The physical heart muscle, fed by arteries, pumps and regulates the blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies. If we exercise that muscle through cardiovascular workouts and feed it healthy nutrients, it grows stronger. But let it languish and feed it toxins, and we all know what happens: the muscle grows weak and the arteries get clogged.

The same is true of our spiritual hearts. The heart is the seat of our passions; it drives and compels us to be who we are and act as we do. It is the essence of our character. So what happens if our spiritual heart is fed toxins and we let it languish? It too grows weak, gets clogged, and sends those poisonous toxins pumping through our lives.

When shame has been pumping through a heart, over time the heart itself grows toxic. When we are wounded, we leak toxic waste, and that waste poisons us and the people around us—even when we are completely unaware of it—just like I did with Joanna. The reality is:

  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • Broken people break people.
  • Shattered people shatter people.
  • Damaged people damage people.
  • Wounded people wound people.
  • Bound people bind people.

Many of us have been hurt, suffered offense, and then lived with it unforgiven in our lives. All of my shame-filled brokenness and patterns of behavior were hurting my staff at Youth Alive, but I didn’t know it. Sometimes we have experienced so much abandonment and rejection that we choose flawed defense mechanisms to try to soothe those broken places in our lives.

And sometimes we have damaged hearts and don’t even know why. When I was thirty-three years old, I discovered my brother and I were adopted. It was shocking. Surreal.

Weeks later, when I saw my actual, original birth certificate, ...

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