“The struggle is a part of the story” – Unknown
Sometimes I ask…
Who knows you, past the simple perfections that you portray to the world daily? Who knows the angst you fell asleep with last night, that still remains with you this morning? Who knows you past the superficial smile you greet the world with everyday, yet inside you are longing to be held, understood and accepted? Who knows what you truly feel about the world, when the music stops and the friends head home? Who knows that you cry when you are alone, for reasons that you cannot even articulate yet?
Sometimes I wonder…
Does anyone really care about I feel, like really care? Why is it so hard to engage people about real life stuff? Perhaps I know deep down, they really don’t care enough to do anything even if they did know. Would my life be different, if I had decided to take that right versus the left that I now question? Is happiness overrated, or am I pursuing the wrong dreams? Is my heart really in this thing, or am I fooling myself as well? Is all the effort and late night talks really worth it, or am I simply wasting my time? Is it only me that thinks this way? Is this just me doing that over thinking again, or am I really scared where my life is right now?
I have learned that if your are not taking the time to occasionally take an inventory of your own life and all of its complexities, you will eventually hit a wall, become overwhelmed or lose sight of what you are doing and why you initially began. Whether you are fully engulfed in a career pursuit, just beginning with a college dream, or pursing love with that signficant other, we must ask ourselves questions that provoke thought, challenge our borders and cause us to pause and think deeply about what we are doing and where we are headed.
Sometimes it’s not enough to reflect in a silo, although it may be safer and feel better, but occasionally we need to deliberately place ourselves in an unsafe zone and allow discomfort to happen. This is the place where you allow that close friend, spouse or counselor to have their way with you, so to speak. Give them license to dispense some raw truth into your heart and mind, and be prepared to listen and accept it, even if you ultimately decide to go a different direction.
This is more than simply seeking advice. At its core, it is becoming fully transparent and fully vulnerable. A scary concept for most of us, however imperative for growth, transformation and the ability to authentically connect and holistically love. If you could imagine that one can only love and connect as deep as they are willing to be vulnerable, what would that look like in your life? If that were the measuring stick for your current relationships and life pursuits, how deep or shallow would they be? And more importantly, how satisfied are you currently with them in that state?
Life is amazing and equally difficult, complex and downright hard at times. We struggle everyday, like a broken car on the side of the road. We can all stand a helping hand at some given point, but in order for that hand to enter our lives, we must make it known that we have a need. It’s not to say we should wear a sign that signifies our needs, but someone must know us as well as our struggles in order to get through them. Who is that one for you? That one that you have allowed into that deep place. You know, that place you rarely go yourself?
At the end of here day, I want to love hard, work hard and play hard. Not just to say that I did, but to know that I lived my life in such a way that transcended my ego, my fears, my traditions and embraced my faith, my heart and my hope to be loved and understood in a meaningful way, not just past my struggles, best because of them.
I want to say this…
You know my struggles, therefore you know me, because I chose you. Not because you were safe, quite the contrary actually. You scared the living daylight out of me, but I knew I wanted you to know me, feel me and deeply connect with me. So you didn’t start by asking me a list of questions, you simply shared your own intimate life and made it okay for me to share my own. Thank you for saying yes and being more than my friend, but a light into my preferred future.
Sometimes I ask and sometimes I wonder, but I am grateful for you because the questions ultimately reveal their own answers as I live, love and remain hopeful. You know my struggle…
“Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” – Unknown
Lord knows I have had my share of relationships that did not end well. Whether the demise was instigated by my actions or the actions of my partner, it is something I will never wish on anyone, including my worse enemy. I say this because when our hearts become intertwined with another person, it is always painful to let go, even when it is the most healthy decision to make.
Letting go of love is like letting go a piece of our very person because usually we have invested so much of ourselves into the relationship, and ultimately a hardness had to develop in order for us to finally make the decision. When I say hardness, I do not necessarily mean one has to become cold-hearted to end a relationship, however there is an aspect of closing up that needs to occur to move on with life.
