What is a Broken Heart?

Too many don’t even realize or think they have a broken heart. People have been suppressing pain and emptiness for generations.  We revert to busy lives and focus on productivity, while we have no idea of how our hearts are doing.

Meanwhile, billions of people are ignoring the fact that they have a broken heart. What makes matters worse is that we are not talking about the life of the heart enough to recognize broken areas.

The Symptoms of a Broken Heart

Many people are experiencing symptoms of a broken heart:

  • Depression, unhealed discouragement, mood issues
  • Chronic anxiety, panic attacks
  • Numbing out, isolating, cynicism
  • Vulnerability to addictions
  • Constant busyness and performance based living
  • Confusion, double mindedness and scattered living
  • A burned out stress response, burnout

The list can go on and on.

In fact, medical health professionals give legitimacy to how carrying a broken heart can actually impact your cardiovascular system, mental health and even muscle failure.

Quite often, people go to the emergency room, thinking they are having a heart attack. When in reality, they are experiencing anxiety, stemming back to a broken heart that has not been addressed and healed.

The life of the heart will affect you, no matter what you try to do to hide it. So it is critical that we stop shoving the issues of life down and allow the Father to really do some productive work in our hearts.

Moving Past Denial

Most people do not think they have a broken heart. They shrug their shoulders in denial and brush off any need to address life experiences. We can often say “the past is the past” more in a protective form of denial than a fruitful belief.

The past is the past when we have allowed ourselves to process it in a healthy manner.

Others don’t think heart healing is necessary. They can stack Scriptures or cliche statements to cover over any need to deal with their brokenness. Yet it still oozes out into their relationship field.

The problem is that we typically don’t deal with brokenness until the crap hits the fan and crisis appears. At this point, the crisis is often revealing years of neglect to issues of the broken heart.

Broken Heart Awareness

It’s only been in recent years that believers are beginning to understand the need to experience heart healing to the spiritual and emotional aspects of their life. More and more people are recognizing they have a broken heart and are allowing God to walk them through a productive healing journey.

The more we can talk about it, the easier it can be to discuss brokenness in a safe and productive way. It is my heart that we pull people out of denial regarding their brokenness, without creating another extreme problem of encouraging navel gazing and victim living.

As we address this, I believe the heart of the Father is fully compassionate to the broken heart of humanity, yet very empowering to lift us up out of broken areas and establish us firmly.

But what is a broken heart? Some of the meanings overlap, but here are four things to consider:

1. When Life Experiences Break You

This is the arena of clear hurt and pain; where someone’s actions pierce you in a deep way. Whether you responded with tears, suppression or anger, the brokenness of that wound effects everyone to some degree.

Pain is often relative–meaning what hurts you deeply may not be as challenging to someone else. But pain is pain, because we are all on a journey at different stages of how we process life.

I spend a lot of my work helping people to recognize how broken experiences in life can affect them. Not to leave them as victims, but to empower them to face the issues of the heart productively. Many times we just need permission to address the painful experience of life and give ourselves room to process through it.

The two biggest areas that require heart healing is in the father wound and mother wound. Those two initial relationships create the scaffolding by how we see ourselves, God and others. I emphasize to people over and over: everyone has dad and mom issues to work through. It’s ok. There is no perfect parent. There is only one perfect Father, and that is God. Therefore, everyone has a journey for healing and overcoming.

This is not a license to do the blame game on parents or anyone else, but an opportunity for a sober realization. We need to give more permission to understand how life affects us, so we can, with compassion, process through it. Too many people are attempting to live like Superman, but don’t know how to live without that cape and relational fabrication.

It would be much easier to do life together if we were all more aware of how our broken history is impacting our present.

2. When Life Circumstances Crush You

This is closely related to number one, but this involves more circumstantial events that crush you. The weight of the situation feels like a thousand pounds crushing your chest.

Life circumstances can take us by surprise and shock us, but they can also enter in slowly and gradually wear us down.

This often involves the arena of disappointment–losing a job, watching a parent die at a young age or experiencing some kind of let down.

Most of us were not equipped to handle the disappointments in life. I haven’t met one person who has not had to face circumstantial challenges that at times can take the wind out of their sails.

Instead of slowing down to process what is happening with God, we can make the mistake of just moving on as quickly as possible. That is not always the best response. Sometimes you just need to stop and grieve the pain.

3. Life Experiences Quench the Passion

A broken heart can come about through passion and dreams being quenched.

