Over the years I have come to learn that I have a tendency to over think things. At times I can even become a bit of a perfectionist, or just very anal about how things should run in my life. Of course this characteristic has its advantages, but it also comes with its own set of baggage as well. For years it has limited me or often times short-cycled some significant events from occurring in my life. To be specific, it would be a case of me sitting on the sidelines watching others enjoy something or pressing through a life event, and for whatever reason I did not give myself license to become involved or discover what could have been significant for me during that time.
As I continue to take my own advice and “Keep Pressing” ahead, I found myself at a cross-road with the topic for this week’s post. With so many ideas constantly running through my brain, I allowed myself to become challenged and almost stifled on what to write. The challenge was not finding a topic, but wondering if I was staying true to what this blog is about.
So this week I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico for work, with a few added extra days on the tail end. I had a topic all cued up, but something inside of me said, “Save that for later and write about this trip and how it relates to my truth.” My first thought was, “Am I staying true to what The Upside of Down is about”, by doing that? After toying with the thoughts for a few days, I refused to think about it any longer, and simply enjoyed my trip on this beautiful island.
I went on some tours off the beaten path, watched families fly kites by the hundreds at a park near El Morro, walked around for what seemed like miles, met a bunch of great people at the conference I attended, and in the taxi I rode in. Whoever was the waiter/waitress at the local restaurant became my friend by name, with some form of friendly affection shared, whether by a compliment or good conversations. I ate some great local dishes, took a guy out for dinner on his birthday that I just met, had some great drinks, took some amazing pictures, (some you see posted here) lied on a hammock on the beach between to palm trees and chilled for hours doing absolutely nothing. Now I’m sitting here at 10:08PM EST, writing this post from my Villa over looking the ocean.
As I watched people and did abnormal things (at least for me), like not become a loner on this trip after the people I knew flew home, I forged some great friendships and discovered, this is what The Upside of Down looks like. I discovered how much I needed this trip and how important it was for me to exhale this past week. Not exhale in the sense of relieving stress or pressure, but in the sense of embracing something different and feeling/being okay with it (maybe that’s inhaling actually). I am living The Upside of Down, and this trip has helped me to see what that actually looks like for my life more clearly.
I am truly blessed with so much and thankful for all of it. My perspective is hopeful and my best is still yet to come. I look for that best to come in the form of rich relationships, through family and friends (new and old), a dynamic love-life, a limitless career path that will stretch me far and wide (as it does now), widely read published articles, best-selling books and the ability to authentically help others achieve their wildest ambitions, through this blog or through personal interactions.
I want you to rediscover the truth for your life.
It hasn’t changed since you were that curious kid. It has only been hindered or delayed by circumstances. Once you have the faith to see it again, apply that same faith to cause it to become a tangible possibility.
I have learned that how we define things for ourselves will ultimately shape us and dictate a certain path for our future. In other words, as I use the phrase, “Keep Pressing” every week, I have a picture of what that looks like to me, based on my understanding and faith. If your image of those words are completely different from mine, it won’t matter what I say, regardless of the level of intensity I say them with.
Your truth will become your (boundary) invisible jail cell or what propels you to greatness!
For many, that boundary will quarantine you like a glass ceiling or become vast like the stars in the night sky. The choice is really is up to you and I. Each day we have the opportunity to choose what will limit us, by first recognizing what those things are. Here lies the problem. Since we don’t know what we don’t know, the cycle can be vicious, by habitually impeding any attempts towards making real progress or living a life of freedom versus bondage. There is a quote in the Bible that states, “What a man thinks about himself, he becomes that man.” I don’t think it could be any clearer than this, but with any attempt to grow, we must have, what I call the four rules to change, become whole or healthy.
1. Recognize or identify that you have an issue – like a cut or wound in your physical body, this usually comes in the form of pain, whether self-inflicted or committed by others.
2. Seek help to remedy the problem – Go to a doctor/counselor/pastor/trusted and wise friend to help with this newly identified issue.
3. Apply the lessons or counsel given to the issue – Administer the ointment or advice, and do the homework prescribed.
4. Give yourself time for the lessons and counsel to work – Cuts don’t heal overnight, and emotional wounds are much more complex, so give yourself some time for the medicine (lessons/counsel) to work.
Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds, it only lessens the sting. It’s what we do in that time that truly causes the healing to really take effect.
In other words, a broken leg may feel better after several months, but if it’s not reset correctly, you may never walk the same again. And without therapy you may never have full use of it, even if the pain seems to be gone. Do the work, however long it takes. We begin to visualize and accomplish this when we understand our worth and our value. You must begin to visualize yours and often times it does not manifests itself in the path of least resistance. It’s usually the “hard thing” or what causes you the most discomfort. Perhaps it will become your greatest challenge to date.
We’re typically not ready to take these steps until the pain is so great, where it becomes intolerable and the normal means of numbing becomes futile. That was my story and today I am grateful for the pain, for it was the one thing that allowed me to finally discover what my truth really was, not with simple structured words alone, but with something that I could visualize, hold on to and pursue with passion!
We’re all familiar with the quote, “you can’t unscramble eggs,” and most of us know exactly what it means or how the saying can apply to our lives at different times. And although I’ll would usually agree with this, I do believe there are times when we should, and must challenge this statement.
The key is knowing when is the right time.
Typically these are times when we must become still, tune-out well-intentioned friends and family, pray and listen to our inner voice.
Who decides when a situation becomes irreparable or when it is time to figuratively and literally throw in the towel, in regards to believing in a person who has consistently let us down or hurt us? We all have our own set of answers for this question, (and why) and we should equally understand where our thresholds lie as it relates to turmoil, problems, conflict with others, and when the time has come to cut him/her off for good.
We can only do this when the foundations for our thresholds our built on truth, purity of heart, goodwill towards others and honesty towards ourselves.
As I reflect on the past turmoil and conflict in my life and the people who I have hurt, I realize that I am a direct benefactor of a woman who chose to listen to her heart, get quiet in the midst of noise and drama, pray and listen to her inner voice during times of our distress. That inner voice stemmed from her faith in God, trust in what she believed (about us) and ultimately the friendship we had established over the years. Was the relationship all a lie, based on a foundation empty promises or was there something there truly worth saving? Only she and I knew the answer to that question.
No one else qualified, because they weren’t involved with the intimate details of our story.
They did however see the aftermath of the pain created and naturally came to the rescue of us both, but it was up to us to remain in a place of neutrality, which at times became very difficult and sometimes impossible, hence where the scrambled eggs metaphor comes into play.
Without going into all the details, (read my post about Forgiveness to learn more) for many years I was wrong – in the forms of being indecisive, not ready to settle down, leading her on, not believing she was the one, lying to myself and her, having a dismissive attitude, and finally, straight up rejecting her. For a season, she was equally wrong, however not as hurtful, I submit, in the forms of – over protecting her heart, being seemingly transparent, (but only to a degree), and not being honest with her feelings and concerns with herself about me.
These were the ingredients for a very toxic relationship. As much as we tried during these times, we could never quite get it right. Things would be great for a season, but we would always come back to turmoil, because of what we had not dealt with independently within ourselves. Everyone that cared about us could see the turmoil and conflict that consistently arose between the two of us and they were correct (on the surface) with their advisement for us to simply walk away from one another and start new with someone else in the future, however as much as it seemed like the pieces were broken for good, our story was still not over.
No matter what is said by others during these emotionally charged times, only the ones in the relationship or the particular situation can make the decision. Not the best counselors, best friends or even loving family members understand to the degree that is necessary to make the appropriate decision regarding all the facts. This is not to say the advice given by these groups is not helpful or perhaps even life saving, but how many times have you given a loved one sound advice based on what you believed to be true, only to see them do the exact opposite of what you advised? Maybe that person was you. Either way, it is during these moments that we must realize that it’s time to take a step away and allow life to play out as it will. It can be an arduous road to take and often a lonely one, but at least the final choices are based on only those involved. Listening to our family and friends is not bad thing, but it should not be the first thing we do either. For many this is where the real problem exist. There is nothing like someone who loves us and to feel sorry for us, or to empathize with our side of the story.
Be honest, it feels good.
