Thursday, April 28

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, April 28, 2011 17 comments
Many of us have suffered great difficulties and hardships, and as a result we've developed an internal organ for processing pain I call The Inner Fist. The Inner Fist clamps around that set of hurts and keeps it "safe"--unprodded, airless, always raw.

When anything comes at us that feels like the clenched pain--rejection, violation, terror and the like--the Inner Fist hits back. When it hits inside, it punches holes in our confidence, pummels our joy, hammers home the thought that, as usual, the universe and its creator are against us. Sometimes the Inner Fist hits outward, making us lash out at others or become pleasure-chasing addicts.

The Inner Fist strengthens itself by drawing around it expectations that we believe will make the hurt inside magically dissipate. As writers, some of our fist-builders are thoughts like these:

"I will get published and...
...I will have honor instead of shame"
...I will have worth instead of worthlessness"
...I will have abundance instead of deprivation"
...I will be popular instead of ignored or bullied"

Can any publishing experience bear the weight of expectations like these? Not likely. So the Inner Fist goes on punching us inside.

Unclenching the Inner Fist is the heart work of a lifetime. Until you grant access to the pain--to God, yourself, others--the Inner Fist will remain a destructive force in your life. It requires great courage, grace, faith and hope. It is the only path to peace and to creating great art that changes lives. That changes the world.

What unclenches the Inner Fist are ordinary graces--things like delight, wonder and play; learning, mentoring and teaching; communicating with open honesty; freely giving you time, skill, creative output and praise with no expectations simply because it's fun and makes you feel alive. Above all, the gracious work of love--God's, your family's, your friends', and yours for them--builds skin over the raw places.

At times these winds of grace may feel like a tornado. They may feel like self-immolation. Like tossing your possessions out the window. Like standing yourself before a firing squad. Who am I without my defenses after all? You'll never know unless you let light inside.

You might just find that the place of your deepest pain is a well of great beauty--your truth--which when drawn out, has the power to unclench other Inner Fists. I think of Anne Lamott's raw honesty in Traveling Mercies and Operating Instructions. Of Donald Miller's meandering hunger in Searching for God Knows What.

Have you felt the Inner Fist in your life? What ordinary graces have unclenched a finger or two for you? What books have encouraged you in your own heart work of healing and maturing?


  1. this is a lovely post, and I think you're right. We can't live thinking about how our problems will disappear once we get published. That's like moving from place to place hoping for a change.

    the change has to start inside first~ :o) <3

  2. I will feel vindicated. Yep, all those and more Laurel.

    I want so badly to become published that I really do feel that when my time comes I will be all of the above. Inner fist and all.

    I am reading Marja Meyers series, Ten Commandments. Uplifting for sure. I love the way she writes. :-)

  3. This is a phenomenal post!
    Exactly. Our defenses don't really keep us safe, even if there can be something almost comforting about them, they just limit us.

  4. Wow. Love this post. I haven't read any of Anne Lamott's non-fiction, but her fiction is amazing. Have you read any of her fiction?

    Generally having the opportinity to make something of all my creative desires lightens the blow of any negative experience.

  5. Lovely post, Laurel. "Simple Abundance: a Daybook of Comfort and Joy" by Sarah Ban Breathnach encourages the heart and mind. It's a wonderful book for helping you find your inner light and authentic self!

  6. Beautiful post! When my inner fist gets too tight, I love to read anything by Philip Yancey or Marianne Williamson. Philip Yancey gives me peace in a way no one else can. :-)

  7. I think that much of unclenching that fist comes down to balance, to finding the good in the everyday, the simple pleasures. When my fist gets too tight, I enjoy walking, and connecting with my thoughts and nature in that leisurely way.

  8. Good questions! I need to ponder...Appreciate your info and challenges. You help make us
    shine. :)

  9. Thanks for this post, Laural. It's so true.
    My inner fist was my fears. The book "Fearless" by Sheila Walsh really helped unclench my fist.
    Thanks, and have a wonderful day!

  10. Thoughtful post Laural. I have to work daily to keep my inner fist relaxed. For me, doing water aerobics is the best and simplest way to keep it that way.

  11. These are some great thoughts. i like how you have explained it and applied it.

  12. Leigh: Thanks. It's true that we can't run from ourselves and that success won't heal us. Inner change will.

    Robyn: Sadly, when the pain inside the fist remains, even joyful things like getting a book contract won't really take it away. I'm glad you've found encouraging reading and hope you find joy in the journey that is the writing itself.

    Jade: Thanks so much. This was a deeply personal revelation I came to. I believe that writing will be much more joyful when it doesn't carry the weight of becoming my source of vindication.

  13. Jessica: Of Lamott's fiction, I've only read The Blue Shoe, which I really enjoyed. I agree that creativity can be a way of loosening the fist and letting light in.

    Shannon: Yancey does have a way of speaking sense to our souls, doesn't he?

    Joanne: Beautifully said. The ordinary graces of delight and wonder have such healing power.

  14. Karen: These were all hard-won realizations from my personal struggles with the baggage of very difficult stuff in my childhood. Where writing fits in has become a lot clearer now.

    Kristen: Indeed, inner fears can really pound us inside. I'm glad you've found encouragement to face yours.

    Bish: Caring for our bodies can be so helpful and healing.

    Josh: I hope these ideas are encouraging to you. Maturity is a tough prize worth fighting for.

  15. What a beautiful and meaningful post. So true. That fist. Why do we practice self-abuse? The fist opens up and turns into an embrace with the love and encouragement of other creatives. Feeling success in the process and in the relationships it builds.

  16. A spiritually, emotionally uplifting post Laurel. This has moved me. Thank you.


  17. Mary: Our self-protections end up hurting us is what I've found. Growing and healing requires some vulnerability, and that's hard. I love your image of the fist beoming an embracing hand. Well said.

    Donna: You're most welcome. Wishing you health, healing and lots of ordinary graces.