”No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it” – Albert Einstein
Nothing beats a failure like a good-ole-fashioned try right? Wrong. For some of us, this route has been a pain-staking journey that has led us on paths we would rather not remember. As relieving as the inability to not recall our past may sound, we should equally understand we simply cannot forget. Not because we don’t want to, but because we cannot. The intertwining weave of brokenness, pain, hurt, anger, emptiness and even spouts of joy has found its way deep into the pockets of our souls, which won’t allow us to simply erase what was.
This does not necessarily have to equate to a present life of misery, unforgiveness and shame, but it certainly can and has been the story for many, including present company for many years. For many years I was that guy who allowed the past to dictate the future. As much as I tried, I was unable to break the negative cycles that seemed to torment my every move and relationship. I was doing the right things, so I thought.
I went to counseling, prayed to God and spoke to trusted friends, however one important part was missing. That missing piece was my inability to get past myself.
Often times when we blow it in life, we tend to label ourselves as the biggest losers on the face of the earth. This frame of mind can become impenetrable even towards God, the wisest of words and sound counsel. A hardened heart cannot hear.
So there we are, living our lives as if nothing has gone awry. We smile when we’re suppose to, talk about the kids as if they have no problems and as for our relationships – well they couldn’t be better we say. In most cases the ones we are sharing these so-called truths with, reciprocates the effort with the greatest of ease. Sound familiar?
Although we may repeat moments like this effortlessly over and over again, one thing holds true, whether we want to admit it or not. Once we have shared and walked away, something inside of us tends to feel more alone than before we spoken. The reality of our empty words consumes the moment and we become saddened with the idea of being the only one who feels this way, even though we are not alone.
Change never come easy, especially when that change means the life that we know today may never be the same again. Our desire to hold on to what we know often overshadows the ugly reality that we live in and usually feels more comfortable than the gaping hole and dissatisfaction that we are currently living in.
What if it could be different? What if there were a way to stop living behind the veil of perfection and just be you? The you that cry’s when he/she is sad, the you who admits imperfection at the perfect time, the you who stands against injustice, even when it’s unpopular in your community and the you who dares to become vulnerable in the most inauspicious moments. Is it even possible, or is this just a fairytale idea?
Life is not just a about what you make it and who you share it with, but more importantly how you share it. The things we choose to give away from within are the things that will resonate with others and give them life, and in turn give life to us. The type of life that reaches to the depths of our being and speaks in that small still voice saying I hear you, I see you and you matter.
Yes, change is hard work, however it is essential and a part of our own humanness, but somewhere along the journey of life, of becoming better people, we have lost our deep longing to simply be who we are. A people who were created to dwell together and make this world better, more sustainable, safe and a stable place for the next generations that come after us. Tall buildings and technology will inevitably always be a part of this equation, but those things alone will never replace the human element that exist in each of us. The desire to be authentically known and accepted by another. The soul that is saying, “I am here”.
“Lonely is not being alone, it’s the feeling that no one cares.” – Unknown
No matter what facet of life I am in, whether working at my job as an employee, raising my children as a father, being a husband to my wife or simply living as a citizen in society, I fully understand that I am a part of a greater collective. And in that collective I run across people who are at various stages in their emotional state. Some may be harboring anger from a recent or past incident while others find themselves saddened by their current state of affairs. Regardless of the state, I know at any given time we all have been that person and will continue to be as we live from day-to-day.
However, there is a stark difference when we find ourselves in these aforementioned conditions and add loneliness to it. And I am not speaking of the act of simply being alone, but the state of feeling alone, even within a large group.
Imagine if you can that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, well according to an article written in the Huffington Post (March 21, 2015) this is exactly the case. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html
It is that condition where we feel disconnected to our greater surroundings and possibly continue to withdraw from our social networks. The implications can be quite detrimental specifically to our mental and physical health, and seeing how vast this number is, just in the United States alone, we either have been that person or ran across someone (almost daily) who is currently suffering from loneliness.
Like so many of us, we have equally become experts at masking, or what I refer to as the art of disguising ourselves. You know that place where we only display what we want others to see, nothing more, nothing less? This becomes a place of safety, and even if it is only an illusion it makes the sufferer feel better, at least for the necessary moment.
So what can we do to help offset the many negative implications of loneliness, short of medical science and therapy? I believe a lot and it won’t cost us a thing, except for our time and perhaps becoming a little more attuned to the people who make up our communities.
Think about how rushed we are in life on a daily basis. To the point where we hardly recognize those around us. We say our hello’s and share niceties about our weekends and our kid’s soccer game, but rarely do we actually “see” people, or better yet “hear” them.
This does not have to be a prying session of your colleague’s or neighbor’s intimate life details, but more practically a conversation that conveys mutual respect, genuine concern and a display of giving a damn about someone else. Unfortunately a rarity in our current society.