It’ just not always what we need to hear. When we hear the brokenness in a loved one’s voice or the anger stewing in their words about how they were harmed, it can rile every unresolved emotion that we have regarding the topic. Almost suddenly, if we’re not using good judgement, that situation will develop a life of its own (in our minds) and we’ll exert more energy towards a fix than the person originally offended. It can become a new life mission for the outsider, trying to resolve something they have no business being involved in, at least to that degree. How does this happen so quickly and so often? Simply because we all have all have a deep need to be heard and affirmed, especially when we’ve been hurt. I have learned a few tips to keep my relationship intact during conflict and turmoil.
5 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Intact During Turmoil and Conflict
1. Always give yourself time to breathe after a blow-up or fight – If you immediately run to a friend or family member, (assuming there is not a history of violence or domestic abuse) you will quickly receive advice that may deem to be unfruitful and ruin any chances for restoration. As much as we want to believe that we’re being fair as we describe the list of the events, it still comes across as one-sided and the other partner doesn’t stand a chance.
2. Never make decisions while you’re angry – I guarantee you that you are not thinking rationally while angry. Remember, anger is a secondary emotion that masks the place of the real hurt. Our focus tends to be about retaliation and revenge while things are still heated. Once we calm down we can think more clearly, and make choices based on facts versus emotions. Perhaps the answers or results will be the same, but because you have given yourself time to ponder on the whole situation, you are more likely to make a decision that you will not regret later.
3. Communicate with the person that hurt you, by telling them you need some time to think – This is not the time to play the silent treatment game. Not only is this a sign of immaturity, it can quickly dissolve a possibly salvageable situation. You may not be ready for a full dialogue just yet, but give him/her an approximate date when you’ll be ready to talk. Remember, punishment is not the goal here. It’s to utilize the time to sort through your feelings and to hopefully have a productive conversation at a later date.
4. Realize that someone has to become the champion – I learned from my partner during my tumultuous relationship, that someone has to be the bigger person. Someone has to be willing to decide if the infraction should end the relationship or not. If so, then begin the steps to do just that. If not, someone has to be willing to face the other and begin the road to recovery, no matter how difficult. Being the champion is not about who was wrong or right, it’s about understanding who and what is most important, despite the circumstances. See past the hurt.
5. Prayer – Last is certainly not least here. Get in your quiet place and seek clarity and answers that will come in the form of that small still voice. God knows everything and will give you the answers that you need by confirming them in you spirit. You simply need to be obedient to the answer(s) that you receive. Don’t over think it, just do it.
There are obviously many options available to you regarding how to handle conflict resolution. These are just a few that worked for me in my relationship and unfortunately I did not learn them immediately. It took several attempts and a very patient partner before I realized where I was falling down, but I did finally get it and she did as well.
It’s always easier to throw a relationship away than work on it, and it’s even easier for someone else to throw it away for you. Believe me I know. I’ve done it and live with that truth everyday, however I equally understand that I didn’t know what I know today and that is, even the most difficult of relationships and situations can be restored when the ones involved choose to work through them, combined with their faith. They can indeed turn around a seemingly impossible situation by learning from what was broken and starting new. That relationship will indeed be stronger and prepared to last.
“Peace secured by slavish submission is not peace.” – Kim II-sung
“The submission of her body without love or desire is degrading to the woman’s finer sensibility, all the marriage certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding.” – Margaret Sanger
So often when we hear any form of the word submit, it can take us to a place. Unfortunately it’s usually not a happy place. According to Dictionary.com, submit means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another. If we’re honest with ourselves, just the sound of this definition gets under our skin and defies everything humanly independent about us, including our lives, our thoughts and pursuits. Depending on our life experiences, it ruffles some more than others. For women it may bring up past thoughts of living in emotional or physical bondage, conformity, inequality, complete deference or denial of self at all levels. For men it may bring back memories of chauvinistic dominance, servitude and selfishness, just to name a few. (And men, I’m hoping as you read this, you realize these traits as a husband or life partner are not admirable, but quite the contrary). However you associate with this word in your life, usually it comes with a negative set of observations and experiences. However, to authentically submit means so much more than the aforementioned descriptions and it is so incredibly important to the very success that we desire in our lives, whether professionally or relationally, for both men and women alike.
