“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.
“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift” – Steve Prefontaine
Me and my Mother -2015
Life is funny. How we start is not necessarily a guarantee on how we will finish. What we thought was true ten years ago may be different now for us today. How we define success changes and some of the people in our lives are no longer present, by the choices that we have made and by some of the circumstances we have faced. We make statements about what we know now and how our lives would be different if we had only made better choices when we were young and dumb. They say hindsight is 20-20, and hopefully we continue to learn as we get older. Hopefully the choices that we make today as mature adults look differently from our past decisions. And as we grow, hopefully we do not measure our lives by how educated we are or not, if we own a home or not or the amount of money we have in our bank accounts. Although these things are important and we should strive to live better lives than our forefathers and mothers, we need to remain mindful of what is truly important in life.
Since being back on Facebook for about one year now, I’m encouraged by the many voices of my childhood friends that seem to get it. Men and women alike that I grew up with recognize the value of it, my colleagues and business partners even see the value of it, but more importantly I see it. And that is the idea of giving our best love to our families, friends and even some strangers when required.
The one person that comes to mind more than anyone else that has sacrificially loved me beyond measure is, that’s right, my mother. When I look back at what she accomplished I see an amazing woman who has committed herself to being the best mom that any woman could ever be. Although there may not be a long list of titles behind her name, a house on the hill or other pedigrees we rightfully pursue, my mother gave me something that not only prepared me to obtain those superficial things, she gave me something inherently more valuable. She willingly gave me her best love.
Like so many of us that reflect on the goodness that has been bestowed upon our lives, usually our mothers are not far off from these sentiments. I was raised with three sisters and each of us are successful in our own right, but one thing that stands out for me, is we care for one another deeply and consider each other friends still. I attribute this desire to remain close to my siblings to the way my mother loved us as children. We obviously have our differences as adults, but I can say we genuinely love and care about one another. My mother was definitely the glue to our family connection and bond, which remains true to this day.
So why is this even worthy of mentioning and what is the significance of giving our best love? In my lowly opinion it pertains to everything that has been and will be ingrained in us. For those that have experienced the death of someone close, understanding this is easier. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters, but how we loved.
Giving our best love will cure the ails of the world in one swipe.
As I give my best love several amazing things are occurring simultaneously that look like this:
1. The life I exemplify will be worthy of following – I do not mean that you will lead a life of perfection, but when you make the choice to love first, you’re actually placing someone else’s needs before yours. For many this concept is counterintuitive, but when we’re motivated by love or selflessness we look to see how we can please others first. And when you have made this choice prior to any specific circumstance, bias and conditions are easily removed from the equation. This person may not always get things right, but they are consistently present. They are concerned, emotionally committed and they show up on time for real life events, planned or unplanned. They are the ones that leave indelible marks on hearts and minds forever.
2. I have an opinion, but I am not quick to accuse – This person waits to hear the entire story before giving their two-cents when asked. This requires discipline, because the temptation to speak prior to knowing all the facts is usually very enticing, but equally detrimental to at least to one of the persons involved. However once the dust settles the truth typically reveals itself, and because this individual is aware of this fact, their patience is essential and a key ingredient to sharing impactful wisdom versus making premature accusations. In a time of need this person is a welcomed sight because they truly want to help versus gossip, and they typically care about the outcome for all those involved.
3. I have a strong core, but a gentle spirit – There is nothing like meekness. It can often be mistaken for weakness, but by definition, it is strength under control. This person may have the ability to crush someone’s dream by divulging sensitive information that could embarrass or bring harm, yet they choose to exercise self-control during this time. They have profound wisdom and are usually more aware than what people give them credit for. They simply choose to walk in consideration of others, yet with firmness. This person will empathize with you, but never waver from his/her convictions. Their strength and gentleness combined become very calming during chaotic situations. They are excellent listeners and when they speak, an audience is usually there eagerly listening.
4. The truth will be spoken in love – Although the unadulterated truth can often hurt, it equally can release one from bondage or potentially dangerous situations. There is nothing like hearing it like it really is! Although we may get upset with this person, we come to appreciate them for their courage and ability to set us straight. The great thing about this person’s characteristics is they are not out to get us or see us fail, they simply want us to stop hitting our heads on the same walls. They force us to deal with ourselves versus allowing us to habitually take the easy route of blaming others. Without these courageous individuals in our lives we would be doomed to learn everything the hard way. They truly are a ray of light in the midst of a cloudy circumstance.
5. I accept you as you are – There’s nothing like acceptance. As we are all a masterpiece in progress, during the journey of getting to our finished product, we tend to look a hot-mess at times (present company included). And during this season, a friend that simply loves and accepts you as you are is critically important. Although many will proclaim to accept you when you are at your lowest, the proof is when you are there and recognize who is there with you. There you will find your true friends. These friends are not initially interested in facts, or the circumstances during an episode, they simply want to be there for you. They are consistent, steadfast and comforting. We could all stand to benefit from having at least one person like this in our lives. They are quick to lend a hand when we’re down and usually know us deeply like no one else does. We are freely vulnerable with them as our true selves are revealed and in progress of becoming more.
So as I stated in the beginning, “life is funny”. However sometimes it can be downright hard as well. And as we are being proven during difficulties, let us remember what we are made of and that we are precious creations made in God’s image through love. The best love we have is always in us, peeping out from the inside. We just need to realize that it is inside of us and someone nearby could stand to receive some of it from you. Whether it is these five points I have made or ones you can add to them, look to your point of reference to recall not only what it looked like, but more importantly how it made you feel when you needed it the most. For me it was my mother’s love. I say give that. That is the best love.
“The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.” – Rebecca Harding Davis
I have had the privilege of experiencing and participating in the birth of each of my three children. As I took part in this wonderful miracle I remember the lessons taught to me and their mom about breathing during Lamaze classes. I’ll admit like most men, I wasn’t too keen on participating with this, but I learned according to mommybites.com,
Deep breathing initiates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and relax” state. When the body is situated in this state, the heart rate slows down, intestinal and glandular activity increase, and the sphincter muscles relax. All of these occurrences support the body’s ability to birth more easily.