I firmly believe that we are either building bridges towards this or blowing them up on a daily basis. It is so easy to cut someone off, shun them or keep them in the shadows of our lives deliberately, and since this applies equally to our professional and personal lives, the opportunities to make a real difference are grand. It must first become our choice and then a decision to act on it.
Can we save the world? The optimistic me says yes we can, one person at a time, however in order to rescue people from themselves, the ones that understand grace, walk in gratitude and live by a faith larger than themselves must first step up and touch someone else with words and actions that matter and equally resonate with that other person.
This is where our personal time comes into play. The time required to think of someone besides ourselves, the time required to be thoughtful or considerate, just because it might cause someone else to feel better and the time required to thoughtfully listen and respond with care and empathy.
I realize it will take much to change our world, and the way things are headed it may seem like this type of post is worthless, but I am committed to doing my part and that is providing a forum for those that dare to care enough and desire to do something about it.
Let us not forget those that are lonely and despondent. Let’s remember they live next door to us, share the roads with us, work next to us, live with us or perhaps they-are-us.
”You will never be able to escape your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” – Paul Coelho
Just last week I witnessed a dad telling his 4-5 year old son to not be a “cry baby” because he wanted his mother. It was in a public place, so I am pretty sure the father was a bit embarrassed, not because he should have been, but because of the valueless stereotype placed on boys, (and fathers) whom one day become men that are taught to believe that emotions, specifically crying is a sign of weakness and should never be displayed.
The term is, “suck it up”, and as a dad I have used it with my own son on many occasions, and have been told the same by my father many times growing up. Initially it seems like a harmless thing, but over time young boys (like me) learned to internalize that idea, and it eventually began to shape how we think about what it meant to be a man, father and husband.
Imagine growing up and being shamed for displaying any type of emotions. Being called a cry baby, punk or sissy. After a while you learn to contain those emotions, just to protect yourself from being shamed any longer, despite the circumstances and the slow burning turmoil begins.
Now I absolutely celebrate the beauty of our differences as men and women. We each play an important role in the family and in some cases the roles are actually reversed, but nonetheless there are a unique set of attributes being disseminated to our offspring through us. Those attributes do not primarily come from what we say, but ultimately how we live and interact with our children.
What is important to take note of is one day we grow up. We become men who raise our own children, men who establish relationships, get married, interact in the work place and in our respective communities. What does this type of man give if he has been told all his life that his authentic self is weak and should be replaced by someone better, someone stronger or someone less sensitive?
He morphs into that acceptable image of a man and screams inside, because we learn it feels better to be accepted for who we are not, than to be ridiculed for who we really are.
Obviously this goes deeper than just being shamed for crying after experiencing a fall, cut or bruise. It is about the impact to our psyche, ideals about who we are and possibly who we will become in the future. If I choose to hide my best self, due to the shame I experienced for a great part of my life what have I become? Sadly I have become a liar of the worst kind. The one that lies to himself.
It took me many years to truly discover who I was. I was ashamed based on what I thought I was supposed to be true about me, but I eventually learned there was more to who I was, and those new discoveries were admirable, holistic, pure and honest. I learned that I was okay in my own skin, no matter what anyone else had to say.
So much of our lives is spent on jockeying for position, affirmation and status. We our taught at those tender young impressionable ages through expression, interactions and experiences, that we really are not good enough as we are. Therefore we spend a lifetime reinventing ourselves. For men, we define ourselves by our possessions, how strong and viral we are and the current status we hold in the workplace and community.
Of course the aforementioned list has it’s place and relevance in our lives, but far too often it becomes the standard we live by name strive for. Therefore we short-circuit the creative genius and beauty that is waiting to manifest itself.
Sadly, for so many that beauty and creative genius will die or remain dormant, trapped inside the walls of shame, disgrace and fear that someone else built for us many years prior. Like a glass ceiling we can see the other side, we just are not sure how to actually get to the other side of it. So we make do with what we know and are comfortable with, however something on the inside will always be shouting to us, “YOU ARE MORE THAN YOU ARE RIGHT NOW!”
Will you listen or simply continue living with the armor on?
“You are what you do, not what you say you will do.” – Unknown
How many times have your dreams been shattered or the perfect ideal of what you thought you wanted only led to great disappointment? Wait don’t answer that question, because we all have been there to some degree. Whether in great magnitude or on a small-scale. I imagine it’s a definite indicator of being a human being.
So, since we are all pretty much experiencing this at some point in our life journeys, how are we dealing with it? Are we overcoming new obstacles, putting into practice lessons learned, repeating poor decisions, getting it, like really getting it, or are we falling into the same destructive patterns that led us once-upon-a-time into distressing emotional turmoil, depriving physical estrangement or financial disarray?