There is a widely accepted quote that states, “Every great leader must first learn how to follow.“
Most of us will agree with this. So what’s the problem? Why is there such a power struggle with the statement, when all it is, is a another form of submitting? Could it simply mean the one doing the submitting is defiant, or perhaps the one in authority doesn’t understand how to convey a submissive-worthy message or countenance? Of course these are both rhetorical questions that have a bit of truth in them both, but I believe they are worthy of discussion in order for our us to gain clarity on why we are (men and women) so at odds when it comes to this topic.
Having the privilege of growing up with three sisters, and being the only boy in the family, I’ve had the prime opportunity to learn the many ways and complexities of girls and women. Not that my three sisters represent all of woman-kind, but I do count my experiences as having an edge towards understanding what other men usually rely on books for. They were and still are distinctly different in their personalities, from moderately calm to semi-explosive when provoked, and l love them all dearly and differently I might add. They have helped to shape my ideas and thoughts and even assisted me in the area of empathy and patience. I am forever grateful to them.
Ephesians 5:21 states – “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (KJV).
Whether you believe the Bible to be true or not is not the point here, but to understand the practicality of the verse is more important. How sensible is it to think that one gender should not submit to the other? In other words, how much sense does it make for only a woman to submit to a man and not vice-versa? It would seem like common sense, however we know that common-sense is not always common amongst us. This very ideology has been the source of many painful relationships and is taught in many churches and organizations throughout the country. It’s one thing to believe that a woman should submit to me simply because I am a man and another thing to earn that honor from her, but for many decades now, we men have increasingly lost that honor due to poor judgement, lack of discipline, becoming mean-spirited and providing poor leadership for our families. We have demanded the respect without earning it first, and out of our frustration for what seemed like an innate, God-given right we brought our wives and partners to their knees with abusive actions to obtain it. There is nothing God-given about that, but it has occurred and continues to be perpetuated generationally through families across the world. To take it a bit further, I’ll ask the question, “What are we giving that is worthy of anyone submitting to, whether a wife, girlfriend, or etc.?” Again, if we use the Bible as an example we can accurately deduce that there had to be some assumptions being made by God Himself, like for instance as a husband we (men) are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)
To put this in laymen terms simply means that what we both truly submit to is not (us) the man or woman, but the very love that is conveyed by us.
I can submit to authentic love any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is what my former pastor would call the “love walk”. Easily stated, but not easily fulfilled, unless an authentic change has occurred in our lives. A change that requires a new spirit being birthed in you. If we men want to rely on sheer physical strength and fear to gain the respect that we desire, most days we will win this fight, but at what expense? An expense that will certainly ruin every relationship we touch. Do we really want our wives and loved ones to be afraid of us? If you can answer yes to this question, then you are truly in need of counsel and I pray that you seek help before you ruin more lives in addition to your own. Or are you like them, someone who simply wants to love and be loved in return? Maybe you never had a model of what a loving husband and father looks like. Perhaps all you have seen are abusive, self-serving relationships, built on fear and intimidation. Today I pray that as you read this, an intervention will occur in your life that will change your heart and healing can begin for your new day.
When two people are authentically submitting to one another, in no way does it mean problems cease to occur or even fester, but what does happen is both partners lose one simple profound thing.
That is the will to win and always be right, for you can be right and be right by yourself on the couch sleeping at night.
Now who in their right minds want that? Actively submitting doesn’t mean I no longer have an opinion. Quite the contrary actually! When done the correct way your opinion matters more to your partner and your voice matters. There isn’t always marital bliss, nor should your relationship reflect a glass house, (perfection) but this couple has learned the art of deference. They understand that they are a unit and when one is down, they are both down, therefore winning alone begins to take second fiddle. Submitting truly reflects the oneness in the relationship.
To submit to another person is a choice, but not a choice we should make to an undeserving person, whether they’re a potential spouse, family member, pastor, community leader, or otherwise. That privilege should always be earned, like trust. So before you decide to marry someone, or enter into any committed relationship, decide first that they are worthy of you giving yourself over wholeheartedly. Decide first that he or she has proven themselves to you, not with words only, but honorable actions over a course of time. Decide that he or she is worthy of you following them. Do this with intent and like your very life depends on it. This may indeed become your life’s truth.