So even though I still don’t all together understand the science behind this I will agree it works. Imagine that, how just breathing in a certain way can have such a significant impact on one of life’s most precious miracles! As I reflect on the importance of breathing correctly during this time I cannot help but think of the many times I could have used this same technique to release some of my tension during a stressful time, paused for a few minutes prior to making an important decision or simply to help me relax prior to sleeping for the night. It almost seems to easy to be effective. So easy that many of us choose to seek more complex solutions to answers that could be right before us. In this our journeys become longer, harder and much more complex than they need to be, but I suppose these are the lessons that we must learn, and as we grow these journeys become shorter and simpler depending on what we have actually acquired.
How we approach the difficulties in our lives is directly tied to our life experiences. For example if I have consistently failed at some particular thing, whether a relationship, educational pursuit or working on personal growth, I will approach that thing potentially with doubt and anxiousness. I will replay my past scenarios and essentially allow the script to write itself. Stepping back to mediate, pray or think of the situation from a different perspective unfortunately is not our typical plan of attack. It easier for us to worry about the outcome, imagine all the ways we could fail and what that failure looks like, than it is to possess the faith and belief to see a dream come into fruition. That said, we must change our experiences in order to change our behaviors.
I remember a night, after finally accepting that a relationship was really over. The air felt so thick that it was as if I could suffocate from it. Everything about my life at that time seemed like it was in a state of confusion. I reflected on pictures, pleasant memories and what was imperative for me to do with my next steps. It was not until I had released that I had failed, at yet another marriage was I able to move forward. In that state of humility I took many deep breaths of reflection, regret and remorse. This place of reflection not only allowed me to see my part with the failure of my relationship, but it also permitted me to take responsibility for it and take essential steps to help others heal, along with myself.
My choice to finally be still during this time of duress versus essentially traveling in perpetual circles proved to be the turning point in my journey to become whole. The ability to cast down guilt, naysayers and being my own worst enemy was critical to any hope that I was going to attain and sustain. I attribute the ability to move forward to my faith in God, the power of His Spirit and the art of reflecting. You see it was that night of reflection that created the opportunity for me to clearly see how I had screwed things up. Breathing deeply forced me to go deeper into the “why” I was making poor relational decisions versus stopping at only the “what”. These are the questions I failed to ask myself in times prior, so it was easy to continue, business as usual. Jacking up people’s lives, including my own.
For years I would awake in the middle of the night clinching and grinding my teeth due to stress. I would worry about what others thought of me, how my life got to where it was and how I was going to make improvements. The steps to becoming whole were profound, but they were not necessarily these earth-shattering moments for everyone to witness. It was during my quiet times where the changes began. During these quiet times, I prayed, journaled and reflected on my past. I wanted answers that only God could give me. Although I had a few great counselors and friends, it was not their responsibility to give me answers, only to show me the way towards some of them. Ultimately I had to muster up the courage and dare to believe that life could go on again, but this time in a better way. This did not mean that I did not have a past to reconcile with, but it did mean that I no longer had to be defined by it.
Learning to take a moment to pause and breathe has helped my life tremendously. Once I stopped reacting and pointlessly defending myself to people who really had no impact on my life was when I begin live free of bondage. Even when others do have an impact on my life, I still choose to make decisions based on my truth, not theirs. I consult others when absolutely essential, but the choices I make regarding my life and future are not up for a democratic vote. As I pause and take the time to seek the best answers for me, I do it with grace, gratitude and patience – all while taking the time to breathe deeply. In this place, even when the outcome is less than desired, because I have owned it and understood the real risk or potential issues regarding it, I still have a peace that keeps me still and content.
What dreams or life purposes are you giving up too soon on due to a poor perspective? Let’s take some advice from the many women during labor that must push, breathe and believe the pain of childbirth will ultimately deliver a new life. Let’s push our dreams and life goals out with a perspective of grace, gratitude and patience along with a commitment for a better tomorrow for us and all those involved. Let us remember to breathe deeply and as each breath is released from our lungs we enable our body’s, soul’s and spirit’s to reflect on the greater purpose that God has for us. As we each recognize that the air we breathe is essential for life, let us also recognize the way in which we take that air in and out of our bodies is just as important.
We have the power to impact our own atmosphere with the ideas, perspectives and level of faith we bring to each circumstance and situation we face, and although breathing has become an involuntary act since birth for every healthy human being, how we breathe has not. As I have learned, remembering to breathe is not just the simple act of inhaling and exhaling, but at the most critical times it is the choice to breathe deeply, reflect and pause, which can literally alter our current state, like it does during child-birth.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by good people” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past week my heart dropped when I heard the news about the shootings in Charleston, S.C. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I sat there in utter disbelief! A part of me cried and another part of me became very angry. I realize that we live in a world full of violence and people who hate just because, but for me this act actually shook a bit of my world. I consider myself a man of faith, hope and one who looks for the good that can come from a negative situation. I mean after all this page is about looking on the bright side, hence The Upside of Down. But this weekend if I’m honest with you, I struggled to get there, I struggled to find peace and I struggled to find the good coming out. As I looked at the pictures of the now deceased – Cynthia Graham Hurd (55), Tywanza Sanders (26), Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45), Myra Thompson (59), Ethel Lance (70), Susie Jackson (87), Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr. (74), DePayne Middleton Doctor (49) and Senator Clementa C. Pinckney (41), I feel a numbness and a hardness attempting to consume me. I know I must press through even this, but I confess – THIS IS HARD!
This weekend I stopped at a local restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat. As I was eating my food in the parking lot, minding my own business a group of twenty to thirty something year-old caucasian kids walked past my car heading for the restaurant. They paid me no mind, but for the first time I can ever remember in my 46 years on earth, I was afraid for my life for a brief second. It was a daunting feeling and was hard to shake even after the initial pass. I realize this recent shooting was not a first and unfortunately will not be the last, but I believe the reason that I felt fear and resonate with this particular crime so much is because of the location and the people the shooter chose to kill. Not only did he plot to murder African-Americans Christians, but he chose leaders within that community, minding their own business doing God’s work behind the scenes, while living impactful lives. Even those facts are really nothing new for us, but for me it struck a chord. A cord that will for the rest of my life impact how I make decisions, pray, teach my children and become more vigilant as a father and a leader.