Essentially like closing a door and making the decision to not return to it. No matter how we explain it, there has to be some exposure to hardness in order to pull this off effectively, otherwise that door becomes a revolving one, which typically results in more pain and more heartache.
Now I am not here to advocate divorce or saying it is simply okay to prematurely walking away from a long-term relationship, although it does happen, and sometimes for the right reasons. What I am saying is when one decides to go down this path, it is imperative to search their soul, take lots of time, consult with wise counseling, pray daily, spend quiet time with themselves and God, and then repeat those steps all over again until it is settled in their own heart to leave or remain in it.
So many times we are in such a hurry to walk away, (me included in times past) because we just want to be done. Done with looking at our partner’s faces, their scent, quirks, pretty much everything about them annoys us. But if we allow this major decision to become driven by emotions, primarily fear or anger, we will ultimately regret not allowing ourselves the opportunity to go through the process of real closure. Of course this does not apply to abusive relationships. When safety is at stake, I will always advise one to get out and deal with the aftermath from a safe place, emotionally and physically.
It is inevitable that letting go of love will change you. Just like the love itself from the beginning changed you, (hopefully for the better) but at this stage as we begin to close our hearts and prepare for a journey we cannot fully comprehend what will be on the other side, besides our new-found freedom, one cannot help but go through a personal metamorphosis. And depending on what type of individual work you did/do during this process, including who influences you the most, will ultimately define if you become bitter, better, happy, disillusioned, an unbeliever of love, hate the opposite sex, the list goes on.
We all want to feel good as we go through a break-up, but it is important that we take heed with the steps taken to get there. An ex feeling bad should not be the barometer of the other feeling good. Sure it may bring a sense of temporary satisfaction, but let it be just that, temporary. Otherwise you will find yourself consumed with negatives thoughts and plots on how to keep them down, and inherently dismiss the health of yourself. That is simply too much energy to spend on someone you just broke up with, no matter how good it makes you feel.
Ultimately wholeness should be the personal goal. As our hearts and emotions have been literally split in two, we must regain our sense of self, even relearn who we are or possibly reinvent who we are, and desire to become. Again, another process, however a process that can provide a pathway to new and better beginnings, new hopes and dreams, a more informed perspective on life, and a holistic approach towards relationships and love.
Letting go of love does not have to relegate our lives to a future full of misery, shame and disappointment. It could possibly become the birthing of your ultimate purpose and destiny. You have the power to influence that as I did. After two divorces and a host of other broken relationships, I continue my journey to wholeness and new discovery. I am certainly not the man I was in the past. In many ways I am better, and in others not so much, however I continue to grow, remain open and trust in the power of love and it’s influences on my life.
“Dear you, make peace with the mirror and watch your reflection change.” – Unknown
The Bible says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” I whole-heartedly agree with this scripture, but as I have counseled and spoken with people over the years, I have come to understand that many people do not truly or accurately love themselves at all. Therefore, this scripture in some cases may pose a slight problem or create major conflicts in their lives and in the lives of others.
Obviously (or at least in my opinion) that is not to say we start cutting that portion of the Bible out, however if we find ourselves in positions of influence, it is imperative that as we teach and encourage others to love in this way, we make sure they are first properly loving themselves.
Many of us have had semi-normal childhoods. We had one or two parents (or grandparents) that gave their best to our well-being, met most of our emotional and physical needs and overall we had a functional lifestyle. That said, there are also many that did not receive a functional life as children. Quite the opposite actually.
Dysfunction can come in many forms, but ultimately it is defined as, when the majority of essential needs go unmet most of the time. Imagine growing up in a home where this was the norm. Without some type of intervention along the way, this is a recipe for a warped view of love.
Even as adults, when our essential needs go unmet we become irritable, disconnected and weary. Imagine that lifestyle as an impressionable child. What happens to their ability to love and interpret love in a respectable and healthy way? It falls to the wayside quickly is what happens.
Now I realize that this does not apply to everyone. There are always anomalies, and special cases, but for those that it does apply to we must be cognizant not to flippantly throw scriptures at them and send them on their way, and then wonder why they continue to hit the same walls of brokenness.