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong” – Charles Wadsworth
It’s probably impossible to truly understand or appreciate the many sacrifices a parent makes when you’re a child, however once we grow up, (usually with children of our own) we can begin to respect the endless amount of time and work required to raise just one child, let alone four, (like in my family growing up).
Last week I found myself reflecting on my childhood and how I was shaped by my parents. Like many of you, I can recall good memories of being nurtured by my mother from the fond affection, and provided for by my father, always attempting to make sure I had what I needed. I can also recall moments of disappointment, being let down and hurt by them both. I cannot imagine any kid that wouldn’t have similar feelings or experiences growing up. It’s all a part of experiencing what I would call a normal childhood, where most of my essential needs were met on a regular basis.
The clinical definition of a functional family.
Today I want to take a moment to discuss something that unfortunately we don’t hear enough about., and that is what my father did, for me. That is not to say my mother was not an awesome mom, because she was, but today my inspiration lies in what attributes my father instilled in me as boy. Attributes that still impact me as a man today. From the talks about what I should never do, to the examples of what it truly looks like to be a man who is resourceful, disciplined and a hard worker. I could never pay my father back for the things he has done for me. I only know to take the things that I have learned from him and with wisdom, apply them to my life now.
I was fourteen when my parents split up. It was a sad day for the entire family, but by the grace of God we made it through. Sure we had our struggles, and as a young teenager, I didn’t understand everything but looking back today I realize even when I didn’t see my dad everyday, it was as if he was there with me. What he was able to instill in me up to that time proved to be the life skills I so desperately needed to be successful, focused and smart. Again, this is not to negate the significant work that my mother diligently committed to, day after day, but there is something about the strength of a father that is almost like the reigns placed on a horse that has the potential to go astray. A father (at least my father), provides a sense of balance, gives a sense of purpose and commands attention like no other authority figure can. When done correctly and appropriately, deep inside the psyche of that growing child resides a respect, (not fear) a confidence (not arrogance) all intertwined with a sense of purpose and direction at its core, that will inherently set a precedent for what lies ahead in his/her life. I’m not certain if my father ever knew what I would actually become in life, so he didn’t spend time trying to equip me to do one thing well. He taught me everything that he knew with excellence, like baking and cooking, yard-work, fishing, car maintenance and generally working with my hands and using my brain to think. Skills that I still use everyday. In that, he helped to create a leader in me that believed he could do anything he wanted.
I find this missing is so many teens today, especially boys.
The fathers missing in action, have assisted in the retarding of a generation of would be capable leaders.
Now, with effective intervention (like mentoring) I’m hopeful that many of these young people will ultimately get on the right track, but this requires so much work and resources. Resources that are typically in great demand and low supply, therefore only a select few will ever benefit. The rest, the majority, struggle, sometimes for the remainder of their lives. What a sad testimony! Unless the many mothers, left alone to raise their children have other positive male role models or mentors that can step in to fill the voids left by the MIA father, these young people are forced to find their desperate need for affirmation, mutual respect and a sense of belonging from the streets and negative media and influences that do not have their best interest in mind. Hence, where many of our gangs thrive.
No matter what our upbringing was like, one thing is true, we all require to belong to something, and this need will be fulfilled by any means necessary.
For us the questions becomes obvious. What will that something be? We see the answers in many forms of news media daily.
Remaining true to what this blog is about, which is speaking the TRUTH in love, I can’t say every part of my relationship with my father was perfect or that we always got along, even as an adult. For years I struggled with being able to communicate with my father. We even went years without speaking to one another. I’m not proud of it, but that was our reality and through it I learned many things about him as well as myself. A turning point for us after reading further, you will find intertwined in my earlier descriptions of being a parent.
One sunny afternoon, my father and I agreed to meet at a local restaurant in the Bay Area. I remember the day was warm where we were both coming from, because we dressed like it was summer (which it was). But if you’re from the Bay Area you know that we have many micro-climates. I left my house and it was 90-degrees, and by the time I arrived at our destination 30 miles later, it was also 30-degrees cooler! That, I was not prepared for, but what was in stored for that evening would totally change my life and my relationship with my father to this day. Being cold would come to mean nothing that special evening. You see this was not the first time for my dad and I to speak and attempt to break through “that thing” that kept us distant and on constant guard with one another. We commenced to eat our meal and make small talk, and just when I thought the night was going to end in typical fashion for us, my father said something that broke every guard I had up. After explaining to him some of my issues and concerns with him as a kid, he didn’t make any excuse or give me a lame apology, he simply asked, “Son what did I do that was so horrible?” Before I could get out my answer, which I cannot say I had one at that time, he made another statement that has forever put him in my “all time hero category”.
