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Are You Mending or Molding?

Ever felt your heart break?

What was the cause?

What was the physical sensation like?

How long did it last?

Did you feel the intensity taper away?

Did it taper away?

How often does that feeling hit you?

Not too often I hope.

The reality is that most of us do experience the sting of heartbreak, sometimes often. Be it a failed relationship, infidelity, rejection, death of a loved one. I’m sure we have all been there.

In an article published in April 2020 by the University of California’s Department of Psychology, a series of four studies revealed that 82% of the overall 4,381 participants (average ages 19-48 years old) experienced heartbreak at some point in their lives, despite their demographics and personality characteristics. This and other empirical research on this topic investigates and proves what we already believed to be true: that heartbreak happens often. So, while we would probably all agree that it’s common, the real question is how do we respond to it? Physically, emotionally, mentally… what do we do when we have a broken heart?

I remember when my dad left my mom, sister and me. I was five or six (jury’s still out on the actual timing of it all) but there are some parts of that day that I can still see vividly today at 40. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I do remember where I stood when my dad broke the news. I don’t remember exactly how he artistically arranged the words in his sentences to create this solemn ballad in my heart that would serenade me for many years to come; but I do remember him walking out of that door. I remember thinking.. oh my GOD, this is the last time I’ll live with my daddy ever… and it was. I remember sobbing like a baby and just feeling empty. I remember feeling that same emptiness for years after that. And I also remember when I started to push those feelings away. I was a kid and the heartbreak was unbearable. So I pushed them away.

For me, heartbreak - regardless of the cause - always felt like my heart was hit with a hammer and literally shattered in several pieces of sharp glass. My entire upper body would begin to tingle. My heart would beat noticeably faster. And my breathing would get a little more shallow. All I knew to do, then, was to wrap it up in a box (suck it up) and push it to the side (pretend like it didn't exist)… out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, right or wrong, it made sense to me. And it worked. I was able to bury that box in a vault miles below the surface of my heart and cover it up with all kinds of phony.

When I reflect back, I wonder how I was even able to fool myself for as long as I did because my behavior told the story. If anyone was paying attention, they might have been able to see it as well, to some degree. The sadness. The apathy. The lack of self love. Lack of self awareness. The list goes on. Point is: I was heartbroken. But instead of mending, my five or six year old mind chose molding, and I paid the price for a lot of years. Here’s the difference between the two.

To mend - to return to health; heal. To improve.

To mold - to form or to give a shape to.

Mending a broken heart is a spiritual act of faith because we can’t actually heal anything lest it be by the power of God. Molding, however, is a physical act of skill; one in which we have full control and can improve with practice.

Mending requires patience and results in the repair or healing of the heart. Molding also requires patience as it forms and shapes our experiences; but it is hollow by itself. Nothing of substance is found on the inside, it just looks good on the outside. There’s no healing, no fixing. It’s just hard. Yet, it can still crack. So what’s the point after all?

I tell the story of my parents separation (and subsequent divorce) because that’s the first heartbreak I remember. It also happens to be THE heartbreak that set the precedence for how I would respond to other heartbreaks in my life. By molding.

It was not until I was blessed with children of my own that I truly understood - from a maturing mind - how my five or six year old level of emotional intelligence followed me into adulthood because it was underdeveloped. The same warped thinking that hid the pain in a box, in a vault miles below the surface of my heart, was still trying to mold my adult self into this hollow, apathetic image that would act out of duty rather than true grace and freedom. The hollow me (who existed not very long ago, with remnants of her still remaining today) experienced heartbreak as destructive and defective, instead of embracing the opportunity for growth. Guess it’s no wonder why my healing was prolonged in that area; I simply avoided it.

In the 2020 study published by the University of California, researchers concluded that the participants who experienced a broken heart and showed low levels of attachment security (such as anxiousness and avoidance) actually perceived their experiences as a deficiency. While on the other hand, those who showed high levels of attachment security were the ones who perceived their heartbreak as an opportunity for character growth. Once again, science articulates God’s truth - that the narratives we are writing and living out in our worlds subconsciously truly do matter. And they largely impact our heartbreak experience.

I decided a while ago - as tough as it can sometimes be - to consciously choose mending (and to teach my children how to tackle those strong feelings as well). Among other things, that decision led me here telling you this story of my first heartbreak, because this is part of my mending process. I embrace this opportunity for growth. Because the reward of true healing is better than the illusion of it.

So, what are we telling ourselves when our hearts are broken? It may be time for us to work on toning our "mending" muscles. May we remind ourselves when heartbreak hits that: “I am loved. I am going to grow through this. And I will be better because of it.”


The only way out is through. ~ Robert Frost


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