I would rather die knowing that I was fulfilling my life’s purpose than knowing I was safe and not doing anything at all.
I’m always sharing with my children that tomorrow is not promised, so we must live our lives with purpose and as if we may never see one another again. This must remain in our minds each time we leave our home, venturing out towards our day. I love the statement that Malcolm Graham made about his sister Cynthia Graham Hurd, “She was a not a victim. She was a Christian. She was a soldier. She was a warrior. She was with her Maker when she took her last breath.” What awesome words to declare about the life of someone you loved, but more importantly about someone who you knew that statement to be true and accurate.
I am re-examining how I live my life. I will bundle up the fear, anger and pain resulting from this tragedy and redirect that energy to fuel my own life’s work. I will refocus and know at any moment it could end, but I will not be afraid of death, I will not even be afraid of life, therefore as I yet have breath flowing through my lungs and a sound mind, I will not shun from any opportunity to do more, go further and to exploit my God-given abilities.
For sometimes it’s not only the fear of death that causes us to stumble, but the fear of living and being recognized for doing something great.
How many times have you avoided speaking your mind, deferred the answer to someone else or simply walked away from an opportunity, knowing good and well that you were capable, worthy and the right person for the job or task? We all have experienced this at some point on in our lives, but as I read and listen to the family members and loved ones of these nine courageous individuals speak about forgiveness, and declare the amazing contributions that each of them added to their lives and the world, I am inspired. I am inspired about what legacies they leave behind and how each of them will continue to touch all of us that allow ourselves to feel and identify with who they were as human beings (not just African-Americans). And realize that even though their lives were violently taken from them, the songs they sang, the people they taught, the lives they affected and the messages that they preached now touch the world. For that I am thankful, because their spirits and what they stood for can never be killed with a bullet, ignorant opinions, or racist actions. That truth will prevail.
The Bible states is James 4:14b,c – For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. Now whether you believe the Bible or not is the question here, but to understand the message is critical. We don’t have much time in retrospect of everything. Life is indeed short and every moment that we have to live, it is crucial that we live with resolve. In these times we cannot afford to waste moments, but we must be about our life’s work. Utilizing and exploiting every gift and talent that we have been blessed with. As I look at the age range of those that died, they represented ones just beginning their life, coming out of college and others near the end their walk. Despite their ages, they each were able to give something significant to their families, communities and now even the world. The world has now seen nine beautiful souls that lived with intention, love for themselves as well as others and their legacies will never be forgotten.
I pray that you never forget that day and never forget the nine that died on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I pray that as you chose to read this post, you recognize that ALL lives matter. Let’s embrace our children and help them work through this tragedy and like the son (Chris Singleton) of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton stated in his brief news briefing, “Love is always stronger than hate.” Love is truly the strongest force in the world.
Over the years I have come to learn that I have a tendency to over think things. At times I can even become a bit of a perfectionist, or just very anal about how things should run in my life. Of course this characteristic has its advantages, but it also comes with its own set of baggage as well. For years it has limited me or often times short-cycled some significant events from occurring in my life. To be specific, it would be a case of me sitting on the sidelines watching others enjoy something or pressing through a life event, and for whatever reason I did not give myself license to become involved or discover what could have been significant for me during that time.
As I continue to take my own advice and “Keep Pressing” ahead, I found myself at a cross-road with the topic for this week’s post. With so many ideas constantly running through my brain, I allowed myself to become challenged and almost stifled on what to write. The challenge was not finding a topic, but wondering if I was staying true to what this blog is about.
So this week I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico for work, with a few added extra days on the tail end. I had a topic all cued up, but something inside of me said, “Save that for later and write about this trip and how it relates to my truth.” My first thought was, “Am I staying true to what The Upside of Down is about”, by doing that? After toying with the thoughts for a few days, I refused to think about it any longer, and simply enjoyed my trip on this beautiful island.
I went on some tours off the beaten path, watched families fly kites by the hundreds at a park near El Morro, walked around for what seemed like miles, met a bunch of great people at the conference I attended, and in the taxi I rode in. Whoever was the waiter/waitress at the local restaurant became my friend by name, with some form of friendly affection shared, whether by a compliment or good conversations. I ate some great local dishes, took a guy out for dinner on his birthday that I just met, had some great drinks, took some amazing pictures, (some you see posted here) lied on a hammock on the beach between to palm trees and chilled for hours doing absolutely nothing. Now I’m sitting here at 10:08PM EST, writing this post from my Villa over looking the ocean.
As I watched people and did abnormal things (at least for me), like not become a loner on this trip after the people I knew flew home, I forged some great friendships and discovered, this is what The Upside of Down looks like. I discovered how much I needed this trip and how important it was for me to exhale this past week. Not exhale in the sense of relieving stress or pressure, but in the sense of embracing something different and feeling/being okay with it (maybe that’s inhaling actually). I am living The Upside of Down, and this trip has helped me to see what that actually looks like for my life more clearly.
I am truly blessed with so much and thankful for all of it. My perspective is hopeful and my best is still yet to come. I look for that best to come in the form of rich relationships, through family and friends (new and old), a dynamic love-life, a limitless career path that will stretch me far and wide (as it does now), widely read published articles, best-selling books and the ability to authentically help others achieve their wildest ambitions, through this blog or through personal interactions.
I want you to rediscover the truth for your life.
It hasn’t changed since you were that curious kid. It has only been hindered or delayed by circumstances. Once you have the faith to see it again, apply that same faith to cause it to become a tangible possibility.
I have learned that how we define things for ourselves will ultimately shape us and dictate a certain path for our future. In other words, as I use the phrase, “Keep Pressing” every week, I have a picture of what that looks like to me, based on my understanding and faith. If your image of those words are completely different from mine, it won’t matter what I say, regardless of the level of intensity I say them with.
Your truth will become your (boundary) invisible jail cell or what propels you to greatness!
For many, that boundary will quarantine you like a glass ceiling or become vast like the stars in the night sky. The choice is really is up to you and I. Each day we have the opportunity to choose what will limit us, by first recognizing what those things are. Here lies the problem. Since we don’t know what we don’t know, the cycle can be vicious, by habitually impeding any attempts towards making real progress or living a life of freedom versus bondage. There is a quote in the Bible that states, “What a man thinks about himself, he becomes that man.” I don’t think it could be any clearer than this, but with any attempt to grow, we must have, what I call the four rules to change, become whole or healthy.