He said, “In my best efforts to teach you, I neglected to put my arms around you or on your shoulder when you fell short of my desired goal”.
In that very moment in time, everything that I was angry with my father about immediately left me. I had no defense for what he said, for it was truly an act of love and humility. For that I am forever grateful.
I am grateful for a father that loved his son enough to admit when he was wrong and to apologize versus make excuses. I am grateful that he became the leader between us two in that moment, and again set an example for me to follow with my own children. I am grateful that I can share this story with the world about a man, (my Father & Dad) who is still very much vibrant and alive today. So too often the example of a great life is shared at a eulogy. Today I want to give my father his flowers while he is yet alive. Thank you dad for all that you are. You were not a perfect father and you made your mistakes as a man, but through each situation I have inherited a life lesson that makes my life richer and far better than if I had never went through it at all.
It is fathers like you that forge boys into men.
You are the father that did the right thing regarding your children. Thank you. I am forever grateful.
I realize every story will not end like mine did and I am not attempting to over simplify a very complex issue within our society, but we must all begin somewhere. I say start where my father did, and take responsibility for who and what belongs to you.
“No one can develop freely in this world and find a full life without feeling understood by at least one person” – Dr. Paul Tournier, M.D.
The moment I began this blog I knew a level of my privacy would be gone forever. For many reasons I was just fine with this. I’m not sure if it was the many years of teaching classes and sharing bits and pieces of my life to strangers and friends for years, or going through a few bad relationships that broke me. Maybe its how I am framed. Whatever the reason, here I am sharing my life story to the world with no hesitancy. Some of my friends ask me, “how do you feel after releasing such a personal part of you to everyone?” My answer is simple. I’ve released everything I have written long before I press the send button. It would be too painful to do it any other way. My point is, the journey that I took to get here was hard, agonizing, however essential, like a prerequisite or pre-qualification to share with you on this type of platform. I have nothing to lose by sharing my story to the world. I actually have a sense of peace knowing that my traumatic life experiences, when shared with integrity will impact someone to hope more, hold on a little while longer or keep believing that life is worth living.
It wasn’t always this way. Like many, I had secret parts of me that no one knew about. I was a master at disguising the real me. What I divulged was perfectly orchestrated. No surprises, at least to me. I was in control and very comfortable with it. The sad part about all of this was, I was living a lie (at least to a degree). The real me was hidden and only surfaced when I allowed him to. A “Plan B” was ALWAYS in my line of sight. I would not be hurt, (so I thought) rejected or dismissed by anyone. I knew how to protect myself, like drinking a disinfectant. It’s meant to kill germs, but when applied incorrectly it can destroy everything it touches. This was me. Hurting everyone around me, by keeping the ones I professed to love at a distance. I wouldn’t dare reveal the real me.
Once the brokenness (read my other post to find out what they are) did its work in me and I chose to surrender, my life begin to change. This change didn’t simply occur because I willed it to, but because I was in a new place. A place of reflection, a place of being still and finally coming to the understanding that I was missing something very essential to living a full life. That place was being true to myself. I mean really true. I came across a great book entitled, “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?”, by John Powell.
It challenged me to look into the mirror of my soul and ask myself several hard questions, like:
- What is at the core of my fear to show my real self?
- What happens when I finally disclose who I am?
- Why did I always seem to have a “Plan B” in place?
Answer to Question 1 – Ultimately I have learned to understand that my biggest fear was the fear of rejection. I honestly had a fear that if the most important people in my life truly knew me, there is no way that they would still accept me, therefore that perpetuated the lie. It’s human nature for most of us to believe that we’ll never be good enough or measure up to societies’ standards and the truth is we may not ever measure up, but what we must learn is we are enough as we are. My faith in God tells me that I am ever-growing, imperfect and to trust the process of my transformation to evolve to the best me over time. It cannot be with a mindset of comparing myself to others or pretending I understand something when I truly do not. We all want to be accepted by others, but we must resist the temptation to project something or someone who we have not yet become. If we only fit into a specific circle because of an illusion that we feel obligated to project, than we continue to lie to ourselves and perpetuate a lifestyle that saps us of all the creative energy essential to living a life of authentic wholeness.