I know we all want to believe we are growing and getting better as we get older, but the true test falls under the category of, “the life we are currently living”. Quiet honestly not much else matters. Our words are great and have their place, but if they fail to align with our current actions, they simply fall to the ground and hold no barring for anyone, which actually causes us to not look so becoming to those that bother to listen to us.
So, like me you let someone down by breaking a promise. You fell short of the ideal mark. You proved that you were not quite ready for the commitment. You accepted and agreed to deliver without fully understanding the full picture (or perhaps you did and still didn’t care). You failed to consider the cost and said yes anyway, or you simply weren’t ready. Or perhaps you always knew the situation/relationship would fail, but you went through it anyway. On the other hand, you were the recipient of all these. Welcome to the club, but let it be your goal to expeditiously remove yourself from this membership as soon as possible, because lifetime affiliation is honestly not good thing.
My core values fall under the category of perpetual optimist. I inherently believe most people want to do the right thing, even when they do not. This is not to say that I fail to recognize there will always be an element that do not have my best interest at hand. I simply choose to believe the majority will. Call me naive.
That said, after I have endured my own pity party, played the blame game, suffered as a victim and been let down, a few questions still lied before me. What the heck am I going to do now that my heart has been broken or I broke someone else’s? What will my next steps be when my alleged soul mate found someone else or worse, cheated on me? How do I recover when I am left with nothing?
I can say there must be a season of licking your wounds, grieving and remaining to yourself. The length of time all depends on how deep the wound is and what type of help and work you commit to. Some of us bounce back quickly, while others may take years. We are all different and should give ourselves license to heal at own our pace, but we must also be cognizant of becoming bitter, numb and distant, as this is counterproductive to truly moving forward.
For those that fall under the category of heartbreaker, remember that you are also human and subject to frailty. Not an excuse to repeat past poor behavior, but more importantly an opportunity to correct it, own it and make amends for it. This is a lot easier said than done, but nonetheless a critical and mature step. At minimum (and especially when the victim refuses to speak with you) forgive yourself and take corrective authentic action to become a better man or woman.
It is never too late to learn a new thing, only to those that fail to see their impact and power in the world. When we recognize how important and relevant we are, we take quicker action to remedy unfavorable situations. We understand the sooner we heal, accept our failure and own the steps we took to promote the demise of another, the sooner we will be free to live the lives we were meant to live.
The sunshine awaits us, especially the broken soul. Your beauty is radiant and filled with promise. The promise to deliver a message that embraces empathy and encourages hope and promise. Living beyond broken promises and disappointment is a gift. A gift to everyone that crosses our path, because our lives have been enriched with a deep brokenness and pain that enables us to see life in different way. A way that not only sees beyond right now, but offers a real hope for tomorrow, despite the current circumstances faced.
“Sometimes God allows times of transition to create transformation.” – Lynn Cowell
I can promise you that I do not have an affinity with darkness. I actually consider myself to be a very optimistic person, who consistently attempts to look on the brighter side of life, however after blogging for approximately two years now, I have come to better understand the many hurting people who still exist in the world. An even more closer, the ones that have the courage to share a little of their personal stories on social media with me and the audience I share here on this website.
As I have mentioned in prior posts, life is hard and we can never fully be ready for all that comes with our specific journeys, and I have had the privilege to hear some amazing stories of tragedy, recovery and being somewhere in the middle of both. What remains consistent with each story is the insurmountable feeling of loss, grief, pain and turmoil each person experiences as they go through their season of darkness, yet there has equally been a consistent ray of hope that seems to keep them holding on and seeking to get beyond it.
I am truly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community of people who “get it”, and I wanted to take the time in this post to acknowledge those that continue to suffer and press through darkness. Suffering has no ethnicity, gender or religious background. It comes to us all, planned and by surprise, day or night, young and old. It does not take in consideration how nice we are or who we may have hurt in the past. It just comes, and often like a rushing wind.
So if you find yourself smack in the middle of a hard place, this post is for you. A few things you should know was you go through:
1. You are not alone, even if you feel like you are. – One of the worst things you can do while facing a tragedy is to go it alone. This is not to say that everyone in your circle should know your intimate secrets, but isolation is the devils playground and when you retreat from your immediate world you lose some of your best resources for good counsel and support. Darkness is just that, a place where we cannot always see our way due to the circumstances we face and the emotions we harbor. So as you are feeling your way through that dark place, do not be afraid to reach out to someone who may know better than you do, been there before and willing to offer support. It can literally change the trajectory of where you are headed.
