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I have been triggered. You pushed my buttons.
Why are you angry so often? Stop doing things that make me angry.
How often do you hear or say these phrases? Being triggered has the idea of releasing a trap. Unresolved emotional wounds are like a set trip wire. When someone stumbles across the wire, it creates an unpleasant chain reaction.
After becoming triggered, some people spiral inward. They become deeply discouraged. Others spiral outward. They attack whoever is closest to them. The Bible has some helpful alternatives.
Be Responsible for your Triggers
Whether a person accidentally or on purpose trips your trigger, you are fully responsible for your behaviors. In the moment, it might seem like the other person is responsible. After all, everything was fine until they came along. But the condition of your heart is your responsibility. God wants each of us to accept responsibility and work toward becoming more confident in who we are.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:5 ESV
The more confidence people have, the less they depend on others for happiness. Or, put another way: the more people depend on God for happiness, the more confident they will be, no matter how others behave.
Most people don’t set traps for other people. But just by existing, we have vulnerabilities that can result in strong reactions for even small offenses. Being triggered means that a weakness has been exposed. When it happens spontaneously, it can catch a person off guard. This can result in a swift protective cover-up.
No one likes to feel ashamed. Shame is a feeling resulting from a belief that you are defective and there is no cure.
Instead of waiting for someone to come along and step on your toes, why not proactively take care of your emotional wounds? Some vulnerability is good, allowing people to be close to other people and God. But other vulnerabilities can make you an easy target. You can take steps to disarm your triggers by becoming increasingly aware of your weaknesses.
Be Aware of Others’ Buttons
No one is perfect. Most people are doing the best they can, not trying to intentionally lay a trap for you. Even so, stumbling into someone else’s ignorance, sin, or foolishness probably will not be a pleasant experience. Know your limitations, but also be aware of others’ limits. Just because something isn’t your fault, doesn’t mean it won’t be excruciatingly painful or difficult.
It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubsProverbs 17:12 NLT
than to confront a fool caught in foolishness.
Even when people are trying their best, they can make a mess of things. You can be involved, but you should be prepared to manage the consequences of your involvement.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1-2 ESV
The problem may originate with someone else, but it can quickly become your problem too. The more you are capable of letting go of the offense, the more you will keep yourself free from the trap.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8 ESV
No one owes you anything, at least not in any way that you can practically enforce it. Anything good we have is ultimately a gift from God. No matter how you become hurt, whether by your sin or another’s, only God has the power to heal you.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.