How To Get Rid of the Elephant That’s Squashing Your Life

Elephants are magnificent. But not when they're sitting on your life. {Image credit: gbuglok / 123RF Stock Photo}

Elephants are magnificent. But not when they’re sitting on your life. {Image credit: gbuglok / 123RF Stock Photo}

My favorite part of our local zoo is the elephant exhibit. We’ll walk (and when I say walk, I mean travail about a half mile of San Francisco-style hills, generally with one child in my arms and a few others whining most of the way) to where grand paleolithic elephant and mammoth statues welcome us to their gigantic world.

These creatures are magnificent. Truly. Lumbering around, enormous, but oblivious to this as they play with their young and seem to tease their buddies over a sprig of lunch.

Yes, my friends, elephants rock.

Except when they move in with you.

You’ve heard of the metaphor “the elephant in the middle of the room?” Those kind–the issues we don’t want to talk about, the behaviors, choices or family secrets we’re hoping will just fly away–those can suffocate us.

But there’s one kind of elephant in the room that’s most dangerous. The kind that doesn’t stay in the room. It’s always around because it’s sitting on your heart.

This elephant’s name? It rhymes with resentment. Some people call it bitterness. But we’ll just call him Fred.

Fred’s the one that is crushing the joy right out of us and our relationships.

I first noticed Fred in my own life after a few years struggling with infertility. Then he put on a few pounds when the kids I adopted turned out to have mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. He really jumped in weight when my husband lost his good job and we went into a 4-year economic slump. And then when the guy in charge of one of our investments turned out to be a crook, and we ended up in a law suit where we lost near-enough everything? With that one, Fred had me pinned to the floor.

Or at least he would have, if I’d let him.

And he could have you pinned right now, too. Pinned down in fear, hurt, resentment, bitterness. . . and all the health problems that come with chronic, undealt with emotional stress.

There is ONE thing that we can do to send Fred packing. FORGIVE.

Forgive them, even if they don’t deserve it.

Forgive that, even if you’re still reaping brokenness in its wake.

Forgive Him, for allowing it, even if it is making you grow.

Forgive you, for the mistakes and words you wish you could take back.

All this? Much, much easier said than done. And if you’re struggling to breathe under Fred’s weight right now, you’ll need more than a blog post to help you get rid of him.

Which is why I’m so excited to share with you the resource that my dear friend, Suzie Eller released this month:

The Unburdened Heart—200 pages of sage, straightforward wisdom wrapped in girlfriend gentleness and grace from a woman who knows what it’s like to live under Fred, give him the boot, and live to tell the tale.

SuzieEllerUnburdenedHeartIn the book, Suzie engages some of the hardest topics surrounding resentment and forgiveness without glossing them over or giving pat answers. Those of us living in a place of tender, fresh pain will feel loved and respected in it, even as she opens doors to joy and quietly invites us to walk with her through them.

I’ve read over 30 books on this topic as I’ve been researching for my book, Get Your Joy Back,* and Suzie’s is, hands-down, the best I’ve read so far.

So if you like elephants, but not when they’re sitting on your life, go get Suzie’s book. Or grab one for a friend who’s struggling. Or just pick one up for later when life throws you a curve ball and you don’t want to live under the weight of that situation forever.

Grab: The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness

You’ll be really glad you did.

– Laurie

*Get Your Joy Back releases in 2014 through Kregel Publications.

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  1. Rose Leingang says

    Oooh… this one looks great. And maybe in another month or so I’ll actually be getting enough sleep to read it cover to cover. Here’s hoping! 🙂

    • says

      I don’t know, I think we can learn a little forgiveness ju jitsu. My friend told me that when she does her martial arts moves correctly, she can flip over a 250-lb man. Lord, we need that kind of forgiveness agility!!

  2. Kelly Westlund says

    This sounds like something I really need to read. Since my divorce, I have noticed that I carry a pretty big elephant around with me….and it affects the new relationship I am in. I “think” I have forgiven, but then something comes up…and I realize that I haven’t really forgiven like I thought…more just swept it under the rug or something of that nature….