Brokenness specifically in the form of making poor decisions in the area of relationships. We all know them, or perhaps it is you who I am speaking of. The he/she “bad guy” continues to enter your life with a different face and wreaks havoc in your world, for weeks, months or years at a time. Your love radar seems to be broken. Your best friends try to tell you, but you just cannot seem to connect the missing dots, and repeatedly think you found the “one” that is different.
For certain, a vicious cycle for those that have endured this way of living, but what if we could begin to understand why we go down this path and then choose to make better choices for ourselves? Is it even possible? Has too much time passed? Do we give up and simply accept, this was meant to be my story?
I cannot begin to address the level of complexity that exist with how one arrives at this place, therefore there is equally not one simple solution to prescribe a cure or remedy. What I do know and believe is love is the strongest force on the earth.
It (love) will cause one to travel across the globe to be with that one person. It (love) will give a mother supernatural strength to rescue her helpless child. It (love) will cause a father to place himself in-harms-way to provide for his children. For Christians it (love) is what caused Jesus to die on the cross. For most in the world it (love) is what encourages us to do the right thing by our fellow-man, even if only for a season or a moment.
So what about learning to love yourself first? What about getting a better or new definition of what love is supposed to look like for you, instead of accepting what you have received all these years? I like this version of what the Bible has to say about love. Why not take a look and see how it compares to how you love yourself today.
Perhaps it will cause you to finally see the brokenness and pain you have allowed to enter your heart and mind. Perhaps it will encourage you to chart a new path for yourself. A path filled with the hope and belief that you are worthy of something better. Perhaps it will encourage you to begin a new discovery of true love. Perhaps you will realize that today is the perfect day to make that discovery.
“Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.” – Unknown
Anything worthy of experiencing or having in life usually takes time. In most cases that time will fall under the category of what we know as a journey. You know that place in between the beginning and the final destination? That is where the magic happens, real life unfolds and often where we discover who we really are, or desire to become.
Sometimes what we discover is not what we initially sought out, but once the dust settles, if we can muster the courage to continue on and press through the hardship of raw facts and painfully transparent friends and family that (if we were lucky) ever so delicately placed the ugly pictures of who we are and who we were on a canvas like a meticulous artist, on the other side can be an amazing opportunity of new beginnings.
As painful as it can be to revisit the past, it is where we find many of the answers that we seek, whether consciously or subconsciously. I say this because most of us do not consider ourselves as super heroes, where we knowingly place ourselves in inherent danger to seek the truth out no matter what the consequences. No, we are typically cowards and afraid of what we will find, so it is usually safer to just let things be as they are. Dull, but not in a boring kind of sense, more like a in a un-sharpened knife kind of a sense, that pierces through our skin. After all, it is the path of least resistance, which makes it safer, easier and requires less effort, however this path also leaves us empty, broken and often confused because we now realize that there is more to what we thought we knew, and left unanswered this will drive us crazy or worse, drive us to continually repeat the past like a highly executed math problem.
As I mentioned before, nothing worthy comes easy. For me love has been my mission. Not that I have always went about finding it in the best way. Like I do not advise three marriages and several preceding broken relationships to get there, but I will say true love is worth the scars and pain.
My journey has not been for the faint of heart. I had to finally come to a place where I acknowledged my part in the demise of several broken relationships. It was not them, it was a me. My inability to see, own and understand my specific responsibility was my failure, and not until I decided to journey within was I able to get it. Like really get it!
So of course this does not make everything perfect, but It has helped me make better decisions, focus my energy in the appropriate areas, (especially during a disagreement) become more self-aware of what I am feeling in the moment and to be a better listener. All things that were once far removed.
My attempt to find love again was nothing more than my innate existence of being a hopeless romantic. I would never stop pursuing it, however my natural desire to no longer experience deep pain on a continuum motivated me to travel on this journey with more wisdom (from outside sources) along with an open mind.
My only option was to become bitter and old with a mouthful of disdain from the mere mention of “true love”. This was not going to be my story, so I journeyed on and on and on…
On the outside it looked foolish I am sure to many, but again it was a worthy cause to me. My past did not necessarily have to dictate my future, and chance had nothing to do with it. It was purpose and a commitment to myself for a change.
My journey back to love actually had nothing to do with anyone, but myself. It was a choice to learn from my past, understand it in a more profound and dynamic way, which is a nice way to say I needed to do some work (with a counselor), introspection (with a plan to action) and actual application of what I learned along the way.
I have not arrived yet, but I am on my way to a life of authentic truth-telling and truth living. No more shadows, lies or niceties that attempt to keep peace at all cost. I am me. That is what I know, live and declare beyond with just words.
So I grew up with three sisters. One older and two younger. For most of my life I had people telling me, “You must be spoiled”, and for years I never understood what they meant. Then as I got older, I began to understand that living in a house full of women with one boy meant I must have been catered to more often than not, and additionally got my way most of the time. Well I can say with certainty that my father did not allow that to occur during my formative and pre-teen years.
Not only was I assigned specific chores like taking out the garbage, yard work and washing cars, but I was also responsible for washing dishes and cooking. Of course I seldom thought it was fair, but such is life, and eventually I came to realize the benefits of thoroughly knowing both scopes of household duties.
As a brother (older to the majority of my sisters), I took on specific responsibilities and obligations that only we young men do, like looking after them, protecting them and making sure they were generally good in life.
Coming from a divorced home, this philosophy became more pronounced if you can imagine. Not only did I self-appoint myself as the man of the house at fourteen, but I now felt a stronger obligation to fulfill the roles I once thought were somewhat optional, but without hesitation I owned and accepted them with honor, at least for a season. A very long season albeit.
Fast-forward a few decades and I recall a phone call I had with one of my younger sisters over the phone. It was during a rough time in my life. I was going through a tough time in my first marriage. No one knew about my struggles and she called me for martial advice. “Really”, I thought to myself. So as I listened to her and shared what I thought to be encouraging words, I also asked her, “What if I wanted to do what you are thinking about?” As I look back, her answer was pivotal and tremendously significant regarding what I am attempting to share today with you.
With every piece of sincerity and love she had for her older brother, she answered calmly with, “Henry you can’t do that because….you just can’t.” I still remember where I was driving during that conversation, like it was yesterday. It left an indelible print on my heart and mind and ultimately became the theme song I played over and over in my life for years to come.
I deduced from that conversation, along with the baggage I had already inherited as an older brother and then man of the house, that it was my duty and responsibility to take care of people, especially the ones I claimed to love. And at all cost.
So for years I lived this life of caring for my world and the people in it. I actually became quite good at it. There was just one problem, one major issue that lingered in the background like a bad taste in my mouth. I neglected one important person. Yes myself. I forgot about loving numero Uno. Can you relate?
So after years of self-inflicted torture and this, what I believed to be inherent calling to save the world one person at a time belief, while simultaneously denouncing my own needs, I finally came to my senses. Well actually I cannot even call it that because I would have still been on that same road if it were not for my own brokenness.
Yes, it was my own brokenness that caused me to see the light or better yet recognize I was worthy of loving myself before anyone else in the whole wide world. This was/is not simply a second nature task for someone with my background and longing to help everyone. Placing myself first was completely a foreign place. It was uncomfortable, strange and actually felt like I was doing something wrong. “Is this was people do?”, I thought to myself. I suppose it was and I realized it was time for me to experience it as a normal part of my life as well.
So how does one come to practice this way of life, loving yourself first? Well after many days and nights of prayer, counsel and self-help books that declared I mattered, I finally came to this one conclusion.
Never again apologize or make an excuse for being a priority in my own life.
In short, I believe the current term now is “do you”. For some this can become an excuse to be selfish which I will admit is a huge societal problem, but for those of you on a real mission to become more than what you are today, it can be a place of real struggle and the propensity to retract is ever-present.
Obviously if it were that easy to arrive at this freeing place, we would have all been there yesterday (to put it figuratively) but it is not. For years we have driven ourselves into the ground and labeled it as duty. For years we have taken a front seat to causes we did not agree or believe in, in the name of honor. For years we have taken a back seat to what we do actually believe in, all in the name of sacrifice. For years and most of our lives we have neglected ourselves and only given to others, all in the name of “love”. Was that really love or something else we can label as noble? Hmm…
Only you can truly answer the questions that plague your heart and mind and leave you awake at night staring at the ceiling. Only you can determine when enough is enough. Only you and God can understand when you finally arrive at your breaking point where you finally realize that not only do you matter, but you are worthy of love, not only from God and others, but also from yourself. If the golden rule in life is to treat others as you desire to be treated, how can we afford to share that with people who have not first learned the art of loving themselves? The answer is we cannot. We will only give our community more complexes, therefore perpetuating the issue. So learn to love yourself better today than you did yesterday. True love never fails.
“One of the hardest things to do in life is to look at one’s self and recognize our own failures, short-comings and poor decisions we have made, but repeating them will prove to be the more difficult lesson.” – Henry G. Nutt, III
So I am forty-eight years old, a father of four children with two being a legal adults now, and I am married for the third time to a wonderful woman. I do not consider myself a spokesperson for the black male specie, divorced fathers or any group of the like, but what I do have is a life richly filled life with experiences and lessons that I hold dear to my heart. I came from the school of hard knocks when it comes to love and learning and what the hell it really means, at least from my point of view. Like many, I have been shaped and biased by my own personal experiences along the way, but I have equally put a lot of time into personal growth. Sometimes that has come in form of professional counseling, talking to friends and family, many hours of prayer and a devotion to personal reflection. During this phase of transformation, I committed myself to a life-long journey of learning by embracing the art of being still, intently listening to my inner voice and recognizing that nothing happens without a reason.
Prior to coming to this understanding, my mind was often plagued with excuses and reasons why I was unable to achieve a certain thing, maintain a specific relationship or fall short of a desired goal. To put it mildly, I was a mess, sorrowfully immature with a short-sided view of the big picture. The fact that I can even say this publicly is evident that I have come a long way to myself, because let me tell it a several years back, I had it all together and everyone else needed work. Now mind you, I still have a long way to go, and the journey has been nothing short of hard work and lots emotional pain, but I am here to tell the story (as my wife says) and I am grateful to be able to do so.
It is not everyday that we have the opportunity to tell our story before it is too late. I mean late like in being deceased, still ignorant to the real truth (by choice or not), or being too hard-headed to know any better. Either one presents its own set of mini tragedies for self or others tied to our drama. So as I list the three most significant lessons that I have learned to date, perhaps you can add one to the list from your own personal journey, or better yet, share your own list.
1. Embracing the art of being still – Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” When the creator of the universe advises us to pause every once in a while, we should learn to do so. However if it were that easy, He probably would not have had to make it so prolific by recording it in the Bible. Just think about an infant or little kid. The last thing they have or think about is being still or patient. They want what they want now, like right now! And when we choose to not accommodate them in real-time, they scream, throw stuff and have selfish tantrums. This is what they do and although it is not acceptable social behavior, for a young child we give them a pass, after all it is a part of growing up.
We have all been there, but what happens when that same child is now older and acts in the same manner? Uh, they get kicked to the curb, scolded and dismissed with a quickness and/or simply ignored until they go away. (And that is being nice for some families) So how in the heck do we expect to receive a pass as an adult when we cannot exhort patience, self constraint or learn to be still when it could matter the most? It almost seems simple, but unfortunately it is not.
Like the child, we want what we want now, and waiting is not an option. We will literally and figuratively kick and scream until we get it with no shame or remorse. How tragic yet equally true, and just like the inappropriate kid, no one really wants to be around you. You are annoying, selfish and mostly insensitive to everyone but yourself. I know because I was that guy in some ways.
So being still can look like many things. For me it means being slow to speak when things get crazy, choosing to sleep on things before I respond, pray and wait for an answer (the key is waiting for the answer part, not just praying), taking many deep breaths prior to engaging difficulty while at the same time considering the risks and the source I am engaging with, never responding while I am angry, because I always regret the outcome and finally recognizing that reacting versus responding are two very different actions.
Essentially the ultimate purpose of being still is to hear and listen to your inner voice, recognize what is being said and determine if what you are hearing is the right move. If we never give ourselves a chance to take it all in, we quickly lose sight or really never gain any sight at all, and we can become victims to our impulses. We say and do mean things that feel good in the moment, but often serve no helpful purpose. This is usually how regrets occur, so as much as it may feel good in the moment to retaliate, react quickly or react in anger, in the famous words of Dr. Phil, “How is that working for you?” Mostly likely it is not working at all and has created more drama than what you first began with.
Although waiting may test every ounce of patience we have, when effectively exercised it will prove to be our best option.
2. Listening to your inner voice – So after we make the decision to be still, we afford ourselves the opportunity to hear if we now choose to listen. Sometimes my inner voice is simply common sense that is usually not so common, God attempting to speak to me or words of wisdom passed through trying to break through my hardened heart.
Choosing to listen to our inner voice is analogous to stopping on the side of the freeway and revisiting our map because we finally acknowledge that we may be lost. Now everyone is passing us and we feel as if we loss ground or lost the race.
I can attest to losing ground and getting seemingly behind when choosing to pause, but as time moved on it was usually the best decision I made. After several failed relationships, going into another one fast, was the last thing I needed to do. So I finally decided to pause and take the time to understand what was really going on with me. Could it be I just did not like being alone? I learned that is called being human and okay, but just filling that void the way I had was not okay for me, an especially the one I was involved with. It was always a decision full of regrets, until I learned to be still and listen.
It took many falls and much brokenness to arrive at this place. While on that journey of disparity it was easy to see the pitfalls coming into fruition now that I look back. My future was easy to predict. It was the same old same old,…different day. No rocket scientist was required to determine the state of my life back then. The reasons were obvious and evident. There was nothing deep or profound about it, for I had created all the reasons for my then current issues and circumstances.
3. Recognize that nothing happens without a reason – There will be times in life when we truly do not understand why certain things happen or work out the way that they do, and then there will be times when once we become still and listen to our inner voice, that we will be able to put the missing pieces together. We can come to a place of understanding where we learn about our own motivations, the good and the not so good ones.
Many times we are in search of answers about “the whys” in our lives and many times the answers are right in front of us. We simply chose to ignore the obvious. This is also a form if denial, but until we have matured, we will continue to chalk it up as senseless or meaningless rhetoric.
We ask ourselves, “Why is life so hard for me? Why do I keep finding myself is broken relationships? Why am I always is debt or living from paycheck to paycheck? Why do I give up so easily? The questions can be endless, but the answers may right there hidden under a few layers of self discovery. Perhaps the answers will come from the Holy Spirit speaking to you in ways that only you can understand, or words that laid dormant in your spirit for decades, spoken from a late relative, pastor or counselor. The key is that you get still enough to recognize your own history and hear your heart is so desperately trying to say, at least the parts that you can understand during that time. Then what lies ahead can be worked out with some support, therapy or perhaps you will discover the “whys” for yourself.
So as I mentioned, it may seem as if you are on the side of the road remapping your journey, but at least once you begin driving again you will know where you are heading. And even if you need help with the directions, at least the journey that you now embark on will resonate with who you are and where you ultimately want to be.
Life lessons, reflecting and taking the time to assess our lives is an essential part of life. When we fail to learn from a painful or unfulfilled past we will inevitably relive those moments over and over again. Part of the beauty of life is getting out and smelling the roses. So as you are on your journey of life, stop that figurative car and refocus your plan. Is this where you should be going? Have things changed? Is this still the best thing for you? If the answer is yes, than great. While your out, enjoy the scenery (smell a rose two) and get back on the road. If not, remember the beauty of my life lessons and apply them were applicable, and do not forget to add a few of your own and share them with someone else.
“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.
“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.