2. Give yourself license to feel the pain of your situation. – So often we are told to get over it and move on, and we equally know that is much easier vocalized than done. We are each different, with our own set of propensities to recover, see the light and move past our pain. Some bodies heal faster than others and I imagine this logically applies to the emotional part of us as well, so don’t get in a hurry seeking relief, because in that search what you may find will only offer a temporary refuge, not a sustaining peace that you need. Although pain never feels good, it does have a way of stripping us of pride and deflecting blame on others after it has run its course. Once you begin to allow ourselves to feel the pain that you are experiencing it will force you to reconcile more of the core issues that caused it. It is definitely not our initial response while going through the difficulty, but if we can gather the courage to have those hard conversations with ourselves the sooner we begin to address the hard stuff.
3. Don’t beat yourself up over what happened or hold yourself hostage with anger. – Whether it was your fault or not, there has to be a time that you begin to move past that specific place of blame. Once you accepted responsibility, or had the opportunity to speak with the person who offended you, (and said your peace) it is time to move on. Harboring feelings of resentment can only lead to more pain and the short cycling of your own healing and recovery. This becomes critical as you see yourself getting better, but you allow someone or some circumstance to take you backwards. It is important to realize that you cannot undo the past. What is done is done, but the unrealized future still remains ahead of you, and how you choose to respond to it will dictate if you will be ready for it or not, and even influence how it will manifest later your life.
4. Know who your safe friends are (including family). – One of the fastest ways to relapse back to a place of bitterness and unresolved pain is to surround yourself around people who do not support the process of your recovery. Sometimes our friends can become more angry than we were at times. I am all for my “ride or die” folks that want to come to my aid, but it is equally important for them to know when to stand down and accept where I am, whether they agree with me or not. Remember, it is always easier for someone else to remove themselves from your circumstance when they have no real attachment, authentic connection or ultimate responsibility to it, therefore remain with like-minded people. Ones that want to see you grow and become healthier versus being full of unforgiveness and aiming to seek revenge.
5. Take life one day at a time. – I truly empathize with those of you who are going through hard times. It is never easy and often feels like the pain will never go away. I know from my own personal experiences, but it does get easier as we learn the lessons we are supposed to learn and grow from the situation. This is a process that cannot be rushed. It takes time and what we choose to do in that time really counts. My best advice is to take everything one day at a time. It may sound like a trivial piece of advice, but it is really important to get this. Now is not the time to be in a hurry and speed your life away, but purposefully slow it down through surrendering prayer, meaningful mediation and thought-provoking reflection.
Growing through darkness can be a reality that we all experience when life gets hard. It certainly will not come easy and unfortunately many decide to prematurely quit before recognizing the change they desire, but it is possible. I am a living witness. After suffering two divorces, being molested and experiencing other broken relationships, I have had my share of pain that I wish on no human being, but through it all I have grown and learned some lessons that I will carry with me for the remainder of my life. Lessons that cause me to stand when I feel like falling, see hope when life seems hopeless and acknowledge that life could always be worse when it seems at it hardest point. I have grown through my darkest seasons and so can you. Never give up!
“When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.” – Nelson Mandela
We have all said it at some point in our lives to loved ones, close friends and even ourselves when times are tough. “Things will get better with time.” The phrase does sound good and lends itself to even seem comforting when we are hurting, but do things really get better with time? I suppose on the surface, the answer is an absolute yes. Over time it is true we do tend to feel less of the sting pain indiscriminately doles out, whether physical or emotional, but does feeling better really mean we are better? Hmmm… one of those questions to ponder I suppose.
The body is an amazing creation. The fact that when we injure ourselves the body is designed to go into healing mode. Over a course of weeks, months and therapy (depending on the severity of the injury) besides a scar, there is no noticeable evidence of an injury at all. Now we all know that it was not the time that healed that would, but the amazing work occurring on the inside of the body to mend things back together.
The same is true when we are injured emotionally. If someone hurts us in a relationship and we do nothing to understand the core issue(s), we are destined to repeat the circumstance with someone else. For some of us (including present company) this has been an all too common occurrence.
Simply taking a hiatus from dating is not enough to thwart the problem (if dating is your issue) if we do not add the parts that identify the core problem, work through it and apply the learned principles to prevent it from happening with the next guy or gal.
There are so many websites dedicated to discussions on cheaters and liars, and although some have valid points to make, many others simply use the platform to complain and bash the opposite sex, but seldomly look at the work required for prevention or the responsibility they had in the demise of the relationship as well.
It will always be easier to blame another individual, especially when they created the majority of the issue, but what about that small percentage owned by the other person? Does it present a pattern? Have you been here before? Same situation different person? Could you be the common denominator? Again, something too think about.
