Yesterday my husband Ray and I were having a conversation about a relative who has basically gone “no contact” with our entire family, out of hurt and offenses. Although we have done our best to make amends with this person, and to ask forgiveness for any wrongs committed, relationships remain strained. My fervent prayer (daily) is for reconciliation.
I was sharing with Ray how deeply hurt I am over the situation, and Ray’s frustrated response was, “I know it hurts. This hurts me, too. But we can’t wallow in the hurt, Beth! We can’t stay there for the rest of our lives. We need a future!”
I knew Ray was speaking the truth. His word wallow bothered me a lot. The definition of “wallow” is:
- to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed manner (like a pig wallowing in the mud);
- to take unrestrained pleasure in something (like silk sheets);
- to become abundantly supplied (like a family wallowing in sudden wealth);
- to indulge oneself immoderately (like wallowing in self-pity);
- to become or remain helpless.
No, I don’t want to be a victim, wallowing in hurt, anger, and self-pity! I want to be free in Christ. Jesus died for this freedom and for me and those I love to have an abundant life!
Pigs, hippopotamuses, elephants, rhinoceroses, warthogs, and bison instinctively wallow in dirt, mud, snow, or water. They do this for temperature regulation, parasite removal, and sun protection (their skin can get sunburned). They may also rub their scent glands around wallowing areas, possibly to mark their territory.
But as humans, our protection is in God. We can’t control what other people do or don’t do. But we can be responsible for ourselves and our own growth. We don’t have to stay stuck in the devastating hurt, or anger, or confusion. We don’t need to wallow in anything.
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
“For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.” (Psalm 91:3-6, NASB)
In the article, Sitting with your stuff vs. wallowing, Coach Kate Swoboda writes that “wallow” conjures up images of being stuck, hopeless, sad or defeated, and “perhaps even a little pissed,” yet being a total victim and doing very little about making any changes whatsoever.
It’s like you being seated on a plane to fly to your eagerly-anticipated vacation destination, but the plane is still sitting on the tarmac, going nowhere. Or you sitting on a train, yet the train is not moving on the rails.
It’s important not to avoid your “stuff,” since whatever you repress just gets stronger. But blowing up at whoever you’re upset with and telling him or her exactly what you think might not be wise, either.
Kate says the difference between “sitting with your stuff” versus “wallowing” is in the Story. Some stories, like people are generally full of good intentions and do their best, serve you.
But a story that people are just mean and selfish doesn’t serve you well. In these situations where you believe that people are always mean, you might think, “Why does this always happen to me? My life feels like it will never change. It never works out.” You are, yes, wallowing!
In the first story, sitting with your stuff instead of wallowing, you might think, “I don’t like how this feels. I’m so sad. Yet this where I’m at right now. This really sucks. But it won’t last forever.”
Kate encourages us to make space for the parts that make us human (where we might be inclined to wallow, i.e., the emotional pain), but not let it define us. And as my husband Ray said, to not let it be our future.
I personally believe forgiveness is a large part of not letting hurts define us. Forgiveness takes time, God’s power, and our will. It is not an easy or quick fix, but necessary for spiritual growth and maturity.
Understanding our true identity in Christ also helps set us free. No one and nothing else defines who we are: a royal daughter (or son) of the King!
Are you wallowing about anything right now? I encourage you to bring it to God and let Him help heal you so that you can move forward with your life and God-designed purpose. One day at a time.
A good resource to help you with this issue is Coffee with God: Starting Your Day Right With Prayer & The Bible. You can get this encouraging eBook at Amazon here.