”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.
“Some people are so broken, they get mad at you for being whole” – Unknown
How many things can you look back on in your life and get angry or sad? You know, the missed opportunities and poor decisions that took you way off the mark, or perhaps it was indecisiveness or procrastination that seemingly held you hostage from your ideal paths and goals.
To be more specific, how about a relationship that went sour after years of your time, investment and commitment, only to see your life partner walk away. Or perhaps you were the one to leave the relationship to try to salvage any dignity that remained in you, after realizing you had been betrayed by the one who claimed to love you with all their heart and soul. Or like the old cliché, you grew a part and found yourself more empty being together than you did alone.
There is no question that we can all fill in the blanks with a laundry list of disappointments that have filled our lives over the years. Perhaps some were avoidable, while others required a bit more maturity that you simply did not have at your disposal at the time. So you made your choices with what you knew and understood, and whether wrong, right or indifferent those decisions currently shape the world you live in today.
Seeing that I can relate to all the above and more, I have learned it is what we do during calamity that defines us, and how we respond cannot be mistaken and is seldom debatable. This defining moment reaches to the fabric of our being and is a great opportunity to expose our true hearts, intentions and motivations. Very rarely is it a feel good session for the one being exposed, even if only to one’s self.
So what do you find ourselves doing after the dust has settled, your separate lives have went on, and the emotional distress of the moment has long faded away? Have you become bitter, distrustful and suspicious of all those that merely represent the one(s) who hurt you, or are you learning to grow, embrace truth and live a new and better life?
I wish it were as simple as typing these words down, but unfortunately it is much more difficult and complex than that. And in many instances it requires support from outside sources, uncomfortable transparency and a decision to live a different kind of life. One that allows time for introspection, reflection, meditation, submission, prayer and self-analysis. All things that cause us to slow down, to allow us at some point to go fast, however with much more wisdom, empathy and integrity.
It is indeed the journey of life, for those that choose to go down that path. A journey that will not only enrich our own lives, but the lives we touch as well. The hardships of our past can become lessons we share with others that choose to listen. Our growth will teach us to no longer exude energy on what we cannot change, or the people who remain angry and point fingers at us. Our focus is only on what lies before us. Our past pains will remind us of what can potentially happen, however our new identity sees past the negative images and helps us to navigate towards what is better and full of life.
So if you are still looking back on your life and becoming disheartened when you do, don’t you think it is time to embrace a new way? Life is truly too short to remain mad, hurt and perpetually disappointed, however it is never too late to make a new declaration. A declaration that opens the door to peace, hope and joy.
“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!
“In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” – Andrea Dykstra
For the most part I grew up not having to learn most things the hard away. I listened to my parents more often than not and typically made fairly smart decisions while growing up, however my yester-years had no barring on what was to come for me as an adult. Well lets just say, I really gave great advice when it came to relationships, but my ability to consistently practice my own advice fell way short.
It is not that I went out and deliberately deceived people or straight-out lied to them, (well maybe to myself I did) but some of the challenges that came my way, I quickly learned that I was not prepared to handle them appropriately, maturely or even sometimes honestly. I found myself taking the path of least resistance when it came to certain struggles. I mean do not get me wrong, just like many others I did give things my best effort, (most of the time) however on some of the major challenges, like keeping a marriage together, I cannot say I always did the right thing. To be blatantly honest, I totally did the wrong thing(s), when it came to my second marriage especially.
One would have thought I had learned a few lessons about marital bliss, or the lack thereof after 15 years in my first marriage. Not me, I needed more lessons to really get it I suppose. Well call me a glutton for punishment, a man who enjoys to bleed emotionally or maybe some would simply say I was an idiot. Perhaps I was a mixture of all three and then some, but thankfully we all have a breaking point. A point at which we have had enough of the pain, torment and humiliation and we begin to adjust our lives in a way that becomes congruent with the ideas of getting better or becoming whole.
So after suffering and causing others to disproportionately suffer, I came to my end. The pain became overwhelming. Like, have you ever felt suffocated by your own pain? Where nothing else seemed to exist, but your turmoil and you were reminded of it every morning when the alarm clock went off? Hello, that was me too.
However, as I mentioned earlier, at some point in our lives we all come to the end of the BS, excuses and blaming others for what is rightfully ours to own. A point for me of being exposed in a shameful way. A way that caused me to finally acknowledge my responsibility in the failure of my second marriage. I wish I could sit here and say that I finally came to my senses, but it was quite the contrary. Quite honestly I was responding to the overwhelming grief and pain I felt from how the breakup actually occurred. I would say I did deserve most of the treatment inflicted on me and it certainly had me standing in attention to what was going to become the next chapter of my life, because in that time that was all I had to hold on to.