To authentically learn to love thyself is to release the bondage of performing for others in order to be loved and accepted.
When we learn what mask we place on our hearts every time we have an opportunity to be fully present, is the moment that our chains will begin to drop off. For those of us that have perfected this to an art form, it may require much more work, prayer and therapy to have full release, but it is certainly possible. I am a living witness.
Answer to Question 2 – It’s easy to think that our world will fall a part when we finally choose to live a life of integrity when we haven’t for so long. When we’re making decisions to bring the real me to the table for the very first time, our common sense may tell us to consider the cost and take delicate steps. As a man who can over think even the simplest of things, I encourage you to listen to your first mind and take that leap of faith and courage. No need to figure it out completely, write a dissertation on it or share it with ten friends, just step out and frickin do it.
Take baby steps at first.
I remember the first person that I confessed to that I was molested and the first person that knew how broken I really felt after my string of broken relationships. It was absolutely freeing! For us men, we don’t do this. We place a cork on every hurt and disappointment that we have ever experienced, and will profess that it doesn’t matter when we know that it really does. We’ll cope by turning to drugs, illicit affairs, meaningless sex, violence and others acts that are detrimental to ourselves and others. While these coping mechanisms may provide a temporary way of escape, they are also equally effective in keeping a barrier up so we can remain elusive, at bay and removed from the painful reality we’re trying so desperately hard to escape. Sad truth is it doesn’t work. It never works. Disclosing who I really am brings on freedom like nothing else can. It’s the truth we have heard of for so long that truly sets us free.
Answer to Question 3 – I’ve learned over the years that having a “Plan B” in place is quite common in most things we do. We’ve been taught as children that with college and career choices, we needed a “Plan B”. We always need to have something to fall back on just in case our first plan didn’t come through. This practice has carried over to serious relationships, even marriage. I recently saw an article on Facebook where a poll was taken on how many women had a backup “friend” in case their marriages didn’t work out.
A staggering 80% of the women polled, admitted to having someone there if their relationships were ever in trouble.
I imagine this is not just a women’s issue, but more a human issue. We will enter into relationships declaring our whole heart to someone, (I know this because I did it) committing our lives, time and future, essentially all that we are safe to share and know good and well we aren’t ready yet. We know that we have only revealed the best parts of us, even after a few years and we dare to take the relationship to the next level. What pain this will bring you! Ultimately, none of us want to be frauds or live a lie, but many of the pains of our lives have made it very comfortable for us to retreat to the person that seems most accepted in that particular moment. No one quite knows but us when we shift into that other guy or gal mode.
We smile and laugh the same, we still share in interesting exchanges and come across as very engaged, but something deep within us has checked out.
The familiar wall begins to rise and soon we’re projecting a limited version of who we are. “Plan B” is full effect at this time. For me it simply was easier to project this guy then to be explicitly open with the ones closest to me. My “Plan B” was my safety net and I had justified why I allowed it to exist, not realizing that it was suffocating those important relationships and my own personal growth.
Thankfully, as we continue to journey through life we find ourselves with opportunities to grow. These are typically the times when we have suffered a broken heart or some other type of tragedy. When we confess that we hurt, or that someone hurt us we can begin to own that pain and do something positive with it.
The pain is just the indicator, like a warning light on the dashboard of your car.
It’s our opportunity to heal by acknowledging the pain. It’s our opportunity to remove the walls that have effectively kept us watching life, versus doing life. Being afraid to tell someone who you really are is indeed a scary thing, but I have learned its scarier to live a life alone, a life alone with people all around you that are clueless to the real you. It’s time to step off the ledge my friends. Dare to believe that you can.