When we fail to allow ourselves to authentically heal over a period of time, which includes doing the work necessary to become whole how is it possible to think we would make a better decision the next time? How is it that our anger simply becomes directed towards a gender, personality type or ethnicity, versus ourselves? Could it be that we are still carrying baggage from our past that is destined to bring extra weight and turmoil to our next relationship or circumstance? Could it be that time did nothing but give us an illusion that we were better, but in essence we were just numb? And the only way we really know we have not healed is when a circumstance presents itself that reminds us of our brokenness, and we flash on someone or become instantly disengaged. Been there?
In essence, time heals a wound like a bandage heals a cut. It will never be about the time directly, but more importantly what we choose to do in that time. So my prayer is that we choose to recognize the patterns that hinder us, (different face same guy) do the work to change and grow and apply the lessons learned to live a healthier life.
For most of my life I have bought into this relationship between time and healing, but I have always questioned the core idea. I would assume most professionals would agree more than time is required to heal wounds, but somewhere along the way of this commonly used phrase, the translation became lost or diluted with the masses and it simply continues to get passed along like it is a scientific fact. Or perhaps this is simply a part of my perfectionist personality to address it. Either way, I believe it is important that we understand what is implied when we make this statement or any commonly use saying that solicits hope, when it fact it may actually perpetuate the contrary.
To all those finally acknowledging your part in your healing or lack thereof, welcome to the club. There truly is an upside to being down, but we must first recognize the pain and do the right things with it. Numbing it feels great for a short season, but it truly never simply goes away and it will most certainly come back to remind you, “I am still here until you deal with me.”
Neither your age, a new relationship or a geographic relocation will change that fact, because the pain lies within you lying dormant until it is once again disturbed, so yes it requires painstaking, emotionally distressful and committed work, but it is worth the blood, sweat and tears. You are worth it!
“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be” – Voltaire
Lately I have learned how to appreciate the small and simple things in life. For instance a new day, a sunset or spending time with my family has definitely become more meaningful. I know this may not sound very spectacular, but I am not simply speaking about having fun with family or looking at the horizon in awe of a beautiful scene, as nice as these things are. But what I am speaking of is the essence of both of these and what they truly represent, which for me is a deep appreciation of my life and those that choose to be in it with me and my appreciation for God’s creation, which ultimately reminds me that tomorrow is always a new day.
When I consider these new days it reminds me to be hopeful, grateful and thankful for what I have, what I have been through and what lies before me. It has taken a while for this style of living to take root in my life, especially when there are real past circumstances living in my recent memory constantly reminding me of the contrary, but something as simple as a sunset has helped to change that way of thinking. More importantly, it is my own personal growth that has allowed me to respect and understand the significance of those simple, yet dynamic things in nature, life and family.
Being a man who has always lived his life with the rear view mirror in close sight, this way of thinking is a fairly new concept for me. It kind of ties into that over thinking side of me. I use to disproportionately consider the thoughts and ideas of others when it came to my actions, especially if they were not agreeable. I spent more time wondering how others felt or thought about me than living my own life and pressing on. I equate this to living in bondage and fear. It is the fear to fail or disappoint someone else, therefore we become bound and essentially do nothing. It is a vicious cycle that can perpetuate itself over and over again for a lifetime.
So what does one do after experiencing failure, under going a major let down, suffering abuse or hurting someone else? My advice is to recognize the beautiful things that exist around us. Also known as, “don’t forget to smell the roses.” It is very easy to take for granted a sunrise or a really good friendship. Although they may happen everyday all around the globe, many of us fail to see them or appreciate the beauty that they offer, especially when we are in need them. I will confess that when I am in the center of a dark place, I can easily miss them or simply choose not to acknowledge that they exist, but nowadays I make a point to stop, breathe and enjoy what I have today.
I refuse to allow the past to dictate my future, no matter how dark my past was. I can no longer be victimized by mistakes I have made or things I have done. I choose to walk in the light of my forgiveness and the freedom I have through the choices I have made according to my faith in God.
There is so much we can learn from life when we make the decision to pause and just look around. I can complain about what I lack, what I want or even what I possibly lost, or I can reset and remind myself that I have the privilege to breathe the air today. I can remind myself that even though I may have some haters around me, there are still people who love and care about who I am as a man, despite anything and everything. And as the sun rises with each day, that love is new, and I will take joy in that, period. More importantly, I will love myself and never give up on who I am and who I am becoming.
Negative words will not penetrate a heart or mind that knows it is loved. This is why is it is so important to accept our wrong doings, own what is ours, seek forgiveness, reconcile and keep living. Not all will forgive you and some relationships will never be reconciled, but we give ourselves a fighting chance to live a life free of bondage when we do these things. The key is to never look back or be entertained with visions and negative images of your past, not even for a moment.