It was like I was in a cave and the waves of water was beginning to fill every crevice. My air supply was quickly being overtaken and my instinct to survive kicked in. This time it was not a reaction to simply save myself, but to really understand how I got there. Not just from a, “I made a few mistakes point of view”, but sincerely acknowledging it from a deeper place. A place of ownership, taking full responsibility, and not seeking to point blame or make common excuses.
Of course it always requires more than one person to make a relationship successful, but this relationship/marriage was over and in this moment I had an opportunity to grasp for the air I desperately needed, even though I had failed to acknowledged this very same moment in times past. This time the pain changed me, broke me and thrust me towards my true reality of denial, lies and my own emptiness.
This was an unfamiliar place for me, but I cannot say that I was afraid or anxious to be there, because for the first time I could feel and see. See what was really in front of me, and feel the pain of decisions I chose to make that hurt other people. People I was supposed to care for and protect, but I did not do for so many reasons.
Today, although I am still growing and very far from where I desire to be, I am better. A better man, that acknowledges his failures, his weaknesses and his brokenness. I am thankful for every hardship I faced, every moment of despair and the pain never seemed to cease, however it gave me courage. The courage to believe that my past did not necessarily have to define my future, but it would take tremendous work on my part to not repeat the same failures.
“The work” that would ultimately change my life and future relationships. Pain truly changed me for the better. Today I am whole, yet not perfect, hopeful, yet with a clear view of my reality and I am my own greatest surprise.
“One of the hardest things to do in life is to look at one’s self and recognize our own failures, short-comings and poor decisions we have made, but repeating them will prove to be the more difficult lesson.” – Henry G. Nutt, III
So I am forty-eight years old, a father of four children with two being a legal adults now, and I am married for the third time to a wonderful woman. I do not consider myself a spokesperson for the black male specie, divorced fathers or any group of the like, but what I do have is a life richly filled life with experiences and lessons that I hold dear to my heart. I came from the school of hard knocks when it comes to love and learning and what the hell it really means, at least from my point of view. Like many, I have been shaped and biased by my own personal experiences along the way, but I have equally put a lot of time into personal growth. Sometimes that has come in form of professional counseling, talking to friends and family, many hours of prayer and a devotion to personal reflection. During this phase of transformation, I committed myself to a life-long journey of learning by embracing the art of being still, intently listening to my inner voice and recognizing that nothing happens without a reason.
Prior to coming to this understanding, my mind was often plagued with excuses and reasons why I was unable to achieve a certain thing, maintain a specific relationship or fall short of a desired goal. To put it mildly, I was a mess, sorrowfully immature with a short-sided view of the big picture. The fact that I can even say this publicly is evident that I have come a long way to myself, because let me tell it a several years back, I had it all together and everyone else needed work. Now mind you, I still have a long way to go, and the journey has been nothing short of hard work and lots emotional pain, but I am here to tell the story (as my wife says) and I am grateful to be able to do so.
It is not everyday that we have the opportunity to tell our story before it is too late. I mean late like in being deceased, still ignorant to the real truth (by choice or not), or being too hard-headed to know any better. Either one presents its own set of mini tragedies for self or others tied to our drama. So as I list the three most significant lessons that I have learned to date, perhaps you can add one to the list from your own personal journey, or better yet, share your own list.
1. Embracing the art of being still – Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” When the creator of the universe advises us to pause every once in a while, we should learn to do so. However if it were that easy, He probably would not have had to make it so prolific by recording it in the Bible. Just think about an infant or little kid. The last thing they have or think about is being still or patient. They want what they want now, like right now! And when we choose to not accommodate them in real-time, they scream, throw stuff and have selfish tantrums. This is what they do and although it is not acceptable social behavior, for a young child we give them a pass, after all it is a part of growing up.
We have all been there, but what happens when that same child is now older and acts in the same manner? Uh, they get kicked to the curb, scolded and dismissed with a quickness and/or simply ignored until they go away. (And that is being nice for some families) So how in the heck do we expect to receive a pass as an adult when we cannot exhort patience, self constraint or learn to be still when it could matter the most? It almost seems simple, but unfortunately it is not.
Like the child, we want what we want now, and waiting is not an option. We will literally and figuratively kick and scream until we get it with no shame or remorse. How tragic yet equally true, and just like the inappropriate kid, no one really wants to be around you. You are annoying, selfish and mostly insensitive to everyone but yourself. I know because I was that guy in some ways.
So being still can look like many things. For me it means being slow to speak when things get crazy, choosing to sleep on things before I respond, pray and wait for an answer (the key is waiting for the answer part, not just praying), taking many deep breaths prior to engaging difficulty while at the same time considering the risks and the source I am engaging with, never responding while I am angry, because I always regret the outcome and finally recognizing that reacting versus responding are two very different actions.
Essentially the ultimate purpose of being still is to hear and listen to your inner voice, recognize what is being said and determine if what you are hearing is the right move. If we never give ourselves a chance to take it all in, we quickly lose sight or really never gain any sight at all, and we can become victims to our impulses. We say and do mean things that feel good in the moment, but often serve no helpful purpose. This is usually how regrets occur, so as much as it may feel good in the moment to retaliate, react quickly or react in anger, in the famous words of Dr. Phil, “How is that working for you?” Mostly likely it is not working at all and has created more drama than what you first began with.
Although waiting may test every ounce of patience we have, when effectively exercised it will prove to be our best option.
2. Listening to your inner voice – So after we make the decision to be still, we afford ourselves the opportunity to hear if we now choose to listen. Sometimes my inner voice is simply common sense that is usually not so common, God attempting to speak to me or words of wisdom passed through trying to break through my hardened heart.
Choosing to listen to our inner voice is analogous to stopping on the side of the freeway and revisiting our map because we finally acknowledge that we may be lost. Now everyone is passing us and we feel as if we loss ground or lost the race.
I can attest to losing ground and getting seemingly behind when choosing to pause, but as time moved on it was usually the best decision I made. After several failed relationships, going into another one fast, was the last thing I needed to do. So I finally decided to pause and take the time to understand what was really going on with me. Could it be I just did not like being alone? I learned that is called being human and okay, but just filling that void the way I had was not okay for me, an especially the one I was involved with. It was always a decision full of regrets, until I learned to be still and listen.
It took many falls and much brokenness to arrive at this place. While on that journey of disparity it was easy to see the pitfalls coming into fruition now that I look back. My future was easy to predict. It was the same old same old,…different day. No rocket scientist was required to determine the state of my life back then. The reasons were obvious and evident. There was nothing deep or profound about it, for I had created all the reasons for my then current issues and circumstances.
3. Recognize that nothing happens without a reason – There will be times in life when we truly do not understand why certain things happen or work out the way that they do, and then there will be times when once we become still and listen to our inner voice, that we will be able to put the missing pieces together. We can come to a place of understanding where we learn about our own motivations, the good and the not so good ones.
Many times we are in search of answers about “the whys” in our lives and many times the answers are right in front of us. We simply chose to ignore the obvious. This is also a form if denial, but until we have matured, we will continue to chalk it up as senseless or meaningless rhetoric.
We ask ourselves, “Why is life so hard for me? Why do I keep finding myself is broken relationships? Why am I always is debt or living from paycheck to paycheck? Why do I give up so easily? The questions can be endless, but the answers may right there hidden under a few layers of self discovery. Perhaps the answers will come from the Holy Spirit speaking to you in ways that only you can understand, or words that laid dormant in your spirit for decades, spoken from a late relative, pastor or counselor. The key is that you get still enough to recognize your own history and hear your heart is so desperately trying to say, at least the parts that you can understand during that time. Then what lies ahead can be worked out with some support, therapy or perhaps you will discover the “whys” for yourself.
So as I mentioned, it may seem as if you are on the side of the road remapping your journey, but at least once you begin driving again you will know where you are heading. And even if you need help with the directions, at least the journey that you now embark on will resonate with who you are and where you ultimately want to be.
Life lessons, reflecting and taking the time to assess our lives is an essential part of life. When we fail to learn from a painful or unfulfilled past we will inevitably relive those moments over and over again. Part of the beauty of life is getting out and smelling the roses. So as you are on your journey of life, stop that figurative car and refocus your plan. Is this where you should be going? Have things changed? Is this still the best thing for you? If the answer is yes, than great. While your out, enjoy the scenery (smell a rose two) and get back on the road. If not, remember the beauty of my life lessons and apply them were applicable, and do not forget to add a few of your own and share them with someone else.
“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?