If you were one of the fortunate ones that was able to have a bit a time off over the holidays, Monday morning it will all come to a tragic end. I’m sorry…the same applies to me as well. It was certainly a wonderful time to enjoy loved ones, slow down, have fun and simply relax. As I sit here at my computer thinking on this topic and how I will spend my first Monday of 2015 back in my work reality, I think about my connections with the most important people in my life and how important these connections are to me. I reflect on some of the bonds that were strengthened and renewed during my time off. As I have mentioned in a previous post, it’s so easy to make promises about getting together with family and friends and never making the time to do it. It’s not because we don’t want to (usually), we just have so many other things going on. The fact is we’re busy and “other things” tend to take priority. So as we step back into our busy scheduled lives of work meetings, soccer practices, piano lessons, phone conferences, house work and just stuff, how will we retain the essence of what we gained from being with the people we love the most for this coming year? How do we retain connection and what should it look like for us? Get an image in your head for yourself.
I honestly believe that being able to connect is a lost art amongst us humans. I distinguish humans because we could learn a thing or two from the animal kingdom with this. While technology is linking us together like never before, it cannot replace the human element of what connection truly is and if we’re not careful we’ll walk away with an illusion of connection just because we spent time with someone one-on-one, via Facebook, text, a phone call or some other form of social media. Webster defines the word connection as a relation of personal intimacy (as of family times). This obviously can apply to relatives, long & short-term friendships, colleagues and lovers, just to name a few.
The key is there is intimacy between the two (or groups) where some form of vulnerability is taking place at each interaction, more often than not.
This is the cost or the sacrifice we must make to experience the type of connections we were created to have with others. I call it a sacrifice because sharing our true selves is counter-intuitive in society these days. It easier and less risky to project who we want to be versus who we really are. Social media affords us the ability to have an answer or response to everything while never really being accountable for any of it. Simply press the send button and it’s out there. After all, if someone knows the real me (another blog on this topic coming soon) they will only hurt me, so it’s better if I never expose myself to anyone, even my closest friends. This is the sentiment of many, maybe even you. Imagine a life (your life) without connection and I’ll show you a life of sadness, confusion and desperation. A life full of voids and emptiness. You ever wonder why the people who suffer from loneliness are so common nowadays? And it’s not just those that are alone suffering from this. How can this be with all the ways we have to connect with others? Could it be that we have lost our way on what connection is anymore? There are couples that feel alone everyday while spending time together. They have access to one another, but for various reasons the connection has been lost (like a WiFi signal), therefore the loneliness prevails right in the middle of the relationship like the third partner in the middle of the dinner table while out at a restaurant (Seen that before?). Or what about a kid trying to authentically connect with their parent? This type of connection only last for a season, and many times if we don’t seize it when we’re afforded the opportunity we’ll certainly lose the chance to impact those young lives that will one day represent us in the world.
I have three sisters and we’re all fairly close, but as a child I had one that probably played with me more than the other two. Not sure it if was our age closeness, or her lack of fear of spiders, lizards and frogs. Whatever it was, she became the brother I never had, and that time of being together as children over the years forged a strong bond (connection) that remained with us into adulthood. I have even experienced the rare occasion of meeting someone only once and having a connection. Again, it was due to me and that individual becoming vulnerable and open, even if only for a short time. I’d rather have a few close friends that I have authentic connection with than a multitude of people who claim to be my friends, but we really know nothing about one another and we’re content with it remaining that way. What’s the point?
Now we obviously can’t be nor should we desire to become vulnerable to everyone and anyone.
It should be an earned experience based on mutual respect, trust and a dose of healthy discernment from both parties, because not everyone has our best interest in mind.
At the same time we cannot choose to become distant or so hardened that no ever gets in. Both extremes can have negative consequences to our relational experiences with others and ourselves. We’re all familiar with the statement that, “a real friend will tell you the truth even when hurts you”. We have all learned and been able to face hardships with better balance when a connected friend was able to give us a different perspective. It doesn’t mean we have to follow their given advice, just be open to listening. I’ll admit during my hardships it was often the last thing I wanted to hear at the time, because it was cramping my style, but once I had the time to reflect, it usually made sense. I was typically grateful, albeit I hated that friend for about good ten minutes. 😉
No man/woman is an island. We certainly need one another, countries, states, cities, towns, companies, churches, groups and families. We have all seen the damage of what we can accomplish a part. Imagine a force that unites, a family that truly comes together and communities that truly connect. What will that look like in your neighborhood?