    • says

      I hear that a lot from clients I work with, Kelly, and I believe forgiveness is a process. It can look like you’re “there again” with unforgiveness because the scenery (emotions) feels the same. But really, it’s like driving up a mountain, I think. You don’t drive straight up the side to get to the top, but around and around, always higher. Every time we come to a certain side of the mountain it looks the same, but really, we’re higher on that same side. So don’t beat yourself up, or feel like you didn’t do it right. . . just keep driving! 🙂

  3. Diane Bailey says

    Laurie you always amaze me with your wisdom and joy that exudes from your every pour! You are a wonderful example of grace under fire…or strength under Elephant! Love you, friend!

  4. Kathy Deckard says

    This post really spoke to me. I feel stuck in bitterness, anger, unforgiveness and unmet expectations, shame and guilt. My life was not supposed to turn out like this. I think I need to get this book.

  5. Sandi says

    I heard Suzie speak at Hearts at Home a week ago and was really challenged by her gentle truth-telling. I would love to win a copy of this book.

  6. jessica says

    I find it really, really, really, really, really, REALLLLLLLLLY hard to forgive. I grew up in the child sex trade. Even though I was rescued 4 years ago, I still struggle with the “hard areas” like forgiveness. I am learning, but it is a daily battle of laying down my will to my Abba’s love.

    • says

      Thank you for bravely trusting this piece of your story with us here, Jessica. Your words bring tears to my eyes and make me pretty angry at the people who hurt you, too. Though my issues are different, there are some deep ones I’ve had to face–long-term, life-shaping wounds that aren’t easy to forgive. Yours is a journey deep in the arms of Jesus, and He really does know the extent of the pain and shame that want to keep you stuck. Praying He would give you boldness, courage, and strength to release the wounds and hang on to Him instead. Blessings over you, sister.

  7. says

    Struggling daily with shock about how my life got this way and resentment about the work I have to do to change it. I’d love some silver keys to unburden this heart.

  8. says

    Every time I get one elephant to move out another seems to sneak in the backdoor and brings along a couple of friends. This looks like just the book I need to read.

    • says

      It’s so true. We have to not only kick out what doesn’t work, but actively replace it with what does. Suzie really does a great job of giving examples and tools to build new, healthy forgiveness habits in her book. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  9. Nicole Howes says

    Holy smokes! I wrote nearly the same blog two months ago. Elephant in the room and all. The Lord must be up to something and desperately is trying to get our attention to not only get the elephant out of the room but shovel out all of the ‘crap’ he left behind. Great blog sister!

  10. says

    Those stinkin’ elephants!! You what’s so hard for me…is continuing to forgive. Those elephants are sneaky…I think some had moved back in when I wasn’t looking. But now I know the secret…and I’ll be holding the door open for ’em as they go! : )

    • says

      That issue of having an ongoing posture of forgiveness is a biggie for me with kiddos adopted from foster care and the types of interactions their behavior brings with their teachers, doctors and their friends’ parents. It looks completely different when we can’t close the chapter on the hurtful relationship, but we’re determined to close the door to being victimized by it. Again, something Suzie really addresses well in this book. (Have I mentioned how much I love this thing??) 🙂

  11. says

    This is awesome Laurie! Did you come up with the elephant analogy? I love it. Suzie Eller’s book sounds like a ticket to continuing on the road to freedom. (Doing the Beth Moore Breaking Free study now.) Excellent review of a book I’m sure is worth its weight in …no not gold…elephants!

    • says

      That is a FABULOUS study. It was my intro to Beth Moore years ago and probably what ushered in the beginnings of freedom after some tough childhood issues I’d faced. Definitely worth its weight in elephants. 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying it, too! And, yes, I did come up with the Fred idea. Actually, I don’t know if I can really take credit for it. God was the one who made my brain so silly like that!

  12. ThandiweW says

    you’d better preach! You could be telling my story.This reminds me of Billie Holliday’s Good Morning, Heartache. I even talk to my demons sometime, knowing that when we cal fear by it’s name, we have dominion over it.
    Thank you for this blessing, Would LOVE to win the book.
    Peace and good, sweet dreaming sister.

  13. mom2t8 says

    I can’t wait to read this book! And I love your analogy of FRED! I may have to use that!