I have learned that making peace with our past is like laying it to rest at a funeral. During the funeral I may have painful emotions and struggle, but once I bury “the thing” I release it and declare to myself and the world that what is in front of me is all that really matters now. In that moment I must realize I cannot bring what is dead back to life, and it is time to heal and move on with life. Saying sorry will not change the circumstances, so once that is done, it must be done for real and forever.
Are you still living like a victim of your past? Do you believe you have committed the most unforgivable sin? Are there people in your life still reminding you that you are unworthy? Well it is time that you live in the present. It is time that you understand we have all failed in something, and as humans we will continue to fall short. And it is time that you drop those that fail to see your worth. It is time that you love yourself more than the outside world does.
Remember to smell the roses. Remember to connect with those that love you in spite of, and everyone once in a while take in a sunset or sunrise and know that tomorrow is truly a new day. An opportunity for us all to ponder, refresh and start anew.
“I got tired of living a lie. I wish it was because I finally saw the error of ways, but honestly it was because my lie became disclosed, but now I am WHOLE and it no longer matters how, I just am.” – Henry G. Nutt, III
Most of us can relate to the phrase, “I am being my own worse enemy”. Not only because it has become commonplace in our everyday language, but really because we believe it and often live out the meaning of the words everyday. Sure we will have people and circumstances that come to only hinder us in our progression, but what about how we impact our own lives for the worse, seemingly without any effort? What about those individuals that require no help at all from outsiders to divert or destroy laid out plans and goals? If this is you, welcome to the club, but if you are anything like me, it is not a club you really want to belong to, or worse become a lifetime member. So how do we get out? Well like with anything, before we make any steps toward progress or healing we need these four things:
1. Become aware that we have an issue.
2. Be willing to seek help to address the issue or problem head on with guidance and wisdom.
3. Apply the advice or counsel given to us.
4. Keep applying it for a lifetime.
As a disclaimer, I’ll first say this. As an individual that has made the decision to place a good part of his life on the Internet, sometimes it may come across like I am blaming people for past issues, directing specific information towards others or attempting to call people out. I can assure you that those of you who think this way are far off the mark. Each week that I write, I am able to do so solely because I have released, forgiven and reconciled with the core issue or person(s), if they were willing to own their part. But I will say that being free is just that. I no longer have ties or feel entrapped by the past. I have no anger, or ill feelings towards anyone that offended me or I offended. I press on as I encourage my readers to. The bullsh*t I kept inside for the majority of my life has been released, and my decision to write about it is not designed to bring harm or embarrass anyone, but only to live my life with transparency, authenticity and hopefully help others to not live in dismay as I did for so many years. Long ago are the days when I use to raise my hands in church to God, singing that I am free, but was really in bondage still.
For years I took a back seat to most things. I was afraid of confident people, mad at my father (for several years) and lived in shame for a host of reasons. This affected my marriage, profession and everyday walk. Not only was I my own worse enemy, but I consistently talked myself out of accomplishing anything great or worthy. Simply stated, I rejected myself on a regular basis. It became quite easy and my norm to take a back to seat to most things. Rarely did I offer my opinion. I would rather go with the flow as to not disturb or disrupt anything that had been previously established, whether it was in need of adjustment or not. I apologized for things that were not my fault, and found myself trying to fix everyone and everything around me. I easily became angry with people who seemed to need me, and equally upset with those that seemed to not need me at all. It was a vicious cycle that became the impetus and the reason for the demise of many of my relationships.
What I came to understand is that I was actually rejecting myself. I did not like the fact that I felt weak and incapable, therefore whenever I became involved with someone who had similar qualities, I was not simply rejecting them, but I was actually rejecting myself. A self that was more comfortable with living in the shadows of life and remaining alone when I should have been connecting with others, but that was not be. So on I went for years, living a type of double-life. I was ashamed and afraid to be myself and carried disdain for those who seemed to have their lives intact. My life was really a mess, but still not at rock bottom.
Then it happened. The guy that was able to juggle his life and mask his true feelings, emotions and intentions with the best of them became exposed. I spent several weeks looking for figurative rocks to crawl under while at the same time defending the lies that I stood on for years, until I finally realized that my only escape was to come clean with the truth. Talk about a low point, shame and self rejection! Here it was in full disclosure facing me for the first time, and I had nowhere to hide.
My core issue of self rejection had finally manifested in ways that I could not simply rationalize away with eloquent words and a kind-hearted demeanor, which I had certainly mastered over the years. It was as if someone who knew me well, asked the real Henry to stand up, and as I was looking around for that guy to take a stand, I humbly realized the real me never took a stand on many things, let alone on myself.
The elementary version is I cheated, but it is so much more complex than that, because when most people speak of cheating, their minds connect it with a sexual act. And although this is typically where it will lead to, there are multiple levels that can bring more despair, pain and division in the relationship you have with others, God and with yourself. But until we remotely begin to understand this, we are doomed to repeat the act with different people.
So ultimately what was the hard lesson for a boy who was afraid of his father, molested by a close female relative, misunderstood the purposes of sex and monogamy, learned early that masking authentic feelings and emotions was actually acceptable and easy and finally, how coming to everyone else’s rescue could further keep my own feelings at bay and from my heart, would make my life a ticking time bomb of potential chaos and destruction? The lesson is I failed to truly love myself. Now I never had thoughts to physically bring harm to myself by jumping off a bridge, but I was slowly killing myself emotionally and psychologically with each offense. I failed to authentically love myself. I was not important enough in my own mind, so how could anyone else ever be? I was indeed my own worse enemy, therefore an enemy to the ones I claimed to love as well.
For years I lived in the dark, hiding from myself due to shame and a myriad of other issues. Today I am grateful that my hidden life and thoughts were brought to the surface. It proved to be the beginning of an arduous journey of discovery and truth. I am a better man because of it and I continue to grow.
“I am far from what I once was, but not yet what I am going to be.” – Unknown
We can all recall a time in our lives when we were preparing for a trip, whether a short one or a long one. We would pack our bags and jump in the car, bus, train or plane and away we went. Just the anticipation of going somewhere was always exciting. Seeing familiar places, new places, old friends and family would always bring me to a good place.
But what happens when the journey turns sour and what you were expecting becomes a nightmare that seems to never end? A journey that began with that one day or moment where your life would never be the same.
Year after year and moment after the moment I reflected. I felt like damaged goods, different, weird, ashamed and unworthy. For a while I even forgot why. “Was I just born this way”, I use to say to myself. Unfortunately, it was my secret to keep and work through alone, or so I thought for many years.
And so the journey began. My life as a young boy being molested by a trusted family member. How would it shape me? How would I think as young boy, teenager, young adult, boyfriend, husband or father? Would my outlook on life change? Was I normal still? Would my views on sexual relationships change? Could I still trust people? Did every seven to ten-year old boy have an opinion or thought about sex as I did? Why did I become so guarded with everyone? Why did it become so easy to dismiss people, especially the ones closest to me? And what does loving with your heart really mean?
These and more are questions or thoughts that filled my mind as I was growing up at various stages of my life, that I obviously could not answer, but they have shaped my relationships and propensities in so many ways. Ultimately placing me on journey to many dark places until my emotional life was broken by pain, misery and shame.
So today as I sit here and reflect on my past, my perpetrator and all the poor decisions I made because of this moment, it is not a time to say despicable things, place blame (although she was at fault) or discuss how angry or hurt I was, but for me it is a time to really reflect on me and who I am today.
Unfortunately, bad things happen in the world everyday and most stories will probably never be heard. It is a terrible tragedy that we will all face directly or indirectly at some point in our lives.
I am not here to tell you how you should respond or act, I can only take responsibility for me and my actions. And my actions or choice was/is to heal, grow and not repeat the horrendous things that occurred during my childhood or perpetuate them as an adult. I, me… Have done this by reflecting, counseling, praying, forgiving and ultimately giving it over to God.
So I compare a part of this journey like any other journey, like the first time I learned how to ride a bike. My father was behind me first holding on to the bike as he pushed me forward and then he let me go. There I was for the first time riding a bike. My life would never be the same after that moment. A kid first learning how to ride a bike is a big deal. It afforded me new opportunities to explore with my friends, gave me a sense of independence and helped to forge new friendships within my community. It was a great thing as I embarked on my journey of first learning how to ride a bike. Seems simple and harmless and it was, but nonetheless it was a pivotal point in my life just like many others moments that I can reflect on and now see how they have affected my life.
What becomes difficult is what we are reflecting on. Some things we would rather not remember, I get it, but I agree with Brene Brown as she states, “When we choose to bury the story, we forever remain the subject.” In other words, I refuse to remain a victim of my past no matter how tragic the impact, because whether I believe it or not, agree with it or not, I WILL continue to live out the secrets, hidden moments and suppressed thoughts of being victimized, because it was all a part of my story. What I have control over now is how those moments will be lived out. Unlike when I was a child and ignorant to who I had become.
For a big part of my life I was not in control. I was a victim of my circumstances and was okay with that until it begin to manifest a deeper pain that impacted me as well as those that I loved or claimed to. It was a journey with a very predictable ending, but who ever sees the forest while in the midst of the trees?
Knowing better is rarely enough to propel us to do better.
So it took the pain of two divorces, multiple broken hearts (including my own) and years of living in confusion, misery and shame before I would wake up and become aware. Truly aware of where this journey of pain and suffering actually began. I was like the kid in the picture with a suitcase. I was going somewhere, but my destination was solely based on the circumstances I had previously experienced, like a pre-mapped out plan.
