How to Open Your Heart After it has Been Hurt

Apr 17, 2013 | Sufism

In the last article on how to protect your heart, you learned that the solution for protection is not to build walls, but to live in the deep place in your heart that holds your essential goodness and purity and is connected completely to God.

But as you know, unless you are made of stone, the actions of other people or events often leave the pain of hurt or betrayal. You have a close friend and that friend suddenly says something cruel. You have a spouse who leaves you for someone else.

If you are like most people, your first response is hurt and anger. That anger then grows to resentment and the thoughts of betrayal circle in your brain over and over.  It is like digging a ditch deeper and deeper with a belief that there is no way out. “I will never trust again, I will never love again.”

But the Sufis teach us that the way through pain is to see through the eye of your heart, that deep place inside that is connected to God.  Seeing through the eye of your heart involves looking past another person’s actions, and seeing what wound they hold that may have caused them to act in a hurtful way.  It involves seeing how Allah may be moving us closer to Him through the painful event.

Nancy was a client of mine who was struggling with Joan, another person who was part of her “crowd.”  She was angry that whenever they were at an event together, Joan would ignore Nancy.  Nancy believed that everything would be “fine” if Joan just disappeared, because then Nancy would be comfortable with her crowd.   When Nancy was helped to look at Joan through the eye of her heart, she saw that Joan lived with a lot of fear and Joan’s actions were not about Nancy. Having this new understanding, Nancy was not only able to forgive Joan, but could act toward her in a helpful, new way.

When you learn to look even deeper with the eye of your heart, you begin to understand the wisdom of the poem by St John of the Cross, that everything that happens, happens because Allah’s loving hand is moving you closer to Him.  In the midst of pain this can be difficult, but the more you turn toward trusting in God’s desire for your goodness, the easier it becomes.  Maggie came in after her husband of ten years left her.  She was angry and her heart was closed.  She did not know how she could ever trust or love again. As she looked at the situation deeper, she realized that she had been deeply unhappy in her marriage for many years but had been afraid to leave. Her husband was a heavy drinker and liked to party which left Maggie lonely and unhappy.  She began to understand that since she was too afraid to leave, this could be Allah’s way of freeing her to pursue the more wholesome life she wanted. She started to pursue the spiritual practices that he had criticized and judged her for and her heart opened.

As you move away from seeing the events in your life from the small perspective of the self, and seeing it from the bigger perspective of Allah’s goodness,  your heart learns to open again and again, in the face of any pain or hurt.