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No one can hurt you without your consent

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Bad things happen to us every day. Obstacles, annoyances, frustrations, disappointments. People don’t do what we had expected them to do. People become belligerent, aggressive or snarky. Would you believe that our willingness to let these circumstances control us which hurts far more than the circumstances themselves? This is very hard for most people to accept. We’ve all had years of experience explaining our misery in the name of someone else’s behavior. Yet we all need to look in a mirror and say, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. I still have choices to make today that can make for a positive tomorrow.”

A nurse once shared this story,

“I am a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable, and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost prayed for his demise.

I have a real problem believing that I’ve chosen my own emotional life of being miserable–there is no way I am buying that. But I kept thinking to myself, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’ When I finally realized that I do have that power, when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.

At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of prison. I wanted the whole world to know, ‘I am free! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.”

It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Of course, things can hurt us physically or financially or cause sorrow. But our character and basic identity does not have to be hurt at all. Our greatest trials in life become the crucibles in which our character is formed and refined as we develop the spiritual muscle and freedom to handle adversity in the future.

Few people faced more disappointments than the Apostle Paul. He said this, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Philippians 4:12. Paul was never dominated by the bad behavior of others. Even in rejection, ridicule and persecution, Paul never let these things define his life—his basic character. He always knew he had choices. When he was chained up unjustly in the darkness of a Philippian jail, he made the choice to start singing hymns and praising God! He learned that by being resourceful and making positive choices, he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. (Philippians 4:13)

Can I admit that self-pity is self-chosen? Have I been blind to the other choices I have in life? Do I blame others for how I feel? Do I choose to abound in every circumstance?


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