1. Recognize or identify that you have an issue – like a cut or wound in your physical body, this usually comes in the form of pain, whether self-inflicted or committed by others.
2. Seek help to remedy the problem – Go to a doctor/counselor/pastor/trusted and wise friend to help with this newly identified issue.
3. Apply the lessons or counsel given to the issue – Administer the ointment or advice, and do the homework prescribed.
4. Give yourself time for the lessons and counsel to work – Cuts don’t heal overnight, and emotional wounds are much more complex, so give yourself some time for the medicine (lessons/counsel) to work.
Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds, it only lessens the sting. It’s what we do in that time that truly causes the healing to really take effect.
In other words, a broken leg may feel better after several months, but if it’s not reset correctly, you may never walk the same again. And without therapy you may never have full use of it, even if the pain seems to be gone. Do the work, however long it takes. We begin to visualize and accomplish this when we understand our worth and our value. You must begin to visualize yours and often times it does not manifests itself in the path of least resistance. It’s usually the “hard thing” or what causes you the most discomfort. Perhaps it will become your greatest challenge to date.
We’re typically not ready to take these steps until the pain is so great, where it becomes intolerable and the normal means of numbing becomes futile. That was my story and today I am grateful for the pain, for it was the one thing that allowed me to finally discover what my truth really was, not with simple structured words alone, but with something that I could visualize, hold on to and pursue with passion!
We’re all familiar with the quote, “you can’t unscramble eggs,” and most of us know exactly what it means or how the saying can apply to our lives at different times. And although I’ll would usually agree with this, I do believe there are times when we should, and must challenge this statement.
The key is knowing when is the right time.
Typically these are times when we must become still, tune-out well-intentioned friends and family, pray and listen to our inner voice.
Who decides when a situation becomes irreparable or when it is time to figuratively and literally throw in the towel, in regards to believing in a person who has consistently let us down or hurt us? We all have our own set of answers for this question, (and why) and we should equally understand where our thresholds lie as it relates to turmoil, problems, conflict with others, and when the time has come to cut him/her off for good.
We can only do this when the foundations for our thresholds our built on truth, purity of heart, goodwill towards others and honesty towards ourselves.
As I reflect on the past turmoil and conflict in my life and the people who I have hurt, I realize that I am a direct benefactor of a woman who chose to listen to her heart, get quiet in the midst of noise and drama, pray and listen to her inner voice during times of our distress. That inner voice stemmed from her faith in God, trust in what she believed (about us) and ultimately the friendship we had established over the years. Was the relationship all a lie, based on a foundation empty promises or was there something there truly worth saving? Only she and I knew the answer to that question.
No one else qualified, because they weren’t involved with the intimate details of our story.
They did however see the aftermath of the pain created and naturally came to the rescue of us both, but it was up to us to remain in a place of neutrality, which at times became very difficult and sometimes impossible, hence where the scrambled eggs metaphor comes into play.
Without going into all the details, (read my post about Forgiveness to learn more) for many years I was wrong – in the forms of being indecisive, not ready to settle down, leading her on, not believing she was the one, lying to myself and her, having a dismissive attitude, and finally, straight up rejecting her. For a season, she was equally wrong, however not as hurtful, I submit, in the forms of – over protecting her heart, being seemingly transparent, (but only to a degree), and not being honest with her feelings and concerns with herself about me.
These were the ingredients for a very toxic relationship. As much as we tried during these times, we could never quite get it right. Things would be great for a season, but we would always come back to turmoil, because of what we had not dealt with independently within ourselves. Everyone that cared about us could see the turmoil and conflict that consistently arose between the two of us and they were correct (on the surface) with their advisement for us to simply walk away from one another and start new with someone else in the future, however as much as it seemed like the pieces were broken for good, our story was still not over.
No matter what is said by others during these emotionally charged times, only the ones in the relationship or the particular situation can make the decision. Not the best counselors, best friends or even loving family members understand to the degree that is necessary to make the appropriate decision regarding all the facts. This is not to say the advice given by these groups is not helpful or perhaps even life saving, but how many times have you given a loved one sound advice based on what you believed to be true, only to see them do the exact opposite of what you advised? Maybe that person was you. Either way, it is during these moments that we must realize that it’s time to take a step away and allow life to play out as it will. It can be an arduous road to take and often a lonely one, but at least the final choices are based on only those involved. Listening to our family and friends is not bad thing, but it should not be the first thing we do either. For many this is where the real problem exist. There is nothing like someone who loves us and to feel sorry for us, or to empathize with our side of the story.
Be honest, it feels good.
It’ just not always what we need to hear. When we hear the brokenness in a loved one’s voice or the anger stewing in their words about how they were harmed, it can rile every unresolved emotion that we have regarding the topic. Almost suddenly, if we’re not using good judgement, that situation will develop a life of its own (in our minds) and we’ll exert more energy towards a fix than the person originally offended. It can become a new life mission for the outsider, trying to resolve something they have no business being involved in, at least to that degree. How does this happen so quickly and so often? Simply because we all have all have a deep need to be heard and affirmed, especially when we’ve been hurt. I have learned a few tips to keep my relationship intact during conflict and turmoil.
5 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Intact During Turmoil and Conflict
1. Always give yourself time to breathe after a blow-up or fight – If you immediately run to a friend or family member, (assuming there is not a history of violence or domestic abuse) you will quickly receive advice that may deem to be unfruitful and ruin any chances for restoration. As much as we want to believe that we’re being fair as we describe the list of the events, it still comes across as one-sided and the other partner doesn’t stand a chance.
2. Never make decisions while you’re angry – I guarantee you that you are not thinking rationally while angry. Remember, anger is a secondary emotion that masks the place of the real hurt. Our focus tends to be about retaliation and revenge while things are still heated. Once we calm down we can think more clearly, and make choices based on facts versus emotions. Perhaps the answers or results will be the same, but because you have given yourself time to ponder on the whole situation, you are more likely to make a decision that you will not regret later.
