Reframing Painful Memories Helps Us Move Forward with Confidence
Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Hurts and hardship can be the stepping stones that help us ascend to great heights, or they can be the heavy weights we carry, making each step forward painfully difficult.
The difference is in how we frame painful memories.
We all have times in our past that still hurt when we think about them. Maybe somebody hurt you or was indifferent to your pain. Perhaps the thought of it makes you wince or shudder, or tear up.
We remember bad times more easily than good ones, so chances are, you have many bad memories and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on how you frame it.
It's common to think about the times we've been hurt as something that was done to us. We were attacked, belittled, devalued. We focus on the injustice. We focus on how it made us feel, which was likely victimized. When we recall the memory and focus on these things, we feel like victims again.
We feel weak when we're attacked so we feel weak when we think about the memory. Even though we may have experienced the attack years ago, that feeling of weakness bleeds through into our current daily lives.
We see ourselves through the lens of our memories so if we think about ourselves as weak because we were attacked, we'll feel as though that's just who we are.
So it's important to reframe these memories. When we do that, we'll begin to see that these bad experiences have actually prepared us to do the hard things that require strength and endurance.
Follow this exercise to learn how to reframe the memories that make you feel like you're not enough into memories that confirm your strength.
1. Choose a specific memory that still hurts. This time, when you think about what happened, consider what you had to have had inside of you to get through that moment and the days, months, or years that followed.
Think about the strength that it took to endure. The endurance it took to face another day. The faith it took to believe that God still has a future for you. The forgiveness it took to release the burden.
What attributes did you have that brought you through that difficulty? What powerful characteristics had God instilled within you to be able to wake up the next day and move forward? Take a moment and ask God what He gave you to push through?
List as many as you can and then choose one that seems to be the biggest. Now, when you think of that memory, make sure that you think about yourself in that moment as strength, hope, perseverance, faithful, courageous, bold- whatever it was that you were in that moment or the moments that followed. That's how you must remember that time moving forward.
2. Think about where God was in that moment.
God was with you. Often, we remember the terrible things that happened to us and we omit God from the picture because unconsciously, we usually think about God only being in the good things, unless we're angry with Him for letting it happen.
But He was there. He was hurting because you were hurting and He loves you. Ask God to show you where He was.
What was He doing? Was He wiping away your tears? Was He holding you up? Was He wrapping His arms around you? Was He carrying you? Ask God what He was doing in that moment. Let Him give you an impression.
When you think of this memory in the future, include God in it. Think about what He was doing to support you, to help you, to love you.
3. Think about where else God was in that moment.
God was also with the person who hurt you. This is another thing we don't think of when recalling a painful memory. God loves the person who hurt you.
God chose to give us all free will. That means that He won't control people so that they don't hurt others or so they love others properly. But God continually pursues each of us, inviting us to become the person He created us to be- a person who loves everybody.
Think about what God was doing with the person who hurt you? Did He have His hand on the person's head; was He ministering to him? Was He loving that person in the way that her parents didn't? Was He working on softening that person's heart?
Is there an overarching theme to your painful past?
In Step #1, you thought about the attribute that you had inside you that brought you through that painful time.
What was the thing that brought you through the other hurtful moments in your life?
Was it the same as the first memory you thought about? Are you seeing a pattern? Has it always been strength, or courage, or love, or faith? What was your one thing?
If you've found your one thing, then assign yourself that name.
I am... Overcomer.
I am... Unshaken Faith.
I am... The One Who Perseveres.
I am... ___________________.
When you recall those memories, know that the star of those memories is called by a new name, the one God has shown you through this. Picture God in that memory, doing what only He can do.
Think about your future and the role you were created to fill.
How have these hurtful times prepared you to walk into greater things? Knowing what you know now, do you have greater confidence that you can boldly accomplish all the important things that God has created you to do?
I'd love to hear from you! What is your new name, and how have you been equipped to move boldly into your purpose? Tell me all about it in the comments section!
Next week, I'll be talking about 5 Reasons to Embrace Waiting to Live in Your Purpose at Own Your Victory. Don't miss it!