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.