The Article That Made Sense

Making the Most of a Breakup

Written By Joe Terrell
June 7, 2012

No other experience can truly compare to the combined feelings of self-doubt, embarrassment, guilt and anger that have come to define a broken heart. Our pop culture understands this—at any one time, at least half of the songs on the Billboard Top 20 are either barbs aimed at ex-partners or laments over “the one that got away.” According to one study, the physiological effects of a non-mutual breakup are nearly identical to the symptoms of a person recovering from an adverse drug addiction.

But in the aftermath of a breakup, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of that time to learn valuable insights about yourself and the nature of God. As C.S. Lewis famously said, God “shouts in our pains,” but those shouts can fall on deaf ears if we don’t know what we’re listening for.

I can relate to this, because the semester before I graduated college, the girl I’d dated for over three and half years abruptly decided to end our relationship.

For at least two months afterward, I was a complete wreck. I barely slept. I struggled through my classes. Walking around campus or driving around town became a punishment unique unto itself. I likened it traversing a minefield spring-loaded with dormant memories waiting to further perforate my soul with emotional shrapnel. Harboring hope she would realize the mistake she’d made, I clung feverishly to the false illusion of our love being restored in one romantic fell swoop of forgiveness and understanding. But that moment never came.

After two months of wallowing in self-pity, I realized my behavior was in no way a reflection of the character of Christ. As I began to evaluate my relationship with God in the aftermath of my breakup, I became more and more discouraged with what I found.

Even though I claimed to be Christian and was involved in multiple ministry organizations, for over three years my life had revolved around my relationship with my girlfriend. Pouring a majority of my passion, time, creativity and money into our relationship, I had elevated it above my relationship with God. It had become my idol, and I based my identity around the affections of another person. I was pursuing what Tim Keller refers to in his book Counterfeit Gods as “apocalyptic romance.”

God will often use the things and people we love most in this world to break us the hardest. If He doesn’t have your full attention now, He will demand it from you later. Even at the expense of great pain and heartache, God is far more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.

It hurts when God intervenes and corrects our plans, especially the plans we hold dear to our heart. But it’s supposed to. We need to be reminded that we aren’t in control. Because we inhabit a fallen world, very rarely do our plans line up with God’s plan.  This is why plans of a best laid nature often go awry.So open your ears, turn the music down and listen to what God is trying to tell you. It’s probably something you need to hear.

In the early weeks following my breakup, one of my friends told me that if I truly loved my ex-girlfriend I should continue to pursue her and attempt to win back her affections. Frankly, it’s one of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Contrary to the teachings of Disney films, Top 40 Radio, and romantic comedies, don’t follow your heart, because according the prophet Jeremiah, the heart is “deceitful above all things.” Instead of following your heart, you need to follow Jesus.

According to Psalms 34:18, “the Lord will draw near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.” But this means nothing if we don’t also attempt to draw near to Him. During life’s struggles, we should ask, “How can I best use this situation to bring You glory?”

For some of us, this may mean having an actual daily quiet time with the Lord, not just a pithy devotional reading before bed. For others, it might be volunteering in the inner city, starting a small group Bible study or going on a long-term mission trip.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that God will magically remove your pain because you start having quiet times; He shouldn’t be used as a spiritual Band-Aid for your heartache. Your motive for seeking God should always be God, not what He can do for you. My wounds still ache, and I fear the ghost of this relationship may haunt me for some time, but I’ve made peace and come to terms with what happened.

In the end, I guess you could make the argument that I did rebound quickly after my breakup. But it wasn’t with another girl. No, I fell in love with the one true God. Though it took a broken heart, I rediscovered the most vital and vibrant relationship in my life that I had been neglecting for far too long.

The greatest thing about this relationship is that my Lord will never forsake me, He will always keep His promises, and He never makes empty declarations of eternal love.

I’m Glossophobic…Pleased to meet you, I’m DO-IT-ANYWAY.

A cousin of mine had to deliver a presentation in less than 48 hours so she was feeling a tad bit agitated at the dire thought of standing in front of her entire class, let alone to face all her friends who can be quite mean when given the opportunity.

AHEMFRIENDS APPLAUDING

Well, it was not entirely her fault that she had perceived public speaking as an embarrassing moment waiting to happen.

She’s only a fresh faced fourteen year old in high school after all, so it’s not uncommon to list public speaking right at the top of her list as one of her greatest fears.

FEAR

“I’ll burst out laughing in mid-sentence!”

“I try to be serious during the presentation, but what if Milika attempts to pull a silly face at me when the teacher’s not looking?  Then what?”

“I just find it hard to breathe when I’m up there and everyone’s looking at me”.

Many of us have found ourselves facing a somewhat similar predicament by being placed under a huge spotlight in front of a vast group of judgmental people.  Do you still remember the first time you stood before the whole class to speak?

FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

You make blatant attempts to steer clear of any eye contact from certain students.

silly

Specifically those you’re quite aware of who would mercilessly betray your composure the second you allow them your attention for too long.

In your defence, the first – hand experience was evidently nerve-wrecking.  Sweaty palms.  A sudden desperate thirst for water to cool down what seems like tiny, minute cells springing to life and having this massive bonfire party down the pit of your throat.  Racing heart beat pounding against your temple as you feel those delicate vibrations near your ears.  Or is it just me?

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Two days later, my cousin delivered her presentation superbly well in class.  Yes, cousin dearest overcame her fear of public speaking.  I asked her whether she did get to put her friends curiosity to rest as to how she managed to pull off only one of humankind’s worst fears.  Admittedly, she was too embarrassed to share those crazy tips to neutralize her public speaking anxieties.

silly

I wouldn’t blame her.

But if you find yourself wondering what crazy thing I did to help her master her fear of public speaking in less than 48 hours before her presentation day, it is quite simple and it involves only 3 important steps.

3. Know your [home] work.

homework
Complete your research, findings, report, whatever information you need to draw up a good level of understanding on what your assignment is asking you to compile and submit.  I mean, you don’t write a report on the cultural significance for young Fijian women to learn the art of weaving mats and then stand in front of the class to only end up derailing your train of thought to the historical significance of traditional Samoan tattoos, do you?  It may be wise to have a structure to work on and base this structure on the instructions outlined in your assignment. If you’re confused or a little unsure of what is expected from you for your presentation or report, then I would definitely suggest clarifying with your teacher to clear up any issues you have with your assignment.

homework

2. Practice.  
 “Practice makes perfect” is an ancient adage that is crucial for those of us who weren’t born with the inner gift of instant confidence in delivering basic public speaking skills (yes my dear, public speaking does come naturally to some).   I, on the other hand, wasn’t born with such natural aura of confidence but was abruptly driven into public speaking after my teacher read a piece that I submitted in an essay competition and figured that I should read it in front of the whole school that very same morning.  The idea to flee for my life and never return was considerably tempting at first but any attempt to do so would be futile.

public speaking 6public speaking 5

I learned that when you find yourself in a position where you feel completely stuck on one spot and you don’t know where and how to get yourself out of there; the only way is forward, one step at a time. In case you’re wondering how I did with my first ever experience in public speaking as a nine year old kid, a complete mess would have about summed it up perfectly.  The audience did not feel any connection whatsoever and I was reading my essay without any tone, hand gestures or driven passion.

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Visualize this: a kid.  Both hands clutching a fragile piece of paper and reading it’s content word by word in front of the entire school.  Sweating profusely, in a way only a waterfall would understand.  Too much of a  nervous wreck to hold the microphone steady forcing a teacher nearby to kindly volunteer in holding the mic (God bless you Mr. Prasad!) while that kid steals a glimpse at the crowd before her, whimpers at the overwhelming sight before continuing to read her piece the only way she knew how…word by word.

public speaking

Isn’t it just the worst visual you have ever envisioned in public speaking?  Luckily its not yours to grow old with.

Take my experience for it and ensure that you have ample time to practice.

KEEP GOING

Practicing beforehand is crucial.  Practice in front of a mirror, in front of your parents, the whole extended family after a Sunday family lunch and offer them to give you feedback in how you can best improve.  Obviously a few of your funny cousins may be tempted to make fun of you but you must take it as a challenge to not give in and zealously master your emotions in the process.

As I have mentioned earlier, I wasn’t born with such natural flair of confidence in public speaking, so part of the process of practicing involved using the class room only when its vacant the day before my presentation.  This is done for the purpose of getting my anxious mind at ease and settled in with the room space, the potential audience space, room lighting, room for standing positions and so forth.  If time permits, practicing a couple of times in the room that you will be delivering your presentation in is a helpful suggestion but ensure that you cross-check with your teacher prior to utilizing those classrooms.
1. Tell that clown to sit back down – without saying it.

FLIP OFF
When you practice public speaking at home with the family or with your friends after school, invite them to be your audience with the main purpose to openly distract you as you deliver your presentation to them.

PUBLIC SPEAKING AA public speaking A SILLY DISTRACTIONS

Dare them to make silly faces, act the fool, clown around while you’re delivering your presentation or speech to them.  At the same time, challenge yourself to concentrate on doing your part whenever you falter and remain focused against persistent distractions.

SILLY 1

This step is indeed hilarious and crazy and you will end up distracted as you start out but as you continue to master and control your focus, you will no longer find such petty distractions amusing and continue on your presentation with ease.

Hope these tips and embarrassing past experiences with public speaking of mine helps you the next time you’re asked to grace the floor with your confident, charismatic self.

All the best!

~MVB~