I was sitting in a nail salon on Friday morning pampering myself with a manicure when a group of teenage girls pushed through the door. 

“We’d like a manicure!” they said in unison.

“It will be fifteen minutes,” the girl behind the counter replied.  “Pick out your colors.”  The girls proceeded to pick their nail polishes as only middle-school girls can.  “I want this one . . . . No this one is cool. . . . I saw Jennifer Anniston wear this one in a picture in US magaine.”

The woman at the manicurist’s table next to me sighed loudly and then said in her raspy smoker’s voice, “Girls like that really trigger me.”

I need to be honest.  I really didn’t want to talk to the woman.  I had come for a manicure — not a conversation, but her sigh and her statement made me curious.  “Girls like what?”  I asked my first question.

“Girls that are so spoiled and entitled.  I mean I didn’t get my first manicure until I was thirty!”  She sighed again more loudly.

“Well what do you mean, ‘They trigger you’?” I asked the next obvious question. 

“I don’t know.  I guess they just make me mad.  I will probably be in a bad mood all day!”  With that, she picked up a copy of US magazine and moved to the next table to dry her nails.

All day long I thought about this woman, her trigger of thirteen-year-old suburbian girls, and what triggers me.  Here’s a list that I made while waiting to pick up a prescription (waiting is definitely a trigger for me!):

*   Angry drivers who gesture, honk their horns, and race by me as a commentary on my driving.
*   Pot-lucks or any type of buffet food.
*   Ungrateful people.
*   Memories of how I have failed and hurt others.
*   Service counters with only one person to serve a long line of customers.
*   Name-droppers.
*   Loneliness.
*   Being the only single in a room full of couples.
*   Angry, bickering friends, couples, or families.
*   Being left out.
*   Legalism.
*   Being criticized when I think I’m doing the best that I can.

Well, I could go on and on.  You will note that apart from bad buffets, I am triggered by circumstances involving people.  A dear friend told me yesterday, “Sharon, we all trigger each other.  God allows it — so that we can experience deeper healing.”  I think that I’ve missed out on a lot of deeper healing, because rather than seeing Jesus all over these triggers, I get personally offended.  I am hurt, outraged, ashamed, and I start down one of two paths:  I either want to hurt back or I want to ignore the “trigger” to keep everything looking smooth on the surface.

When I hurt back by withdrawing from relationship or using my verbal skills to try to put someone in their place, I am deflecting my own “shadow.”   I am refusing to be willing to look at my impatience, self-righteousness, self-centeredness, manipulation, self-pity, and lack of trust in God.  When I ingore the trigger, I am taking in others’ “shadows” — believing that no good will come to the relationship if I am honest and courageous enough to share my loneliness, my disappointment, woundedness, and confusion.  I either project my darkness onto others or accept darkness as my true value.  

Being personally offended keeps me in self-control and out of self-surrender — and that keeps me from Jesus.  What if triggers were meant to lead to confession, humility, repentance, and transformation?  That would mean that when you trigger me, you give me the gift of bringing the darkness into the Light, and when I trigger you, I give you this same gift.  When we bring something into the Light, we bring it to The Light — Jesus, and we can trust Him to sort it out.  Triggers are about trust — trusting the healing process — a way we can hear from God, a way we can forgive, a way of self-surrender. 

Listening, confessing, forgiving, trusting, and surrendering — they all sound so good until someone triggers me — and I get personally offended.  My pastor, Peter Hiett, gave another perspective on triggers in a sermon entitled, “You Don’t Vote for King.”  He believes that being triggered could be about Jesus’ command that we “Take up our cross and follow Him.”  He explains,   “It’s always easier to be offended than it is to be crucified.  Do nothing because you are offended.  Do everything because you love.  Do everything from love — not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.  And this is how He conquers us — with His cross.  Crosses are for getting crucified by those who hate us because we love them.  They are being present in bearing another’s hell.  Speaking the truth in love.  Crosses are bearing wounds — the wounds of those that hurt you.”  He concludes with some powerful words that I pray that I remember every time I am triggered and then personally offended: “Once you’ve been to the Cross and you’ve really seen that it was your sin that nailed the Son to that wood where He bore hell for you — once you’ve really seen that — it’s hard to be personally offended with someone else.” 

Maybe God even leads us to the triggers so that He can lead us through them back to Jesus. 

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:  compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.”  Colossians 3