Many passionate people leap out of the starting blocks with a fire so strong, but over time gets quenched. I have watched scores of people with a hot passion for God take tremendous steps of faith, to only years later, get taken out, because the circumstances in life squashed their passions.

How many of you in your journey had hopes, dreams and aspirations that never took off? You had a strong passion, but the lack of results or open doors sucked the life out of your passion.  You had a hope. But then it got quenched.

It’s like taking a hose that has water flowing, but a spot in the hose gets squeezed, quenching the flow. Pretty soon, the water stops flowing.

4. When Your Heart Gets Shattered

The word “broken-hearted” as referenced in Isaiah 61 has a strong meaning of “to burst.” It’s like having your emotional and spiritual bubble get shattered. It speaks of your heart getting broken into pieces. Putting it back together can be incredible confusing and overwhelming.

For many, their heart has been shattered over a break up or some kind of relational breach. If you ask honest people, “who broke your heart?” you’ll find some relationship break that they carry in their life.  

Something that has caused a severing in relationship.

So what do we do about this? And where do we go to process this out?

Most people feel left alone in the pain of being shattered, so they go to whatever they can to just get by. For most, they shove the pain down as far as they can and just get back to busy life.  They re-engage the routine with no pause.

Why? Because life keeps moving and very few people help you to process this shattering. They don’t mean to, but they go on with life without you. Not because they don’t love you. They just don’t know how to help heal your broken heart and they are consumed with their own problems.

So a lot of times, all society has to offer is a message of, “Get over it and just move on.”

Many shattered people can be successful in business and even ministry. They believe that because they have open doors and great opportunities for achievement, that their brokeness is no longer an issue.

So we end up saying “I’m fine” when deep down, they’re not. Yet they have no safe place to process the broken heart. I understand the kind of loneliness, where no one was able to or wanted to help me process my broken heart.

Shattered experiences are often traumatic. They are sudden moments we were not prepared for that hit our system with severity and intensity. Without loving and healthy healing, these trauamtic moments can follow us for years, infecting how we address our world and interact with others.

Shattered Relationships

I’ve been spending my years watching the toll it takes on the heart, coming out of shattered relationships. These negative experiences create a sense of separation in people, where over time, the only thing we know to do is isolate.

I believe the number one sign today of a broken heart is emotional isolation.

Isolation does not mean you are not around people. You could be in a room full of people or work with great coworkers around you and still be emotionally isolated.

Shattered experiences create a sense of separation from people, God and even ourselves. There is a distance that is felt. The enemy uses that ground to expand the separation to greater depths.

Lack of Clarity

When your heart becomes shattered, you lose unity and clarity in who you are. You become easily double minded, insecure and scattered in your perspectives.

People with broken hearts can have a hard time getting clarity and movement, because they are often unclear as to who they are, what they are even dealing with or how to get free. The shattered nature of their heart keeps them from being able to, in unified movement, make steady progress forward.

5. When You Are Empty

We live in a sea of emptiness and emotional voids.

This area of the broken heart is the most looked over. Emptiness involves the woundedness of lack, meaning your brokenness stems from what you should have been given, but did not.

  • You should have been loved growing up, but you were neglected.
  • You should have heard your father’s loving words, but didn’t.
  • You should have received nurture from your mother, but didn’t.
  • You should have been equipped to live as an overcoming adult, but weren’t.

Those areas tear at us, but we often don’t realize it, so the damage takes place silently.

The wound of lack can be very difficult to identity, because it involves NOT receiving what you should have. But if you live your whole life not realizing you should have received something, it can be hard to identify what pain is pointing to.

Millions and millions of people grow up never getting their heart filled, so that emptiness creates a void–a black hole that attracts broken habits and behaviors. These are null attempts to fill the emptiness.

Most people with addictions have empty voids in their hearts. They don’t know how to process love properly, so they only have a dopamine rush as a reference.

When I teach on the Father’s love, many people become aware of their broken heart, because they realized they should have experienced love, but didn’t. We were all made and designed to be loved and have our hearts filled with a healthy love reference.

Wherever love has not been solidified in our lives, brokenness resides.

  • You were born to hear the words I love you.
  • You were born to see love demonstrated.
  • You were born to be equipped as an overcomer. 

God gives us the model of earthly relationships to understand His nature. But so many of our experiences have been tainted.

That’s why we need healing to our broken hearts.

So where do we start the healing process?

Sometimes just admitting you need it is the most powerful place to start.