Living Powerfully with a Sensitive Heart

One of the biggest things I have had to learn in my life is how to live with a sensitive heart and not feeling like I am crazy. I have often felt out of place, but over time, learned that God can use a sensitive heart in a mighty way. It just needs some learning, growing and appreciation for how God designed sensitivity to flourish.

Many people live with sensitive hearts and look at this trait with contempt. Instead, we need to learn to appreciate and welcome those sensitivities, while allowing God to strengthen our root system.  

It took some time, but I have learned much in my healing and freedom journey to understand my sensitivities and nurture them in a healthy way, while keeping the enemy from trampling on it.

Sensitive Heart in the Early Years

When I was a teenager, my youth pastor prayed over me and whispered in my ear, “You have a sensitive heart.”

To be honest, I had no idea what that meant or what to do with it. So I let that statement sit on the back burner until I could comprehend it a bit better, later in life.

But it’s true. Throughout my whole life, I have lived with a very sensitive heart.

My parents at times looked at me and understandably said, “We don’t know what to do with you.” They didn’t have the sensitivities I carried, so they often didn’t know how to relate to the battles I faced in my inner life. The way I processed life was filled with a lot of emotional connection.

At times, I was really ashamed of my sensitivity. It made me feel so different. I didn’t see a lot of people around me expressing the same perspectives I felt. Over time, I actually thought something was deeply wrong with me.

When anxiety, panic attacks and depression came along. Those feelings worsened.

The Life of a Sensitive Heart

Many times people would say, “You’re just being too sensitive” or “You’re being dramatic.”

I did not just feel things, I felt them deeply. I didn’t just experience things, I internalized them.

It allowed me to express myself in the arts very well. Whether it was drama, public speaking, singing or theatre, I enjoyed the process by which I could express myself in creative ways. Having a sensitive heart made me a great communicator, but it also made daily management of my emotions really challenging.

I was very sensitive to matters of the heart, which made me passionate for God, but it also made me vulnerable to self-destructive thinking. For years, the enemy had a field day with my thoughts and emotions.

Over time I had to realize that my heart was also broken. Woundedness and emptiness needed the Father’s Love to heal places I didn’t even know needed to be healed.   

A Sensitive Heart and Brokenness

Being sensitive doesn’t mean your heart is broken. But when the sensitivity and brokenness are combined, it can difficult to manage.

With a sensitive heart, any teaching on healing, growth and transformation can turn into a spiritual land mine of condemnation, self-blame and contempt. I had to learn that everyone has brokenness and being sensitive is not a major flaw, but something that just needs nurturing.

The more I learned to be kind to myself, the more I was able to enjoy the heart healing process. I had to give God room to heal my heart without beating myself up for the struggles that I had. It was important for me to remember that I had little mentoring and equipping with how to live powerfully with a sensitive heart.

Sensitivity that Becomes Hypersensitive

If I had some equipping with how to cultivate my sensitivity in a healthy way, I would not have been so vulnerable to the struggles that came my way. My broken heart took my sensitivity and turned it into hypersensitivity.

Hypersensitivity is like having electrical current running through a wire, but there is no shielding or conduit. So it feels as though you have electrical impulses flailing all over the place; but no stable, solid connection and direction.

Dr. Elaine Aron calls it living as a Highly Sensitive Person, which she writes about extensively.  In her research, she describes a lifestyle of a person who has a deep and complex inner life. You are deeply moved emotionally and can also get easily overwhelmed and exhausted. Your senses are highly attuned; often more so than the average person.

Sensitive Heart and Discernment

When you have a sensitive heart, you can easily discern the spiritual temperature when you walk into a room. But at the same time, your emotional sensitivities can lead you to become more apprehensive, reading things that are more likely your own personal fears and reservations, more than what is going on around you.

Too many times, I was picking up on negative factors that were going on in me and transposing them on the people I met. When you have a sensitive heart, you can at times discern like no one else. But at the same time, you can also discern things that are not even there. This is why heart healing for the sensitive heart is not only imperative–it is a MUST.

Distorted Perception

Many times, hypersensitive hearts can overprotect themselves in the name of discernment. They can spend all their time “discerning” what is going on all around them as a way to protect themselves. The sensitivity designed by God will get hijacked if we don’t find healing to our hearts and a groundedness to how we hear and process.

I had to face my hypersensitivity and allow God to do a healing work. In the journey, God did not get rid of my sensitivity, as I believe He made with a sensitive heart. I simply needed healing and nurture into what it means to carry sensitivity with groundedness.

The goal is not to turn this sensitivity off, as some try to do, but to enhance our ability to live whole with that sensitivity. I had to heal so that the enemy could no longer lead me to be hypersensitive by listening to constant fear, guilt, rejection and other disempowering thoughts.

Getting Grounded

First, I had to allow heart healing to become a priority. I needed to get equipped on how to live securely with a sensitive heart. I had to learn to accept my sensitivities, but allow my identity to get more grounded so I could become more wise in how I process life.

With God’s love and His maturation process, I allowed Him to teach me how to use my sensitivity in a healthy way, where I could use it effectively in the right settings.

Remember, the goal is not to turn your sensitivity off, but to allow God to ground it in his love and stability. But it takes a journey to learn how to process this authentically.

Here are some ways I have learned to live with a sensitive heart and allow it to work for me and not against me:

1. I Had to Allow Heart Healing to be a Priority.

Once I recognized broken areas, I allowed the healing process of God to have a deeper work in my life. Instead of running and hiding, I positioned myself to allow my heart to engage regular and ongoing heart healing. That allowed me to get tuned into what healthy sensitivity could look like.

2. I Needed to Get Grounded in Love.

The love of Father God has a powerful way of grounding us, firmly rooting us so that we are not easily taken out by waves of experiences that we face. The more I recognized He loved me, the more it freed my heart to flow in confidence.

When you are sensitive, you can mistake guilt, people pleasing, codependency and other dysfunctional pulls for love. Over time, I had to learn what love IS, but also what it ISN’T.

3. I Needed to get Equipped in Who I Really Am.

Identity affirmation and validation is so important. Hearing that it’s ok to have a sensitive heart was helpful, because it allowed me to stop looking at my sensitivities with dismissal, but with love. Getting clearer in God’s love moved into getting greater clarity on who I am.

Don’t apologize for being sensitive, just get that sensitivity grounded in the love and security of being deeply loved by God. Take time to learn how He made you and come into appreciation for the great qualities God designed you with.

Letting Go of Who I Am NOT

I found it was helpful in getting clarity when I came to understanding of who I was NOT. Sensitive hearted people can get lost in trying to be things they are not, simply because their hearts get pulled by those mindsets or pulls in relationships, especially in the areas of helping people. As God healed sensitive areas of hurt and emptiness, He helped me shed off who I am not, so that who I am could shine more clearly through. I also learned to love who He made me to be.

Affirming Sensitive Hearts

I have called out the sensitive heart in many people and have encouraged them to cultivate a life that harnesses that sensitivity for the Kingdom of God. King David was a great example of living with a sensitive heart. He was called a “man after God’s own heart”, pretty high level title to be given.

His writings and experiences revealed his great sensitivities. He shared of the ups and downs of life like no one else in the Bible. David was deeply in touch with the victories and wins in life, but was also able to access the heartache, pain and disappointment that came his way. He brought all those experiences to God and used them as incubators to process the life of his heart in an authentic way.

4. I Renounced Hypersensitivity.

Being sensitive is totally ok. In fact it’s wonderful. But I didn’t have to live hypersensitive, which caused me to become very apprehensive and held captive by fear’s perspective.

The enemy came against my sensitive heart to keep me trapped. I picked up on many thoughts that I did not even need to give attention to. But insecurity and double mindedness kept me tuning in to the sidewinding thoughts of the adversary.

When you are hypersensitive, negative issues get heightened. Broken areas get inflammed.

When I renounced hypersensitivity, over time, I saw my emotions becoming more stabilized. I could feel certain emotions, but they wouldn’t pull me into the ditches like it did before. I felt more in control of staying on the road of life.

Letting go of hypersensitivity actually improved my health as well. I don’t guarantee this will happen for you, but I found that renouncing hypersensitivity helped my body to stabilize more. In fact, allergies actually lessened; probably because my immune system was becoming less hypersensitive. My body was coming into alignment with how my thinking was changing!

It is Still Good to Guard Your Intake

Let me make this clear: renouncing hypersensitivity doesn’t mean, you don’t have to guard your intake. I used to approach every circumstance with a mindset of “if I am healthy, I can be around anyone and in any environment and be ok.” Although there is some truth to that, you and I are not superman. Things affect us. We are human.

So part of loving myself has been to be ok with guarding my emotional intake. I do not engage certain types of entertainment, books or music that can have a negative influence on my emotions. I don’t advocate living like bubble boy, but sensitive hearts need healthy guards on what you take into your inner life.

For example, in my life, I do not watch a lot of shows or movies that have violent and traumatic life experiences like abuse or themes that have deep despair built into it. I spend my days helping people who have experienced all those things, so I don’t need to further put things into my life that add to that.

The number one thing I guard over is my emotional state, so I spend a lot of time filling my heart with love, hope and faith. This positions my sensitivities to be at maximum help to my life, my family and those God puts in my path.

5. Engage Work that Makes Room for Who You Are.

In my younger years, I served as a youth pastor. I moved on to pastoring music and the arts. I also pastored a church for a number of years. Today I am moving into full time writing, teaching and consulting on heart transformation. All these avenues served in different ways for me to express my sensitive heart in a fulfilling way.

I am still evolving into what my calling and impact looks like. Bu the more I love who God made me to be, the easier it is for me to find my lane in making a difference.

I recommend you find a way to use your sensitivity to bless others, but don’t do it while neglecting your own heart journey.

Let me make it simple: get fully immersed into your own heart healing journey and share what you discover in a way that makes you come alive.

Sensitive hearts can be amazing in helping people. It just needs empowering and nurturing.

6. Develop Clear and Loving Boundaries.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries . . .

As someone who works with so many different people with very difficult battles, I have had to learn this often the hard way. By nature, I can often want to help everyone, but I can’t.

In fact, over recent months, I have had to cut back my schedule, because the toll of working with constant problems and heavy brokenness took on me, often without me realizing it.

With a sensitive heart, you need to learn what true love looks like and what healthy boundaries are. Get schooled in codependency and other toxic relationship patterns that can give you clarity on how to manage your heart better with others.

I highly recommend God Loves Me and I Love Myself! and Exposing the Rejection Mindset. Those two resources will help you understand some deep rooted areas that can drive our sensitive hearts into toxic directions.

7. Learn to Daily Release Cares and Issues that are not Yours to Own.

I’ve had to get crystal clear on what is my burden to bear and what is not my responsibility. What I have discovered is that a large percentage of what I carried is actually not mine to carry.

Too many with sensitive hearts end up carrying the burdens of others in a unhealthy way, to the detriment of their own hearts. But they do this in the name of love.

On top of it, they end up getting torn to shreds by the decisions and sins of other people.

I had to make a decision that I cannot want freedom more than anyone else that I help.

I also cannot carry the sins and brokenness of people into my own inner life.

This helped me to get more clear on what I am responsible for and clearing out the clutter of holding on to other people’s bad choices.

Are you worn out today? Odds are, you may be picking up other people’s stuff as your own burnden and it’s probably not yours to carry.

8. Become More Balanced in How You Discern.

If you are sensitive, you can often go into two ditches when it comes to discernment:

The first one is, you walk into a room and everything you are feeling is what you think is going on in everyone else. This at times can be true, but not always.

The second ditch you can fall into is thinking that when you walk into a room, everything you are feeling is what’s going on in you and has nothing to do with what people are manifesting.

The truth is, it is a mixture of both. The quicker you see that, the less prone you will be to falling into ditches of dysfunction.

Be aware that certain atmospheres are contagious and some are highly toxic.

9. Develop a healthy rhythm of output and refreshment.

This is a big one, because people that are sensitive often need more down time and refreshment than the average person. You can become more easily prone to burnout because of this. For a long time, I was having mini-burnouts almost every week. I just didn’t know how to manage my rhythms. Many times, I went by what other people did, but did not take into consideration how God made me and my own balance of input and output.

I have a sensitive heart. On top of this, I deal with a ton of intensely emotional situations. Therefore, I have to give myself more down time of recovery than the average person.

Give yourself emotional margin. Make sure that you are getting into a good rhythm of output, but also plenty of time to recover. This is not a science, but an art. You have to learn what works for your life, makeup and structure.

Sensitive hearts experience the breadth and depth of life in powerful ways. But you don’t have to live in the deep ocean 24/7. In fact, I do not recommend that. That can make you go crazy. You need to have the shallow moments of life too. I spend my down time recovering in some deep connection with God, but I also make a lot of room for simple things like walking, exercising, joking around and having fun with my family.

10. Be kind to yourself

Most of all, being kind to yourself is so critical. People with sensitive hearts can beat themselves up and this only make the journey harder. Don’t let the enemy condition you to being hard on yourself.

When you are having off days, take a step back and cut yourself a break. If you realize you are off, give yourself a time out to realign yourself and try again.

Learning to live with a sensitive heart is a gift; one that needs to be nurtured and honored. But no one taught us how to do this. So be kind and patient with yourself in the process.

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