3. Communicate with the person that hurt you, by telling them you need some time to think – This is not the time to play the silent treatment game. Not only is this a sign of immaturity, it can quickly dissolve a possibly salvageable situation. You may not be ready for a full dialogue just yet, but give him/her an approximate date when you’ll be ready to talk. Remember, punishment is not the goal here. It’s to utilize the time to sort through your feelings and to hopefully have a productive conversation at a later date.
4. Realize that someone has to become the champion – I learned from my partner during my tumultuous relationship, that someone has to be the bigger person. Someone has to be willing to decide if the infraction should end the relationship or not. If so, then begin the steps to do just that. If not, someone has to be willing to face the other and begin the road to recovery, no matter how difficult. Being the champion is not about who was wrong or right, it’s about understanding who and what is most important, despite the circumstances. See past the hurt.
5. Prayer – Last is certainly not least here. Get in your quiet place and seek clarity and answers that will come in the form of that small still voice. God knows everything and will give you the answers that you need by confirming them in you spirit. You simply need to be obedient to the answer(s) that you receive. Don’t over think it, just do it.
There are obviously many options available to you regarding how to handle conflict resolution. These are just a few that worked for me in my relationship and unfortunately I did not learn them immediately. It took several attempts and a very patient partner before I realized where I was falling down, but I did finally get it and she did as well.
It’s always easier to throw a relationship away than work on it, and it’s even easier for someone else to throw it away for you. Believe me I know. I’ve done it and live with that truth everyday, however I equally understand that I didn’t know what I know today and that is, even the most difficult of relationships and situations can be restored when the ones involved choose to work through them, combined with their faith. They can indeed turn around a seemingly impossible situation by learning from what was broken and starting new. That relationship will indeed be stronger and prepared to last.
Almost every weekend when my now two older children were younger, we would find ourselves at the soccer field for about 3-months out of the year. Something that I would find at the games consistently, both good and disturbing at the same time was the attitude and idea that no kid really ever loses while playing their game. We created a zone, that once the teams entered the field, it was to be all about them, which I totally supported, and still do, however, I must admit it felt a bit weird and very unrealistic after the games when my children only knew when they had allegedly won a game, but when they had not done so well from a scoring standpoint, (in other words, lost) it was not to be discussed.
The whole preface of this concept went against everything that I stood for as a parent, back then and today. I mean on the one hand I was all for supporting our youth by sending positive messages while they focused on having fun and learning the game of soccer, however I was not supportive of lying to them, telling them half-truths or disclosing only the good stuff to make them happy. If group sports are a way to help kids build life skills, and a way to teach them how to work well with others, especially during difficult times, I felt that we were doing them a disservice by not disclosing the reality of what losing really felt liked, looked liked and the wonderful lessons to be learned from experiencing it. So on our drive home, when my kids would wonder who won or lost their game for the day, I told them even when I knew it would make them sad, because after all, that’s real life isn’t it? I certainly saw the looks of disappointment on their faces when they realized that they loss that day, but it opened up the door for many great teaching moments, with the main lesson being,
Sometimes in life we lose, but it’s okay.
How does this lesson transcend into our todays, our lives? How do we as adults deal with loss, disappointment, being on the short-end of the stick, being dumped or left for dead? (emotionally and physically) It’s certainly a question for us to grapple with, because as we know, it cannot be avoided or pushed under the rug of life. If we attempt to do that, the results only last temporarily and will typically hit us in the face much harder at some point later. So facing the reality of loss is imperative and probably best when we deal with it when the sting is still fresh and new. Ouch!
If someone were able to come along and take away all the emotional pain I felt during the worse times in my life, I’m sure I would have considered it for a moment, however losing has taught me some of my most treasured and significant lessons that I have ever learned while on my now 46-year life journey. And quite honestly, I do not believe I would be the man I am today without the experiences of loss, pain and disappointment.
There is something about our character development that is directly tied to how we engage or disengage with ourselves when we suffer.
I’ve always said that, “If you really want to know who you are or anyone else for that matter, recognize how you or they respond during a tragedy. There you will find the real you. If you don’t like what you see, begin to make the necessary changes.” That may sound a bit cruel, but what better way to know? I have claimed to be many things in my life and some of them I can attest that I followed through on, but what about those failures? What about those times when I let people down, when I didn’t come through like I said I would? It feels bad, but it feels even worse when those same people inform you of how much you have disappointed them. Those are the times when you usually want to go find a rock to crawl under. Although that rock (which represents avoidance) may seem and feel like the best choice to make at the time, I have three suggestions (what I call the “The Three A’s“) that are indeed painful, maybe even a bit embarrassing, but have proven to the best for the long haul, at least for me.
1. Acknowledge what you have done – some of us our taught to deny the truth and eventually the accuser will stop pursuing it. This can be very invalidating for the one who was wronged and it never actually works out. It will only damage the trust and suffocates the ability to restart. When you own it with words and actions, it causes actual healing to begin.
2. Apologize – this is not a simple and lame, “I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done moment”, but an actual heartfelt and sincere opportunity of taking responsibility. Telling someone who you’re sorry requires courage, but it will release suppressed feelings that build walls of resentment and bitterness when harnessed. When done with the right intentions, this truly is the step where restoration can begin to occur, even if only in very small increments at first.
3. Answer for what you have done – Once you have acknowledged and apologized for your sin, the hardest part is answering for it. This will cost you something (possibly literally), but it is often what is essential to make your accuser whole. I call this “the hard thing”, because it’s where most of us stop. We can justify that the two previous actions were enough. My question is, were they really? Don’t forsake an opportunity to experience an amazing act of love that places you in rare company. A company where true humility is seen, not only heard and defenses on both sides become a thing of the past.
For me to come to this place in my life required a counter-intuitive decision. That decision was to realize that I had lost. I loss my right to fight, I loss my right to tell more lies, I loss my right to make more excuses, I loss my right to defend myself…I had lost, and this was painfully awkward because no one wants to lose. But it was during this season of loss that I discovered something that has forever changed my life. That is, unlike a sport, game or societal judgement, I am not measured by the amount of wins or losses I have incurred over the years, but I am measured by my ability to confess my faults, speak the truth in love and love God with all my heart, mind and soul. This will always make me a winner, but never totally separate me from truly understanding that in order to win, sometimes I may have to lose first. And that’s okay.
