By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri
(Part 3 of 10 from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?”)
God sees through heaven’s eyes — an infallibly gracious perspective. Until you and I are with Him, our objective is to cultivate peace in our lives by sowing grace. That means, we abandon our need to build a case, bond over pain, or establish sin-skewed identity by talking about — or through — the ways we have been wronged.
Shortcomings of getting our peace from others
At the core of talking it through is the goal of reaching peace by having someone understand why we are upset. We want to keep talking to get our version of reality validated or justified. This often takes the form of getting my peace from the person who upset me. When talking it through does not lead to peace and feelings of being understood by the person we feel upset us, we turn to our allies to find our peace. Reaching peace through my group of allies requires discussing the details of who upset me and why.
We will talk without peace regardless of who we are telling about our upset. Our pain spreads to a new person — the listener. We keep talking until the listener shares our upset and brings us peace. Those are somewhat opposite expectations. Peace is often poorly reached. Frequently, others do not see things the way the hurt or upset person does. Even when talking it through succeeds, the peace we receive doesn’t last long or withstand the next occurrence of the same problem.
God flat-out tells his people not to get their peace from others and not to speak while they lack peace. Talking without peace is a violation of Colossians 3:15 AMPC, which tells us that peace should be the referee (βραβεύω) that stops our interactions when peace is missing. We talk when we have peace. We stop talking when we don’t have peace. Talking it through is all about talking while we lack peace. Only when we are first validated and comforted by the peace of God’s perspective are we ready to talk through hard things.
Shortcomings of seeking agitation as a good thing
When God’s will is not done on earth, we hurt, creation groans, and pain is felt in heaven. Although the popular theologian Eric Clapton proclaims there are no tears in heaven, this is not the case. St. John tells us of his visit to heaven. “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. Then I began to weep greatly and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold …'” (Rev 5:4-5 NAS).
Although in heaven, John saw painful things through the eyes of earth. An elder needed to help him see things through the eyes of heaven. While John saw things through the earth’s eyes, he was distressed and agitated. When he saw the same painful truth through heaven’s eyes, he had shalom with his pain. Seen through the eyes of earth, pain becomes agitating. Seen through heaven’s eyes, pain becomes shalom, and the agitation disappears. Peace does not mean it hurts any less or that we become indifferent.
The brain’s amygdala is very prominent when we are using the eyes of earth. People who have been ignored by family, friends, and communities with weak attachments — oblivious to the importance of connecting with others — or experienced predatory behavior from family and neighbors have seen calmly cold eyes. Some of these cold people are sociopaths while others are simply having sociopathic moments as they seek to win control over children, family, and friends. They are really calm perpetrators who are operating in intelligent enemy mode. If we could scan these calm predators to measure their level of physiological arousal, their nervous system would appear to be calm and undisturbed. The amygdala of their target, however, is anything but calm. The target correctly perceives the predator’s calm reactions to their terror and suffering as uncaring with evil intent. So, when someone later approaches with genuine peace, the eyes of earth amygdala mistakenly calculates that “evil is headed my way.” Our amygdala and the eyes of earth cannot tell the difference between this cold and indifferent response to their pain and the peacefulness of shalom.1
From the eyes of the earth perspective, if people do not get upset, they do not care. Their amygdala cannot tell the difference between someone who is peacefully caring and the seeming emotional indifference of (simple or intelligent) enemy mode states. Even God seems unloving because God does not get agitated and immediately stop the world to do something about things that hurt us. For many people looking through the eyes of earth, God’s peace (seeing through the eyes of heaven) appears cold and indifferent to their pain. They conclude God does not care.
Through earth’s eyes, the amygdala considers it a good sign when people get upset. Upset people must care. This reaction brings to light a third form of enemy mode, “stupid enemy mode.” People in stupid enemy mode become very upset, often about something small. Then, they find allies in others who become upset about the same kinds of things. Agitated people tolerate stupid enemy mode. Sharing painful stories and watching who gets upset tests for “safer” people who share our agitation. The solution is to increase the intensity and try to get others upset. The eyes of earth now seek to “share” pain with the people they can upset. They talk it through together, sharing that upset as a way to attach to what the amygdala views as “good people.”
But the agitation test has a huge downside to finding good people. Talking it through means, we must spread our lack of peace — eyes of earth perspective — to others and require them to use their eyes of earth perspective in return. A shared lack of peace becomes how we feel loved and understood. However, after a while, the amygdala of our listeners will begin to see us as “bad” and feel targeted by our desire to see them upset. People do not like feeling upset. They do not appreciate their care and comfort being tested by intentional efforts to bring them distress. People develop defenses and an aversion to those who keep bringing upset their way. Instead of creating a secure attachment and a peaceful identity, this produces disorganized attachment.
The eyes of earth contaminate attachment to good people by spreading agitation, distress, and upset from one good person to another. Talking things through, they upset each other, so the person looking to be understood brings agitation instead of life. This lowers joy.
Through the eyes of heaven, still waters run deep. Because He deeply cares and understands, God shares shalom with the pain. To others, it may appear as cool indifference, but God builds community by passing His shalom — passing the peace. Attachment arises by caring so deeply that we will never leave, regardless of how bad things feel.
Keep reading with our next blog: “Sharing Wounds and Pain to Develop Attachment and Intimacy” — the fourth of our series of excerpt from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?” By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri.