”No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it” – Albert Einstein
Nothing beats a failure like a good-ole-fashioned try right? Wrong. For some of us, this route has been a pain-staking journey that has led us on paths we would rather not remember. As relieving as the inability to not recall our past may sound, we should equally understand we simply cannot forget. Not because we don’t want to, but because we cannot. The intertwining weave of brokenness, pain, hurt, anger, emptiness and even spouts of joy has found its way deep into the pockets of our souls, which won’t allow us to simply erase what was.
This does not necessarily have to equate to a present life of misery, unforgiveness and shame, but it certainly can and has been the story for many, including present company for many years. For many years I was that guy who allowed the past to dictate the future. As much as I tried, I was unable to break the negative cycles that seemed to torment my every move and relationship. I was doing the right things, so I thought.
I went to counseling, prayed to God and spoke to trusted friends, however one important part was missing. That missing piece was my inability to get past myself.
Often times when we blow it in life, we tend to label ourselves as the biggest losers on the face of the earth. This frame of mind can become impenetrable even towards God, the wisest of words and sound counsel. A hardened heart cannot hear.
So there we are, living our lives as if nothing has gone awry. We smile when we’re suppose to, talk about the kids as if they have no problems and as for our relationships – well they couldn’t be better we say. In most cases the ones we are sharing these so-called truths with, reciprocates the effort with the greatest of ease. Sound familiar?
Although we may repeat moments like this effortlessly over and over again, one thing holds true, whether we want to admit it or not. Once we have shared and walked away, something inside of us tends to feel more alone than before we spoken. The reality of our empty words consumes the moment and we become saddened with the idea of being the only one who feels this way, even though we are not alone.
Change never come easy, especially when that change means the life that we know today may never be the same again. Our desire to hold on to what we know often overshadows the ugly reality that we live in and usually feels more comfortable than the gaping hole and dissatisfaction that we are currently living in.
What if it could be different? What if there were a way to stop living behind the veil of perfection and just be you? The you that cry’s when he/she is sad, the you who admits imperfection at the perfect time, the you who stands against injustice, even when it’s unpopular in your community and the you who dares to become vulnerable in the most inauspicious moments. Is it even possible, or is this just a fairytale idea?
Life is not just a about what you make it and who you share it with, but more importantly how you share it. The things we choose to give away from within are the things that will resonate with others and give them life, and in turn give life to us. The type of life that reaches to the depths of our being and speaks in that small still voice saying I hear you, I see you and you matter.
Yes, change is hard work, however it is essential and a part of our own humanness, but somewhere along the journey of life, of becoming better people, we have lost our deep longing to simply be who we are. A people who were created to dwell together and make this world better, more sustainable, safe and a stable place for the next generations that come after us. Tall buildings and technology will inevitably always be a part of this equation, but those things alone will never replace the human element that exist in each of us. The desire to be authentically known and accepted by another. The soul that is saying, “I am here”.
“Although our version of the story usually feels better and is easier to tell, a lie will always hurt the one you love more in the end.” – Henry Nutt, III
We have been hearing it for most of our lives. Phrases like, “don’t tell lies, you are only as good as your word and your word is your bond,” etc., but as we know, people lie to one another all the time and without flinching.
Of course we are aware that it is not okay, but it somehow feels convenient and like the right thing to do, at least in the moment. After all, we don’t want to hurt anyone, and in our minds somehow we believe the truth will hurt too much. I have been there done that, and have paid the ultimate consequence in a relationship. The death of it without reconciliation. So I have learned a few things about the path of destruction that is created by lying.
In its simplest form, lying is choosing to be dishonest and attempting to evade the truth due to fear or some consequence that may bring discomfort or displeasure to the one telling the lie or someone else. In a more complex and evasive form, lying is a mask, a covering or distortion of the creed we claim to live by. It misrepresents the liar and deceives the one being lied to. It removes our ability to make a choice, resolve, consult or deal with the liar first-hand with raw truth. And ultimately uninterrupted, it will promote the demise of any healthy relationship like a cancer to the physical body.
During my season of engaging in this destructive behavior, I honestly felt as if it wasn’t that bad. I was trying to (so-call) protect the one I claimed to love. You know, spare her from being hurt. And I know that was stupid! As crazy as that even sounds to me today, that lie was the truth I lived by once upon a time until I was forced to deal with my own actions, alone.
It was a painful time, but equally helpful for my spiritual and emotional growth. I peeled back the layers of my history, including my childhood. Nothing was off-limits. Every girlfriend, marriage, friendship and past relationship I examined. I went to counseling to try an understand how and why I became this man who could lie so easily.
The one thing I found more profound than anything else was in order for me to lie to anyone, man woman, boy or girl, I first had to lie to myself. That was a deafening realization, but it helped me come to terms with my own brokenness and inability to recognize the detrimental convictions that were destroying my once virtuous integrity.
So ultimately there is a breakdown and a decision being made with lying. The breakdown, being the reasonings or rationale we come to, to forfeit the truth over and over. The decision, being the choice to accept deception as an option, because at its core, it is indeed always a choice.
For me it was all things coming to a head. My lies finally catching up with me and having no one to blame, with no excuse for my behavior, but it was my relationship with God, my ability to feel the pain I created and finally, to have a deep remorse without the luxury of closure from a marriage that went astray from my own doing that led me to repentance and healing.
What I have learned is lying is not a shortcut, nor should it ever be an option in any type of relationship, even when you are attempting to spare someone’s feelings. As much as one may feel they are doing someone a favor by lying, they are actually doing them a disservice. An act that has multi-faceted implications, like the breaking of trust, which in many cases takes years to rebuild if even possible.
Lying at its core is a selfish act. It fails to consider another person’s emotions or well-being, and at the end of the day it will always do more harm than good. So when given the option, if lying is still a choice on the table, that speaks volumes to your character or lack thereof, a lack of respect for others and more importantly an indication that a big part of your life is being guided by fear, an unhealthy need to be accepted and a lack of courage.
Let’s begin to honor others by first honoring ourselves. Tell the truth at all costs, swear to your own hurt and face the consequences that come with that decision. Your loved ones may be hurt or become angry with you and still decide to walk away, but at least you will have the (self) respect of knowing you chose to speak truth to power. And that cannot be held against you, for the truth always stands the test of time.
“Everybody has a chapter they don’t read out loud.” – Unknown
Have you ever watched a group of children or your own play and talk amongst their friends? Watching them interact in their own environment and hearing the things they talk about when they are unaware you are listening in is not only entertaining, but often an eye opener to who they are becoming and what makes them afraid, not like in of the dark or of ghosts, but the fears of the soul.
Fears like self-doubt, not being strong enough, pretty enough or just different to what is perceived as acceptable. Even at those young, tender and impressionable stages we can identify what we allegedly lack to fit in society appropriately.
What is sad is these fears seldom change with age. We simply become better at disguising, deflecting and numbing the pain that is associated with them. We live our lives as normal as we can until things become too difficult to manage. At that point we only have a couple of options. One is to finally acknowledge the truth about what has troubled us and begin to deal with it and two is to continue to lie to ourselves and live a life of duplicity.
It would seem that telling the truth to at least ourselves would be the easier choice to make, but unfortunately it is not. One of the hardest things for any of us to do, is to admit a short coming, what maybe deemed as a flaw or what seems unacceptable to society and most importantly ourselves. None of us want to ever admit that there may be something about us that is different or lacking. We always have to present a strong disposition no matter what.
It is truly sad, but millions of dollars are spent each year to advertise to the world what is beautiful, strong, viral, acceptable, powerful and sexy. The images flood our brains before we even have an opportunity to really understand what they mean. We simply begin learning that we talk funny, our skin is not the right pigment, our hair is the wrong color or the texture is wrong. We are too short, over weight, our legs our too long. We read too slow, we are too hyper or we are just not smart enough. The list is endless.
We cannot help but to be bombarded by these images and ideas. They tell a story for our children to hear, see and accept as their own truth, so once they become young adults one of their sole purposes in life is about fitting in, changing to someone else and ridding themselves of the images and ideas that truly define who they are. It is like a predetermined method of self-destruction, but unfortunately in this case, they are ridding themselves of all the wonderful attributes and characteristics that make them who they are. The ones that make them unique, beautiful and wholesome.
So what if what society deems as a flaw is really the diamonds in the rough waiting to be discovered? What if we begin to teach our children what real beauty and strength looks like, inside and out, so that when those counterfeit images and people begin to test them, they already know who they are? We can empower them to detect the real from the counterfeit and not be deterred by false illusions of beauty and strength.
But the only way we will be able to accurately impart this type of lifestyle or hope to them is to first own it for ourselves. Here lies the test and the struggle. So many of us still carry the false illusions of what we are supposed to be. Deep down we realize the images do not fit within us, but we have forged our way through life carrying them like a sack of burdens that belong to us. Many of us have awkwardly walked through life afraid to expose the real us. The us that has not necessarily fit in with the status quo, the us that has accepted we are flawed and different.
So is it more awkward to be who you are (flawed and all) or be someone else? If you are not being who you were created to be, the world is missing out on the wonderful treasure that is uniquely you and we miss out on the rare beauty that is yours alone to share with the world.
There is no one quite like me, and I thank God for that. I am not better or worse than anyone else, but I am uniquely me. How about you? Sure there are things about myself I want to change, and I will continue to work on those things over the course of my life, but I will not fit in to make others happy. I lived that life before and was never at peace, but today I am.
We live in a world that will quickly identify how we do not fit in or are different, and if we accept that identity as our own we will pursue a life filling voids that really do not belong to us, and therefore add unnecessary weight/bondage to our once simple and fulfilled lives. Today I encourage you tell someone else that they are not flawed, but accepted and whole, and if they only see themselves as flawed, identify their beauty and strength by sharing a few encouraging words with them about the alleged flaw they insist is theirs. Help them see past the lies and poor images poured into them over the years and give them hope to see their flaws as marks of uniqueness, wholeness and a way to reach their world their way.
“When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.” – Nelson Mandela
We have all said it at some point in our lives to loved ones, close friends and even ourselves when times are tough. “Things will get better with time.” The phrase does sound good and lends itself to even seem comforting when we are hurting, but do things really get better with time? I suppose on the surface, the answer is an absolute yes. Over time it is true we do tend to feel less of the sting pain indiscriminately doles out, whether physical or emotional, but does feeling better really mean we are better? Hmmm… one of those questions to ponder I suppose.
The body is an amazing creation. The fact that when we injure ourselves the body is designed to go into healing mode. Over a course of weeks, months and therapy (depending on the severity of the injury) besides a scar, there is no noticeable evidence of an injury at all. Now we all know that it was not the time that healed that would, but the amazing work occurring on the inside of the body to mend things back together.
The same is true when we are injured emotionally. If someone hurts us in a relationship and we do nothing to understand the core issue(s), we are destined to repeat the circumstance with someone else. For some of us (including present company) this has been an all too common occurrence.
Simply taking a hiatus from dating is not enough to thwart the problem (if dating is your issue) if we do not add the parts that identify the core problem, work through it and apply the learned principles to prevent it from happening with the next guy or gal.
There are so many websites dedicated to discussions on cheaters and liars, and although some have valid points to make, many others simply use the platform to complain and bash the opposite sex, but seldomly look at the work required for prevention or the responsibility they had in the demise of the relationship as well.
It will always be easier to blame another individual, especially when they created the majority of the issue, but what about that small percentage owned by the other person? Does it present a pattern? Have you been here before? Same situation different person? Could you be the common denominator? Again, something too think about.
When we fail to allow ourselves to authentically heal over a period of time, which includes doing the work necessary to become whole how is it possible to think we would make a better decision the next time? How is it that our anger simply becomes directed towards a gender, personality type or ethnicity, versus ourselves? Could it be that we are still carrying baggage from our past that is destined to bring extra weight and turmoil to our next relationship or circumstance? Could it be that time did nothing but give us an illusion that we were better, but in essence we were just numb? And the only way we really know we have not healed is when a circumstance presents itself that reminds us of our brokenness, and we flash on someone or become instantly disengaged. Been there?
In essence, time heals a wound like a bandage heals a cut. It will never be about the time directly, but more importantly what we choose to do in that time. So my prayer is that we choose to recognize the patterns that hinder us, (different face same guy) do the work to change and grow and apply the lessons learned to live a healthier life.
For most of my life I have bought into this relationship between time and healing, but I have always questioned the core idea. I would assume most professionals would agree more than time is required to heal wounds, but somewhere along the way of this commonly used phrase, the translation became lost or diluted with the masses and it simply continues to get passed along like it is a scientific fact. Or perhaps this is simply a part of my perfectionist personality to address it. Either way, I believe it is important that we understand what is implied when we make this statement or any commonly use saying that solicits hope, when it fact it may actually perpetuate the contrary.
To all those finally acknowledging your part in your healing or lack thereof, welcome to the club. There truly is an upside to being down, but we must first recognize the pain and do the right things with it. Numbing it feels great for a short season, but it truly never simply goes away and it will most certainly come back to remind you, “I am still here until you deal with me.”
Neither your age, a new relationship or a geographic relocation will change that fact, because the pain lies within you lying dormant until it is once again disturbed, so yes it requires painstaking, emotionally distressful and committed work, but it is worth the blood, sweat and tears. You are worth it!
“In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” – Andrea Dykstra
For the most part I grew up not having to learn most things the hard away. I listened to my parents more often than not and typically made fairly smart decisions while growing up, however my yester-years had no barring on what was to come for me as an adult. Well lets just say, I really gave great advice when it came to relationships, but my ability to consistently practice my own advice fell way short.
It is not that I went out and deliberately deceived people or straight-out lied to them, (well maybe to myself I did) but some of the challenges that came my way, I quickly learned that I was not prepared to handle them appropriately, maturely or even sometimes honestly. I found myself taking the path of least resistance when it came to certain struggles. I mean do not get me wrong, just like many others I did give things my best effort, (most of the time) however on some of the major challenges, like keeping a marriage together, I cannot say I always did the right thing. To be blatantly honest, I totally did the wrong thing(s), when it came to my second marriage especially.
One would have thought I had learned a few lessons about marital bliss, or the lack thereof after 15 years in my first marriage. Not me, I needed more lessons to really get it I suppose. Well call me a glutton for punishment, a man who enjoys to bleed emotionally or maybe some would simply say I was an idiot. Perhaps I was a mixture of all three and then some, but thankfully we all have a breaking point. A point at which we have had enough of the pain, torment and humiliation and we begin to adjust our lives in a way that becomes congruent with the ideas of getting better or becoming whole.
So after suffering and causing others to disproportionately suffer, I came to my end. The pain became overwhelming. Like, have you ever felt suffocated by your own pain? Where nothing else seemed to exist, but your turmoil and you were reminded of it every morning when the alarm clock went off? Hello, that was me too.
However, as I mentioned earlier, at some point in our lives we all come to the end of the BS, excuses and blaming others for what is rightfully ours to own. A point for me of being exposed in a shameful way. A way that caused me to finally acknowledge my responsibility in the failure of my second marriage. I wish I could sit here and say that I finally came to my senses, but it was quite the contrary. Quite honestly I was responding to the overwhelming grief and pain I felt from how the breakup actually occurred. I would say I did deserve most of the treatment inflicted on me and it certainly had me standing in attention to what was going to become the next chapter of my life, because in that time that was all I had to hold on to.
It was like I was in a cave and the waves of water was beginning to fill every crevice. My air supply was quickly being overtaken and my instinct to survive kicked in. This time it was not a reaction to simply save myself, but to really understand how I got there. Not just from a, “I made a few mistakes point of view”, but sincerely acknowledging it from a deeper place. A place of ownership, taking full responsibility, and not seeking to point blame or make common excuses.
Of course it always requires more than one person to make a relationship successful, but this relationship/marriage was over and in this moment I had an opportunity to grasp for the air I desperately needed, even though I had failed to acknowledged this very same moment in times past. This time the pain changed me, broke me and thrust me towards my true reality of denial, lies and my own emptiness.
This was an unfamiliar place for me, but I cannot say that I was afraid or anxious to be there, because for the first time I could feel and see. See what was really in front of me, and feel the pain of decisions I chose to make that hurt other people. People I was supposed to care for and protect, but I did not do for so many reasons.
Today, although I am still growing and very far from where I desire to be, I am better. A better man, that acknowledges his failures, his weaknesses and his brokenness. I am thankful for every hardship I faced, every moment of despair and the pain never seemed to cease, however it gave me courage. The courage to believe that my past did not necessarily have to define my future, but it would take tremendous work on my part to not repeat the same failures.
“The work” that would ultimately change my life and future relationships. Pain truly changed me for the better. Today I am whole, yet not perfect, hopeful, yet with a clear view of my reality and I am my own greatest surprise.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
For as long as I can remember I have been the type of personality that has tried to avoid conflict. Sometimes this decision worked in my favor, but unfortunately most times it had an adverse effect on my relationships or view of them. And on other occasions it had an impact on the other persons view of me. Well I could plug-in the old adage that I would rather be known as a lover than a fighter to make an excuse, (and it really is true) or use the adage to give me license to take action in a non-actionable manner, if that makes sense. At the end of the day I am still the one left with the bag of goodies created by my own unwillingness to engage (stuff) based on fear, being overly concerned with another’s opinion or simply refusing to exert the necessary energy to fight anymore. There are obviously as many options as there are people along with the endless amount of scenarios that we could find ourselves faced with, but the point I am trying to make is what happens when the arguments stop and more importantly, why do they stop at all?
So perhaps you are one of those many adults that experienced your parents arguing a lot when you were a child. Although I can relate, this is not what I am referring to when I speak of arguing. However, those of us that were exposed to this type of environment tend to either retreat from conflict at all cost or run to it with gloves on. In other words we may be a little out of balance when it comes to engaging or debating during heated conversations, whether we have become overly sensitive due to what we heard for years and how it made us feel or we find ourselves responding to what we believe was unfair treatment, and we make the choice to declare war on anyone that reminds us of how it felt to become the small one during an argument.
I am not here to pass judgement on whichever way you may find yourself going more often than not, but I am here to ask what happens when the argument (within us) stops? Perhaps for now I should use another word for argument, like fighting for what you believe in to make my point clearer.
I can remember one of my first learned lessons about relationships was the differences between love, hate and indifference. I always understood that love was the opposite of hate, but I was reading a book many years ago on relationships and the author depicted a couple that came to him for marital counseling. During the visits there were many heated discussions full of rage and hostility. They kept coming and kept fighting until one day the wife no longer fought. She sat in silence during their sessions. The new behavior bewildered the husband, but the counselor knew all to well what was happening. The wife, let’s call her Janet had become disillusioned and indifferent about their marriage. She was ready to give up and believed her words, energy and effort to fight were no longer a worthy mission.
Something happen to Janet on the inside that so many of us are familiar with. Her willingness to fight/argue begin to cease. She became indifferent. I compare it to flying a kite. The kite represents “the relationship, situation or object. The string represents our tie or connection to that relationship, and the hand that holds the string represents our desire to remain connected to it. Love represents a real connection that will inspire us and help us navigate through duress. It will help us remain connected during tough times and see them through, therefore we will hold onto that kite during the storms and windy conditions.
Hate, although on the opposite spectrum can have a similar impact, albeit usually to our detriment if we do not use good judgement. Even when we allegedly hate someone, there is still a very strong connection that keeps us bound to them. Sometimes that is enough to continue to fight through adversity as well. Just having that type of tie can keep us there in the battle at times, however when we become indifferent that is dangerous.
This is when we no longer have any emotion towards the situation or person. We will walk away without anything, even when we deserve more, if that means we can be free from the circumstance. This person has completely let the kite go and does not even look to see it fly away. Anyone been there?
There are obviously an array of circumstances that can bring us to this place and I do not want to over simply anyone’s situation, but it is important that we consider our own state of mind in this regard. Whether you are fighting for a marriage, career, justice or a strong belief in something, it is essential to take a periodic inventory on where you stand on the scale of love, hate or indifference while there is still an opportunity to move in one direction or the other.
When you think about what gets you out of the bed in the morning or what propels you to continue on the battle field for another day, this is “that thing”, “the fight” that is essential to winning, staying the course and holding true during hardships.
Like so many, there are times when I have held on strong and other times I have given up prematurely. Life is like that sometimes, but I have taken note of the signs that come to warn me what state I am in. Signs like:
1. Becoming easily irritated with the person involved or situation.
2. I no longer desire to communicate about the issue or with the person.
3. I distance myself from the person or issue more frequently.
4. The conversations I do have are void of meaningfulness and I seek to escape rather than draw closer.
5. I make assumptions based on my own given facts that may not be necessarily proven.
6. My ideas and thoughts about the circumstance or person become overwhelmingly negative or hopeless.
There are times when walking away will be the best thing for us and other times when we need to continue to stand. It is a matter of knowing the balance, and hopefully we can learn how to effectively navigate ourselves through this when the time present itself.
Even for that select group who sorely dislikes to argue, like me. We will all have those moments where fighting is just the right thing to do. So whether you are fighting for yourself or a worthy cause, stand for what you believe in, with and without words.
An act of defiance may be just what is required to stir things up bit and get things realigned, and perhaps you are the one assigned to the mission.
“Freedom isn’t going through life unscathed, It’s choosing to not let what has hurt you bind you.” – Leo Christopher
To finally come to an understanding that I will never stop growing has brought a sense a of peace, calm and self-acceptance to my life. When I consider who I use to be, (not that I was such a bad guy) I recall a younger version of myself that was guilt-ridden, anxious, worrisome, unfulfilled, hero-driven, (a need to rescue others) and having a huge lack of confidence. Honestly I could add more to this list, and perhaps if you know me you would as well, however I know that I have come a long way and I am grateful for the growth, genuine love and hope I have for myself.
As a Christian, so much of my life has been centered around helping others and focusing on how to love people more effectively with God’s grace, not that I had mastered the love walk or anything, but as much as this is an essential component to our Christian walk, so many times we tend to neglect that portion of the “Golden Rule” that speaks about loving ourselves. I mean how can we really love anyone effectively, genuinely and honestly if we have not first learned how to love ourselves first? And one way to determine the level of love we have for ourselves is the depth of love we have in our personal relationships.
For instance, it took me many years to come to a revelation that my chain of broken relationships was more about me than the women I dated or pursued. The old (and selfish me) would easily deduce that it had to be something broken in them, versus me and in some cases they were equally broken, but it was still a more accurate reflection of me than them, and even though deep down in my quiet moments I intellectual knew this, I would still never allow it to truly resonate with the parts of me that mattered the most. Therefore it was easily tossed away and on I went fighting within myself and hurting people.
So what has to happen to finally come to a place where we recognize these dark things about ourselves? Because we are each uniquely different and have obviously inherited our own set of proclivities and issues, the sky is the limit on what it takes to finally get to “that place” of genuinely wanting more for ourselves. Whether we call it our “aha moment”, “our wake up call”, or we finally hit rock bottom, something has to happen to get us there. Most of us simply are not wired to come to that place on our own recognizance. I wish it were different, but sadly it is not. Unfortunately (depending how you look at it) for me it was hitting that rock bottom place that finally woke me up, and although I am humbly grateful for that moment, I would rather not relive it again.
So as much as I recognize that I am a new creation in Christ (according to II Corinthians 5:17), I equally understand there are more layers yet to be identified, revealed and acknowledged. And I realize that a relationship is one of the instruments that God uses to challenge me while on this journey called life.
Just today I had a conversation with my wife that revealed I still have many areas I still need to grow in. It was not an accusatory type of conversation, but it prompted me to share a few things that perfectly identified an attitude or type of protection I still carry from my childhood after being molested. The best way I can describe what I discovered is using the word layers. Just when I thought I had something mastered, another thing pops up to show me there is still room to grow.
This particular thing happened to be about how I display emotion and empathy while simultaneously protecting myself when feeling threatened. It’s kind of a weird thing, but when someone is abused, (especially as a child) we develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves when we have no control on what is happening to us. Since we cannot prevent this terrible thing from occurring, we find a way to distract our brain or shut down the parts that feel the pain. Although this became a way for me to survive as a kid, it also became a way of life for me as an adult, which has significantly impacted how I connect, defend and love.
During my childhood I had no idea this form of protecting myself would gravitate to becoming a full-grown “thing” in my adult life. It is like I either had all good and bad feelings together or I had none. As a child, none was preferred, but as an adult my feelings and ability to share them is obviously essential to experiencing a “normal and functional relationship”. So from time to time, this hidden place gets tested. Initially I become defensive and agitated, but I then recognize “this place”, from “that place”. Today I am safe and no one is attempting to harm or hurt me, like in the past, therefore I deliberately remove the blocks that allow me to retreat and hide.
I acknowledge that these layers are inhibitors to my overall growth and my ability to maintain a healthy relationship, and although the layers may always exist in my life, I am learning how to work through them with more effective prayer, applied wisdom and life changing grace. I am working towards a future that is not defined by my past and a relationship that is not haunted by layers of deceit, abuse and lies. I am living above the layers that attempt to bind me.
“I got tired of living a lie. I wish it was because I finally saw the error of ways, but honestly it was because my lie became disclosed, but now I am WHOLE and it no longer matters how, I just am.” – Henry G. Nutt, III
Most of us can relate to the phrase, “I am being my own worse enemy”. Not only because it has become commonplace in our everyday language, but really because we believe it and often live out the meaning of the words everyday. Sure we will have people and circumstances that come to only hinder us in our progression, but what about how we impact our own lives for the worse, seemingly without any effort? What about those individuals that require no help at all from outsiders to divert or destroy laid out plans and goals? If this is you, welcome to the club, but if you are anything like me, it is not a club you really want to belong to, or worse become a lifetime member. So how do we get out? Well like with anything, before we make any steps toward progress or healing we need these four things:
1. Become aware that we have an issue.
2. Be willing to seek help to address the issue or problem head on with guidance and wisdom.
3. Apply the advice or counsel given to us.
4. Keep applying it for a lifetime.
As a disclaimer, I’ll first say this. As an individual that has made the decision to place a good part of his life on the Internet, sometimes it may come across like I am blaming people for past issues, directing specific information towards others or attempting to call people out. I can assure you that those of you who think this way are far off the mark. Each week that I write, I am able to do so solely because I have released, forgiven and reconciled with the core issue or person(s), if they were willing to own their part. But I will say that being free is just that. I no longer have ties or feel entrapped by the past. I have no anger, or ill feelings towards anyone that offended me or I offended. I press on as I encourage my readers to. The bullsh*t I kept inside for the majority of my life has been released, and my decision to write about it is not designed to bring harm or embarrass anyone, but only to live my life with transparency, authenticity and hopefully help others to not live in dismay as I did for so many years. Long ago are the days when I use to raise my hands in church to God, singing that I am free, but was really in bondage still.
For years I took a back seat to most things. I was afraid of confident people, mad at my father (for several years) and lived in shame for a host of reasons. This affected my marriage, profession and everyday walk. Not only was I my own worse enemy, but I consistently talked myself out of accomplishing anything great or worthy. Simply stated, I rejected myself on a regular basis. It became quite easy and my norm to take a back to seat to most things. Rarely did I offer my opinion. I would rather go with the flow as to not disturb or disrupt anything that had been previously established, whether it was in need of adjustment or not. I apologized for things that were not my fault, and found myself trying to fix everyone and everything around me. I easily became angry with people who seemed to need me, and equally upset with those that seemed to not need me at all. It was a vicious cycle that became the impetus and the reason for the demise of many of my relationships.
What I came to understand is that I was actually rejecting myself. I did not like the fact that I felt weak and incapable, therefore whenever I became involved with someone who had similar qualities, I was not simply rejecting them, but I was actually rejecting myself. A self that was more comfortable with living in the shadows of life and remaining alone when I should have been connecting with others, but that was not be. So on I went for years, living a type of double-life. I was ashamed and afraid to be myself and carried disdain for those who seemed to have their lives intact. My life was really a mess, but still not at rock bottom.
Then it happened. The guy that was able to juggle his life and mask his true feelings, emotions and intentions with the best of them became exposed. I spent several weeks looking for figurative rocks to crawl under while at the same time defending the lies that I stood on for years, until I finally realized that my only escape was to come clean with the truth. Talk about a low point, shame and self rejection! Here it was in full disclosure facing me for the first time, and I had nowhere to hide.
My core issue of self rejection had finally manifested in ways that I could not simply rationalize away with eloquent words and a kind-hearted demeanor, which I had certainly mastered over the years. It was as if someone who knew me well, asked the real Henry to stand up, and as I was looking around for that guy to take a stand, I humbly realized the real me never took a stand on many things, let alone on myself.
The elementary version is I cheated, but it is so much more complex than that, because when most people speak of cheating, their minds connect it with a sexual act. And although this is typically where it will lead to, there are multiple levels that can bring more despair, pain and division in the relationship you have with others, God and with yourself. But until we remotely begin to understand this, we are doomed to repeat the act with different people.
So ultimately what was the hard lesson for a boy who was afraid of his father, molested by a close female relative, misunderstood the purposes of sex and monogamy, learned early that masking authentic feelings and emotions was actually acceptable and easy and finally, how coming to everyone else’s rescue could further keep my own feelings at bay and from my heart, would make my life a ticking time bomb of potential chaos and destruction? The lesson is I failed to truly love myself. Now I never had thoughts to physically bring harm to myself by jumping off a bridge, but I was slowly killing myself emotionally and psychologically with each offense. I failed to authentically love myself. I was not important enough in my own mind, so how could anyone else ever be? I was indeed my own worse enemy, therefore an enemy to the ones I claimed to love as well.
For years I lived in the dark, hiding from myself due to shame and a myriad of other issues. Today I am grateful that my hidden life and thoughts were brought to the surface. It proved to be the beginning of an arduous journey of discovery and truth. I am a better man because of it and I continue to grow.
“I am far from what I once was, but not yet what I am going to be.” – Unknown
We can all recall a time in our lives when we were preparing for a trip, whether a short one or a long one. We would pack our bags and jump in the car, bus, train or plane and away we went. Just the anticipation of going somewhere was always exciting. Seeing familiar places, new places, old friends and family would always bring me to a good place.
But what happens when the journey turns sour and what you were expecting becomes a nightmare that seems to never end? A journey that began with that one day or moment where your life would never be the same.
Year after year and moment after the moment I reflected. I felt like damaged goods, different, weird, ashamed and unworthy. For a while I even forgot why. “Was I just born this way”, I use to say to myself. Unfortunately, it was my secret to keep and work through alone, or so I thought for many years.
And so the journey began. My life as a young boy being molested by a trusted family member. How would it shape me? How would I think as young boy, teenager, young adult, boyfriend, husband or father? Would my outlook on life change? Was I normal still? Would my views on sexual relationships change? Could I still trust people? Did every seven to ten-year old boy have an opinion or thought about sex as I did? Why did I become so guarded with everyone? Why did it become so easy to dismiss people, especially the ones closest to me? And what does loving with your heart really mean?
These and more are questions or thoughts that filled my mind as I was growing up at various stages of my life, that I obviously could not answer, but they have shaped my relationships and propensities in so many ways. Ultimately placing me on journey to many dark places until my emotional life was broken by pain, misery and shame.
So today as I sit here and reflect on my past, my perpetrator and all the poor decisions I made because of this moment, it is not a time to say despicable things, place blame (although she was at fault) or discuss how angry or hurt I was, but for me it is a time to really reflect on me and who I am today.
Unfortunately, bad things happen in the world everyday and most stories will probably never be heard. It is a terrible tragedy that we will all face directly or indirectly at some point in our lives.
I am not here to tell you how you should respond or act, I can only take responsibility for me and my actions. And my actions or choice was/is to heal, grow and not repeat the horrendous things that occurred during my childhood or perpetuate them as an adult. I, me… Have done this by reflecting, counseling, praying, forgiving and ultimately giving it over to God.
So I compare a part of this journey like any other journey, like the first time I learned how to ride a bike. My father was behind me first holding on to the bike as he pushed me forward and then he let me go. There I was for the first time riding a bike. My life would never be the same after that moment. A kid first learning how to ride a bike is a big deal. It afforded me new opportunities to explore with my friends, gave me a sense of independence and helped to forge new friendships within my community. It was a great thing as I embarked on my journey of first learning how to ride a bike. Seems simple and harmless and it was, but nonetheless it was a pivotal point in my life just like many others moments that I can reflect on and now see how they have affected my life.
What becomes difficult is what we are reflecting on. Some things we would rather not remember, I get it, but I agree with Brene Brown as she states, “When we choose to bury the story, we forever remain the subject.” In other words, I refuse to remain a victim of my past no matter how tragic the impact, because whether I believe it or not, agree with it or not, I WILL continue to live out the secrets, hidden moments and suppressed thoughts of being victimized, because it was all a part of my story. What I have control over now is how those moments will be lived out. Unlike when I was a child and ignorant to who I had become.
For a big part of my life I was not in control. I was a victim of my circumstances and was okay with that until it begin to manifest a deeper pain that impacted me as well as those that I loved or claimed to. It was a journey with a very predictable ending, but who ever sees the forest while in the midst of the trees?
Knowing better is rarely enough to propel us to do better.
So it took the pain of two divorces, multiple broken hearts (including my own) and years of living in confusion, misery and shame before I would wake up and become aware. Truly aware of where this journey of pain and suffering actually began. I was like the kid in the picture with a suitcase. I was going somewhere, but my destination was solely based on the circumstances I had previously experienced, like a pre-mapped out plan.
Like for so many, the product of the pain started decades prior, I just didn’t realize it until later in life after a great deal of damage had already charted its course. But it’s never too late to start anew. We just need some courage, a little faith, the hope that something better is possible and the desire to begin a new journey. Easier said than done, but nevertheless possible.
I am a firm believer that our past does not have to relegate our future or our ultimate destiny, but it can. The choice and power lie in our ability to understand and recognize that there is more to us than what we have experienced.
And perhaps a small part of me will always be that kid with a suitcase in my hand heading somewhere, but a least now I know where I am headed and my trip(s) have a purpose that I clearly understand and am okay taking. And so the journey begins… Where will you decide to go with the rest of your life?
“Forgive who hurt you in the past. But never forget the lessons they taught you” – Unknown
Sunday afternoon I was in a class like I am most Sundays teaching a class at church. As I was speaking with my students we stumbled on the subject of pain and it’s implications on our lives. As we discussed some recent tragedies that have occurred in our community and church family, one of my students begin to share her personal experience with people she has dealt with that work in the area of grief support. She mentioned a significant percentage of people who attempt to commit suicide really do not want to die, but many have become so overwhelmed with pain and grief that any alternative seems futile. She even mentioned a number of people calling 911 after jumping off bridges or buildings to say they have changed their minds. How tragic is that?! Now although I have no real facts to support this statement, I believe it does carry a portion of some truth, because I know that many people throughout the world are hurting.
As I listened to my student share this startling information I couldn’t help but think of how pain affects all of our lives. Just as we are created uniquely, we also handle distress and issues very differently. It is not a question of who is right or who is wrong, but more importantly the perspective we have while enduring potentially life changing circumstances, like divorce, death, unemployment, poverty, sickness, depression, etc. And with each of these issues there are many available vices to attach ourselves to that numb the noise of the pain, at least temporarily, but at some point we will face the reality of our lives, whether we are prepared to handle it or not. And unfortunately with those vices comes additional complications like addiction, crime and poor judgment, but while listening to her share, something struck me. People just want to be rid of the pain they feel, and they (we) will choose the path of least resistance to obtain any form of peace, whether pseudo peace or real.
Here lies the fork in the road for most of us, because the path of least resistance will inevitably lead to our dismay. Depending on how we were raised, the creeds of our life, our belief system and mental and emotional health, is directly tied to how we will respond to life tragedy. Many assume it becomes more about how strong or weak we are, but it is so much more than that. If that were the case, getting stronger is all that we would need, but simply being strong is not always enough. Or perhaps it is we need to redefine what being strong looks like during a crisis.
So there I was, at one of my lowest points in my life. I simply wanted to stay in bed and sleep in my “closed-blinds” room. I replayed the incident in my head over and over like it was a broken record. How did I allow this to happen to me, to my family? What will I do next? How did I get here? Is this really happening to me? Can I ever come out of this? These and many more questions like this plagued my mind continuously, until one day I finally broke. I guess you could call my breaking point, literally.
Although the phrase “breaking point” has a negative connotation, it was in that moment that I discovered the true strength I needed to press on in life. I had many options on how to recover and rebuild, but being broken is what actually brought me the peace I needed to carry on. The actual strength I so desperately needed came in my ability to surrender, confess and take responsibility, no matter how embarrassing or shameful it seemed. My choice to repent to God, take counsel and listen to trusted friends and family made all the difference in the world.
In the moment, this decision may have come across as weakness, but actually it was quite the contrary. I firmly believe that real strength is not about brawn, machismo, denial or avoidance, but an ability to surrender one’s heart and mind to something greater than themselves. Now I don’t know what that greater “thing” is for you, but for me it is my belief in Jesus Christ. This is my starting point, and the rest unfolds as is it should. And although there is no cookie-cutter result for how we heal, become whole or start over, this is how my pain began to dissipate.
Emotional pain has to be the worst type of pain to experience and although I wish it on no one, it is still prevalent throughout the world. Some handle it well, while many others slip deeper into darkness or become victims to even worse circumstances. The desire for relief is a form of survival that is real to us all, but our options for that relief are often more detrimental (when we’re in an unhealthy state) than the initial pain we faced. When it surfaces, pain often feels like an enemy to our soul, and we will do almost anything to make it go away. What we must understand and learn about ourselves is our propensities to make things worse by any means necessary. Easier said than done for sure, but as much as pain hurts it is also a great teacher. I never want to experience it at my own expense, so I make the choice to learn the lessons that I must learn. Yes, they are hard to swallow and often take longer than I could have ever imagined to come full circle, but at the end of the day or night, when I have peace, the world is a better place and I will fight to keep it that way.