“No one can develop freely in this world and find a full life without feeling understood by at least one person” – Dr. Paul Tournier, M.D.
The moment I began this blog I knew a level of my privacy would be gone forever. For many reasons I was just fine with this. I’m not sure if it was the many years of teaching classes and sharing bits and pieces of my life to strangers and friends for years, or going through a few bad relationships that broke me. Maybe its how I am framed. Whatever the reason, here I am sharing my life story to the world with no hesitancy. Some of my friends ask me, “how do you feel after releasing such a personal part of you to everyone?” My answer is simple. I’ve released everything I have written long before I press the send button. It would be too painful to do it any other way. My point is, the journey that I took to get here was hard, agonizing, however essential, like a prerequisite or pre-qualification to share with you on this type of platform. I have nothing to lose by sharing my story to the world. I actually have a sense of peace knowing that my traumatic life experiences, when shared with integrity will impact someone to hope more, hold on a little while longer or keep believing that life is worth living.
It wasn’t always this way. Like many, I had secret parts of me that no one knew about. I was a master at disguising the real me. What I divulged was perfectly orchestrated. No surprises, at least to me. I was in control and very comfortable with it. The sad part about all of this was, I was living a lie (at least to a degree). The real me was hidden and only surfaced when I allowed him to. A “Plan B” was ALWAYS in my line of sight. I would not be hurt, (so I thought) rejected or dismissed by anyone. I knew how to protect myself, like drinking a disinfectant. It’s meant to kill germs, but when applied incorrectly it can destroy everything it touches. This was me. Hurting everyone around me, by keeping the ones I professed to love at a distance. I wouldn’t dare reveal the real me.
Once the brokenness (read my other post to find out what they are) did its work in me and I chose to surrender, my life begin to change. This change didn’t simply occur because I willed it to, but because I was in a new place. A place of reflection, a place of being still and finally coming to the understanding that I was missing something very essential to living a full life. That place was being true to myself. I mean really true. I came across a great book entitled, “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?”, by John Powell.
It challenged me to look into the mirror of my soul and ask myself several hard questions, like:
- What is at the core of my fear to show my real self?
- What happens when I finally disclose who I am?
- Why did I always seem to have a “Plan B” in place?
Answer to Question 1 – Ultimately I have learned to understand that my biggest fear was the fear of rejection. I honestly had a fear that if the most important people in my life truly knew me, there is no way that they would still accept me, therefore that perpetuated the lie. It’s human nature for most of us to believe that we’ll never be good enough or measure up to societies’ standards and the truth is we may not ever measure up, but what we must learn is we are enough as we are. My faith in God tells me that I am ever-growing, imperfect and to trust the process of my transformation to evolve to the best me over time. It cannot be with a mindset of comparing myself to others or pretending I understand something when I truly do not. We all want to be accepted by others, but we must resist the temptation to project something or someone who we have not yet become. If we only fit into a specific circle because of an illusion that we feel obligated to project, than we continue to lie to ourselves and perpetuate a lifestyle that saps us of all the creative energy essential to living a life of authentic wholeness.
To authentically learn to love thyself is to release the bondage of performing for others in order to be loved and accepted.
When we learn what mask we place on our hearts every time we have an opportunity to be fully present, is the moment that our chains will begin to drop off. For those of us that have perfected this to an art form, it may require much more work, prayer and therapy to have full release, but it is certainly possible. I am a living witness.
Answer to Question 2 – It’s easy to think that our world will fall a part when we finally choose to live a life of integrity when we haven’t for so long. When we’re making decisions to bring the real me to the table for the very first time, our common sense may tell us to consider the cost and take delicate steps. As a man who can over think even the simplest of things, I encourage you to listen to your first mind and take that leap of faith and courage. No need to figure it out completely, write a dissertation on it or share it with ten friends, just step out and frickin do it.
Take baby steps at first.
I remember the first person that I confessed to that I was molested and the first person that knew how broken I really felt after my string of broken relationships. It was absolutely freeing! For us men, we don’t do this. We place a cork on every hurt and disappointment that we have ever experienced, and will profess that it doesn’t matter when we know that it really does. We’ll cope by turning to drugs, illicit affairs, meaningless sex, violence and others acts that are detrimental to ourselves and others. While these coping mechanisms may provide a temporary way of escape, they are also equally effective in keeping a barrier up so we can remain elusive, at bay and removed from the painful reality we’re trying so desperately hard to escape. Sad truth is it doesn’t work. It never works. Disclosing who I really am brings on freedom like nothing else can. It’s the truth we have heard of for so long that truly sets us free.
Answer to Question 3 – I’ve learned over the years that having a “Plan B” in place is quite common in most things we do. We’ve been taught as children that with college and career choices, we needed a “Plan B”. We always need to have something to fall back on just in case our first plan didn’t come through. This practice has carried over to serious relationships, even marriage. I recently saw an article on Facebook where a poll was taken on how many women had a backup “friend” in case their marriages didn’t work out.
A staggering 80% of the women polled, admitted to having someone there if their relationships were ever in trouble.
I imagine this is not just a women’s issue, but more a human issue. We will enter into relationships declaring our whole heart to someone, (I know this because I did it) committing our lives, time and future, essentially all that we are safe to share and know good and well we aren’t ready yet. We know that we have only revealed the best parts of us, even after a few years and we dare to take the relationship to the next level. What pain this will bring you! Ultimately, none of us want to be frauds or live a lie, but many of the pains of our lives have made it very comfortable for us to retreat to the person that seems most accepted in that particular moment. No one quite knows but us when we shift into that other guy or gal mode.
We smile and laugh the same, we still share in interesting exchanges and come across as very engaged, but something deep within us has checked out.
The familiar wall begins to rise and soon we’re projecting a limited version of who we are. “Plan B” is full effect at this time. For me it simply was easier to project this guy then to be explicitly open with the ones closest to me. My “Plan B” was my safety net and I had justified why I allowed it to exist, not realizing that it was suffocating those important relationships and my own personal growth.