Like for so many, the product of the pain started decades prior, I just didn’t realize it until later in life after a great deal of damage had already charted its course. But it’s never too late to start anew. We just need some courage, a little faith, the hope that something better is possible and the desire to begin a new journey. Easier said than done, but nevertheless possible.
I am a firm believer that our past does not have to relegate our future or our ultimate destiny, but it can. The choice and power lie in our ability to understand and recognize that there is more to us than what we have experienced.
And perhaps a small part of me will always be that kid with a suitcase in my hand heading somewhere, but a least now I know where I am headed and my trip(s) have a purpose that I clearly understand and am okay taking. And so the journey begins… Where will you decide to go with the rest of your life?
“Forgive who hurt you in the past. But never forget the lessons they taught you” – Unknown
Sunday afternoon I was in a class like I am most Sundays teaching a class at church. As I was speaking with my students we stumbled on the subject of pain and it’s implications on our lives. As we discussed some recent tragedies that have occurred in our community and church family, one of my students begin to share her personal experience with people she has dealt with that work in the area of grief support. She mentioned a significant percentage of people who attempt to commit suicide really do not want to die, but many have become so overwhelmed with pain and grief that any alternative seems futile. She even mentioned a number of people calling 911 after jumping off bridges or buildings to say they have changed their minds. How tragic is that?! Now although I have no real facts to support this statement, I believe it does carry a portion of some truth, because I know that many people throughout the world are hurting.
As I listened to my student share this startling information I couldn’t help but think of how pain affects all of our lives. Just as we are created uniquely, we also handle distress and issues very differently. It is not a question of who is right or who is wrong, but more importantly the perspective we have while enduring potentially life changing circumstances, like divorce, death, unemployment, poverty, sickness, depression, etc. And with each of these issues there are many available vices to attach ourselves to that numb the noise of the pain, at least temporarily, but at some point we will face the reality of our lives, whether we are prepared to handle it or not. And unfortunately with those vices comes additional complications like addiction, crime and poor judgment, but while listening to her share, something struck me. People just want to be rid of the pain they feel, and they (we) will choose the path of least resistance to obtain any form of peace, whether pseudo peace or real.
Here lies the fork in the road for most of us, because the path of least resistance will inevitably lead to our dismay. Depending on how we were raised, the creeds of our life, our belief system and mental and emotional health, is directly tied to how we will respond to life tragedy. Many assume it becomes more about how strong or weak we are, but it is so much more than that. If that were the case, getting stronger is all that we would need, but simply being strong is not always enough. Or perhaps it is we need to redefine what being strong looks like during a crisis.
So there I was, at one of my lowest points in my life. I simply wanted to stay in bed and sleep in my “closed-blinds” room. I replayed the incident in my head over and over like it was a broken record. How did I allow this to happen to me, to my family? What will I do next? How did I get here? Is this really happening to me? Can I ever come out of this? These and many more questions like this plagued my mind continuously, until one day I finally broke. I guess you could call my breaking point, literally.
Although the phrase “breaking point” has a negative connotation, it was in that moment that I discovered the true strength I needed to press on in life. I had many options on how to recover and rebuild, but being broken is what actually brought me the peace I needed to carry on. The actual strength I so desperately needed came in my ability to surrender, confess and take responsibility, no matter how embarrassing or shameful it seemed. My choice to repent to God, take counsel and listen to trusted friends and family made all the difference in the world.
In the moment, this decision may have come across as weakness, but actually it was quite the contrary. I firmly believe that real strength is not about brawn, machismo, denial or avoidance, but an ability to surrender one’s heart and mind to something greater than themselves. Now I don’t know what that greater “thing” is for you, but for me it is my belief in Jesus Christ. This is my starting point, and the rest unfolds as is it should. And although there is no cookie-cutter result for how we heal, become whole or start over, this is how my pain began to dissipate.
Emotional pain has to be the worst type of pain to experience and although I wish it on no one, it is still prevalent throughout the world. Some handle it well, while many others slip deeper into darkness or become victims to even worse circumstances. The desire for relief is a form of survival that is real to us all, but our options for that relief are often more detrimental (when we’re in an unhealthy state) than the initial pain we faced. When it surfaces, pain often feels like an enemy to our soul, and we will do almost anything to make it go away. What we must understand and learn about ourselves is our propensities to make things worse by any means necessary. Easier said than done for sure, but as much as pain hurts it is also a great teacher. I never want to experience it at my own expense, so I make the choice to learn the lessons that I must learn. Yes, they are hard to swallow and often take longer than I could have ever imagined to come full circle, but at the end of the day or night, when I have peace, the world is a better place and I will fight to keep it that way.