejected because of not being the most prettiest girl, an overweight body, having harsh comments being bestowed by loved ones and others in their life as a young woman keep a healthy outlook at life? A person can only take so many negative comments until they start believing what is said as true. I have been told that “you have such a pretty face, though”, and then leaving me believing my body is then not up to par or good enough. When this chronic negativeness keeps occurring in one’s life, the person actually becomes numb to those comments and then retaliates with hurtful, nasty sarcasm to protect their hurt. Then others start saying how they are mean and bitchy and really deep down they have crushed souls. I believe Jesus was sent to earth as a man so He could experience and feel what “physical” and “emotional” pain was. I am getting healed of my wounds of my soul, but it will be a continuing process of accepting myself as God accepts me unconditionally, and to still have love for those who continue, be it intentionally or unintentionally, to choose to insult my personhood. That is why I am tenderhearted to the “under-dogs” of society because I feel their pain which can and is under God’s healing ways.

    • November 18, 2014 9:34 pm

      Hi Peyton. Thanks for sharing your heart.

      Your pain is valid. You were sinned against. It was wrong and you have my heartfelt sympathy. God did not intend for to be attacked. He made you in His glorious image (Gen. 1:27-28). Consequently, He is being attacked, too. What you are facing is spiritual warfare in an epic battle between good and evil. But you can be healed and restored to glory. Keep watching for upcoming articles about that (maybe sign up for updates).

      You asked how you can keep a healthy outlook. Looking at the bigger picture can make us wise to the strategies of the devil so we can get the upper hand and be victorious.

      Here is what is happening…

      The enemy uses shame to perpetuate his campaign of destruction against us. Like a germ from a physical disease, shame spreads from one person to the other. You gave a perfect example of this. When your pain is touched upon through an insult or dirty look, as you so bravely shared, it releases your pain back out onto others. Of course, this is done in defense of your life; in an effort to protect yourself from the horrible pain associated with this “murder of the soul.” It may surprise you to know that we have a perfect right to protect our lives in this way. No one is charged with murder if they kill someone in self defense.

      So then why are we told in the Bible to “turn the other cheek?” Two reasons: 1) Retaliation is how shame and death spreads from person to person; and 2) We are transformed into Christ’s Image when we don’t retaliate. This is what helps to restore us to glory in a sinful world. It is part 2 of God’s plan for healing us and ultimately defeating the devil.

      When Satan triggers someone else’s pain and shame to strike out against us, he is able to trigger us to strike out in return. By turning the other cheek, it ultimately takes the control (and death) out of Satan’s hands. Knowing the strategy used by the enemy to destroy the world sort of helps us to have greater compassion and love for those who insult and shame us (because they, too, are just reacting in or attacking out of their own pain and shame), as follows:

      “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

      I like to think of our pain and shame like a puppet string in Satan’s hand. All he has to do is give it a jerk and he has effectively used it to unleash death and destruction upon those around us. Typically, we will also run to comforting substances like food or alcohol afterwards to self-medicate.

      Here is one example how Satan gets control over people. When a person turns into an alcoholic as a result of self-medicating, it can cut their lives short and make them a poor parent and/or spouse; again, perpetuating shame upon their families due to the neglect they must suffer. Shame can keep us from reaching our glorious potential, too. People tend to check out of life due to drunkenness or because they are too shy or ashamed to advance themselves forward due to their obesity. Sometimes they are just too anxious or depressed to work up the energy or to take the risk.

      So, how do we get restored to glory?

      As you know, scripture teaches us that all have sinned and fallen short of glory. Being born again restores us back to that original place. But this is only the first step to our restoration process. Since God created us in His image, we must seek to become like Him. However, we can’t be like God if we don’t know who He is. So who is God, anyway? Among other things, God is love (see I John 1:8). Love isn’t something God does, it is the very essence of who He is.

      When Adam and Eve sinned and got disconnected from their “Image Maker,” love quickly began to grow cold in the heart of humanity and narcissism (self-obsession) increased. Cain’s jealousy demonstrated this when he killed his brother. (Cain was experiencing shame all on his own without any help. We can do that, too.)

      Human psychology proves that children must see their image makers in order to know who they are. Without the ability for human beings to see their Father in action (due to their separation from Him caused by sin), they don’t know who they are. So, God sent Jesus to demonstrate for us love incarnate so we would learn who our Father is, who we are, and how to act. Then He removed the stain of sin against us so we could start with a clean slate every day as we practiced being like our daddy (running to the Throne of Grace for help in our time of need).

      Finally, I think it is important to point out that we actually have a choice in what we will allow shame and pain to do to us. We can choose to let people’s words or our own shaming thoughts get the better of us by allowing them to murder our soul. when we become more defensive, self-obsessed, and hardhearted, we are allowing our souls to be murdered. We are rejecting God’s help and taking control of the situation. Or we can let God use this situation to dig deeper wells of love in our hearts. Your words, “That is why I am tenderhearted to the “under-dogs” of society because I feel their pain which can and is under God’s healing ways” demonstrated perfectly how God can make “all things work together for our good,” even the bad things. You are becoming more like Him; more loving.

      Hopefully, in recognizing that there is a campaign of the devil to destroy even the lives of those who insult you, you will eventually be able to help rescue your enemies by laying down your life for them as Christ laid down His for us. Then trust God to resurrect you to new life by healing your pain through His righteousness and glory.

      I am not saying just grin and bear it either. You don’t want to spend much time in your pain due to its destructive effects on your health. So try to utilize strategies like talking to your Father by journaling about your pain to help you get through. There are many other effective strategies to help as well.

      Some things to ask yourself as you journal are: 1) What part of me do I feel like rejecting right now? 2) What am I tempted to do about it? 3) Is this a healthy or destructive? 4) If destructive, what is an alternative I can choose? 5) Am I believing a lie or the truth about myself, God, others, or this situation? 6) What is the truth about this? We know the truth by what is found in Scripture. 7) Pray and ask God to speak to your heart or to touch you in some way. Be sure to be still, wait, and listen.

      If you get nothing, spend some time listening to healing music and just allow God to love on you while you meditate on the “whole armor of God” (see Ephesians 6:11-18). This was given to you to help you stand up to these attacks. When you get up, you will be refreshed.

      Finally, you can will want to write down on 3×5″ index cards what Scripture says about who you are in Christ (look up those italicized words on Google to get a list). On the front, you can write down the lie you usually believe about yourself and put some of the most significant ones on your mirror and refrigerator to serve as a reminder to take those lying thoughts captive any time you think about them and profess the truth instead.

      For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

      We must daily put on the robe of righteousness. This is also the armor we are to wear over our heart so it is protected from shame. Don’t forget His glory, too. He is your glory. He wishes to bring you honor and value. When you can meditate on these two things, His righteousness and glory for you… particularly the fact that His death for you was a demonstration of your value and worth to Him, then you will be healed. It may help to listen to this short audio and songs to understand His glory for you (click the audio player on the bottom of the list).!videos

      God bless you, Peyton, and please feel free to come back and tell me how you are doing with this. I will be praying for you.

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