Thankfully, as we continue to journey through life we find ourselves with opportunities to grow. These are typically the times when we have suffered a broken heart or some other type of tragedy. When we confess that we hurt, or that someone hurt us we can begin to own that pain and do something positive with it.
The pain is just the indicator, like a warning light on the dashboard of your car.
It’s our opportunity to heal by acknowledging the pain. It’s our opportunity to remove the walls that have effectively kept us watching life, versus doing life. Being afraid to tell someone who you really are is indeed a scary thing, but I have learned its scarier to live a life alone, a life alone with people all around you that are clueless to the real you. It’s time to step off the ledge my friends. Dare to believe that you can.
“When I am anxious, it is because I am living in the future. When I am depressed, it is because I am living in the past.” – Unknown author
So for years I have been sharing with others that I was molested as a young boy. Not just for the sake of divulging my personal business to the world, but primarily to help others. It almost became second nature to talk about it with someone who could identify with my story. From the outset, I felt it was very therapeutic to have meaningful discussions about it. After all, I had forgiven my accuser, even though she denied it ever happened, but truly I was all good. Well except for one small part, which came to my attention years later.
My innocence was stolen every summer from about the young age of 6, until I was about 9 years old. It was my secret to keep as instructed by my perpetrator, and I certainly obliged her until I was 24 years old. I recall speaking to a family member about it to gain some insight and advice on how to handle it. At that time I was so concerned about hurting her (yes the perpetrator), that I didn’t want to expose her. After all, I loved her (in a being victimized sort of way). So I took the advice, which was to forgive her, release it and move on with my life. Now the forgiving part was fairly easy, because I truly had no ill feelings towards her. The moving on part, not so much. It would not be until almost 20 years later that I began to really understand that not only did I not move on, but I couldn’t because I had never truly dealt with the real issues of what I experienced as a boy. I was stuck and it would take more than positive confessions for me to be free. What was key for me to understand in that period was I had not dealt with the devastating trauma and aftermath of my innocence being stolen. I had only dealt with what I understood, and what others were comfortable telling me, which was to forgive her and everything would be okay. Sadly everything was not okay. Quite the contrary actually. It was not until my second divorce that I begin to truly examine my proclivities, thoughts and choices that ultimately led me to the impetus of a breakthrough. I began by reading a book entitled, The Sexual Healing Journey, Wendy Maltz. I discovered so many things about boys that have been molested by an older girl or woman. From how we process the trauma, our thoughts about the opposite sex, how we may protect ourselves or build in distance in close relationships, our inability to authentically connect at times and a seemingly inherent gift to become emotionally distant at a moments notice. All this based on an abused mindset. Below are a few questions that I would ask myself.
Why did I think as I did?
Why did I feel bound, dirty, lewd and over sexualized?
Why was it so hard to control my thought life?
Does every man feel like this?
- Why is it so easy to disengage with people?
You see, I think so many of us victims of molestation spend endless years living in secret, due to the shame and embarrassment we feel, and we effectively begin to live a double life. A life full of secrets that I honestly believe are even a mystery to us at least initially, and are all typically based on fear, guilt and shame.
As I read through the book, I prayed, counseled and did some much-needed self-reflection. I began to understand, finally. Not only was I not crazy, deranged or some weird guy, but I was quite normal for someone who had been victimized as a child. Now the key was becoming whole in order to no longer allow my past to dictate my future. For me this meant coming to a profound revelation about my molestation.
That is as my title of suggest, is a “dark-dark” secret. The “first dark” represents what we typically know about this issue – that is, it is shameful (until we understand it’s not our fault), therefore it remains a secret, in the closet of our perplexed minds for decades or for some quite possibly a lifetime. A life that probably lacks meaningful intimacy, closeness and vulnerability. A life that can live in fear of repeating the act on someone else so everything is avoided, people included. It can become quite an erratic existence until you get a grip on what lies beneath the surface of your emotions. This requires coming to the ultimate truth of who you are at the time. That could very well be a person that smiles in public and cries in secret. One that projects confidence to the public, however lives a life of fear and intimidation. Or maybe someone who suffers from an addiction that shame won’t allow you to profess, even to your closest friend, spouse or life partner.
The “second dark” represents something much deeper and sinister, which is the secret of who you become and why as a result of molestation, without early intervention. If all you know is one thing your entire life, it’s almost impossible to see it another way. That becomes your new normal even if its is wrong, off base or unacceptable to society. These statements do not suggest that it’s okay to act impulsively on your feelings or make decisions without license, but more importantly it captures the complex layers of confusion that evolves when this type of victimization remains locked up, harboring in a swamp of delusion.
You see being molested took something away from me. It stole my ability to have pure and healthy thoughts (my innocence) as a child, therefore it shaped many of my decisions and actions as an adult, only with a victimized mindset. It wasn’t until several years ago that I identified the “second dark” as a lie, and a facade of my true self. Something that attached itself to me through the act of being molested and effectively intertwined into my psyche, thoughts and very actions as a man and past husband. I lived with it, accepted it as mine and simply thought this would be my struggle to bear for the rest of my life. I assumed that I would never truly be close to a woman and my most important relationships would be kept at a safe distance. I just did not know what being close really meant for me. I could teach it, read about it and help others feel comfortable working through the process, but as for me, not so.
I desperately needed to understand (from my soul and spirit) that I was created for purity, wholeness, wellness and with an ability to love intrinsically with openness and honesty, despite the molestation, yet I was far from that, because I had never honestly dealt with it. Just the normal surface stuff.
Ultimately the real me became the secret, even though I had professed the opposite my entire life.
I was trapped in a shell of disillusionment, tormented by images that projected a distorted view of who I truly was. So I have finally come to the conclusion that the “dark-dark” secret truly was me. The real me, afraid to stand up and say I am not a victim any longer. This argument was not with anyone, but myself. No one else in the world knew this but me. Hence, why it became my “dark-dark” secret.
I want to list a few steps on how this revelation came to me to leave you with some hope. They are as follows:
- Be true to yourself – Being honest with ourselves is one the hardest things to do, because this is a time to finally own what is truly ours.
- Listen and trust what you hear – Sometimes what we hear first is exactly what we need, but we become experts in doubt and distrusting our first thoughts.
- Step out in faith in the small things – Don’t try to conquer the world with your initial moves. Tackle confronting the lie you have lived with all this time versus confronting others.
- Realize that you are not your past – Don’t allow your past to define your future. Get counseling and surround yourself around people who speak truth and love in your life.
- Take your power back – There will always be naysayers in your life. Don’t indulge in conversations that lead to you explaining yourself so someone else. The moment you do that, you have given them power over you.
- Begin to live your life as an over-comer, not a victim – Victims are always making excuses for what and why they cannot do something. Begin to take ownership for you. Stop blaming others for what they did to you. Take control of your destiny by establishing new dreams and goals for yourself. Make each day a new day. A step closer to a better you!
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future” – Paul Boese
About two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a seminar at my church on forgiveness. Being raised in church for the most part and a teacher (by calling), I have experienced my share of sermons, books and discussions on the topic. One thing that was significantly different for me this time was, I was the student versus the teacher. I can’t say I approached it like any other seminar that I have attended in times past, because my life had taken a severe turn just about 6-8 months prior. It was a devastating time for me. I had went through my second divorce and hurt someone I have known and loved for many years as well. Although I had forgiven myself and asked the people I hurt for their forgiveness, which I believe they had, I just needed something more to better understand and gain the clarity that I needed to move on with my life.
So there I was, in a two-day seminar trying to understand better what I thought I already knew fairly well, until that time that is. The pastor took an interesting approach for his introduction. He had an apple in his hand with a knife. I’m a visual learner, so this was great for me. He then took the knife and sliced a small section out of the apple. The apple represented our soul/emotions and the knife represented the sins/offenses against us. He demonstrated how we are impacted by the offenses of others and depending on how deep the cut, slice or sections taken out of the apple, the deeper the wound to our soul. It was quite traumatic to see this. He even showed how some offenses can have life long impacts, by slicing the apple in half or cutting a large piece out of it. (Picture that for a moment) He then began to share the role that forgiveness has with our healing.
Now, understanding that we all have our own choice to exercise our faith and beliefs, you have to decide what direction you personally choose to take for recovery, healing and ultimately moving on with your my life. Some may choose a 12-Step Program, counseling or seeking help from a higher power. As a Christian, my personal belief system is trusting God, through Jesus Christ. I’m not here to speak on that, but it’s important for me to state this so you understand my actual process to heal and recover, specifically with forgiveness. So for me this was a three-step process, first starting with confession.
This is the act of stating what you did, essentially owning it and having the courage to tell someone else about it.
If this can be the person that you offended, that will be even more impactful, if not, make certain they’re trustworthy and honest, because this a time for authenticity and truth and nothing short of that, even if it temporarily hurts your feelings.
Next, we must repent.
This is the act of truly acknowledging what and who you did wrong and making the decision to go in a different direction, a direction that brings forth healing to you and the one you offended.
This may require support from a professional, so don’t be ashamed to get the help. During this phase, you must be patient and allow who you offended to voice their pain and how what you did made them feel or impacted their life. This phase is not for the faint of heart, so be prepared to take accusations and criticism from the one you hurt and anyone that loves them. It’s a critical step for the actual healing process to occur, because it’s allowing how you actually hurt them to finally come to the surface without hearing any excuses.
The next step would be to forgive. This could mean you forgiving yourself first.
The act of forgiving is to release someone for how they offended you, and to no longer seek retribution or revenge.
Keep in mind it is their choice to forgive you or not, but it’s imperative that you forgive yourself during this time if you haven’t already.
It is important to clarify that forgiveness will not fix the problem necessarily, heal a physical wound or return money back into your bank account that someone took from you. It doesn’t even guarantee that you will be friends again, (in some cases it may not be wise to be) but what it will do is release you from the bondage of the one that did you wrong. Unforgiveness has a picture. It looks sort of like someone in a straight jacket bound in a cushioned room, with the room representing your place of pain and the straight jacket representing what you haven’t released. Can you picture this person? Bound, tormented with a desperation for freedom, but with no idea on how to achieve it, while the anger continuously fuels the desperation. Who wants to remain in this place? It’s imperative that we release ourselves from the anguish of what others have done to us and what we have done to others by the sheer act of forgiveness. I know that many will say, “You don’t know what they did to me, I cannot ever forgive them!”. I understand this and empathize with the thought, however it is the quickest way to remain bound with poison in your heart.
My personal story of forgiveness is one full of personal anguish, however equally amazing love. I will share only a part of it now, and one day soon the entire story will become a post on this blog. My story, being the act of the very God that I believe in coming to my rescue through a person to restore me and love me unconditionally in my time of tremendous need. A true friend that I have known for years had the courage to come along side me when so many others had abandoned me or simply didn’t want to hear my side. My heart was like that apple (broken and punctured with deep wounds), and so was hers (my friend). You see she was someone who I had equally hurt during this time and I could not believe or understand why she would come to my rescue, believe in me or even choose to be by my side while I was attending this seminar. Just the act of her courageous selflessness brought a type of healing to my soul that I pray I can return to her one day. I tried to understand it, but I couldn’t. I tried (even now) to articulate it, but my words fall way short of the true depth of love exemplified to my soul on that day by one human being. I can only chalk it up as amazing grace. Truly amazing! Next to the love of my mother, I cannot say I have ever felt that type of love from another human being towards me, especially when I deserved it the least. Sigh…
I am so grateful for the example that Christ has left for me to forgive. I am so thankful for the strength of one person that I hurt the most show me what unconditional love really looks like.
Today I am thankful for Monique.
You are truly God’s vessel of honor and I will always be thankful for what you gave me during that time. God chose you to set me free through forgiveness, and you had the courage to actually go through with it. I love you dearly.
Coming full circle, the final step in this cycle of forgiveness is reconciliation, for those that are blessed to experience this, where the broken relationship and heart is restored and made stronger than before, if you can imagine that.
Where is your soul in the area of forgiveness? What apple truly represents the condition of your heart? Are you bound, or do you still hold on to the pain of what someone else has done to hurt you, whether last year or from your childhood? Are you ready to forgive them and be free, finally? I pray that you are.