“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless when facing them.” – Rabindranath Tagore
As a teacher and counselor in my former church, I was regularly helping others and giving advice to people who needed to talk or discuss their issues. Since being a giver has always been a part of my behavioral DNA, it was easy to do, so it seldomly felt like work. However over the years, this personality trait of mine became like a double-edged sword. On the one hand it allowed me to support others authentically, consistently and fully, but on the other it equally allowed me pay less attention to my own needs at times. Well perhaps the word avoid is a better description.
There is nothing like helping someone in need get through something hard. After all, it is simple human kindness right? I would tend to agree with this until that particular disposition begins to hinder our own ability to deal with ourselves. For some (including me once upon a time), the pursuit and sincere desire to help others can become a way to escape from confronting our own stuff. So much so that it becomes easier to stay busy rather than take the time to self-reflect, pray and meditate. Just a few essentials to living a peaceful and balanced life.
Avoidance is not usually a stance we take to become remiss of our own personal issues. It is usually a deeper thing occurring in us that drives this attitude. For some it is the fear of what we may discover when we actually take the time to find out, while for others it is just simply too hard to peel the layers back. Not only do I identify with this, but I lived it for many years.
I mean who really wants to confess, I am weak, I am afraid, or I do not think I can do this particular thing to anyone, including admitting it to ourselves? In most cases this requires a type of humility that has yet to transcend into our everyday lives. Primarily because we are still living in the shadows of who we are versus who we claim to be, but as we keep living at some point we will reach a breaking point. The point where the fear and exposure of who we are or what we have done no longer matters. There is a scripture that says in James 5:16 – “Confess your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.“
As a principle from this scripture I would deduce that healing of any kind requires a form of confession, authentic openness and a sincere desire to fill the breaches that hinder our ability to walk true, whole and free in life. I believe the catalyst to confession must be courage, because even with the desire to become whole, one must still step up or step out of something that has had power over them, while simultaneously mustering the willingness to admit their lack of power over a thing.
I will confess (no pun intended) this can be a very scary place, especially for those of us that have not yet become comfortable with admitting our stuff to others, let alone ourselves. It is as much empowering as it can cause us to feel powerless all at the same time, hence why having courage is so critical. It will be easier to bail out or revert to old habits that foster separation or outright abandonment to the entire idea, so in addition to courage here are a three things I found helpful to remain on course.
1. Have an idea of why you are at this place. – Regardless of what you are facing, it is important to recognize how you got here in the first place. Now is not the time to point fingers or blame other people. Although there could be someone else significantly involved and played a major role in the situation, I encourage you to deal with you only at this time. Focus on the things that you did or chose not to do. Perhaps your decision was because of them, but you still must own that and take heed on how those decisions have played out in your life.
When I was divorced for the second time, as much as I wanted to point fingers I had to own my part, (which was a big part), but I wanted to focus on how hurt I was. It certainly felt better and made for easier conversation with my close friends and family, however when I was alone I was forced to reconcile with myself. I ask myself questions like, “How did you get here man, and when are you going to stop dancing around the main subject?” (which was me, not my ex). That was a breaking point for me and a tool that kept me focused while going through.
2. Write down the struggles you have and where you would like to be in the future. – Memorializing our thoughts can be empowering, because it gives us a chance to review them at a later date and see how far we have come. It can also remind us of the severity of our actions and prevent us from becoming insensitive again. Periodically I would review the words I jotted down and say, ” I did or said that? Wow!” That practice helped keep me to remain grounded, by reminding me of an ugly recent past, while simultaneously painting a picture for a better future.
Another benefit to doing this is identifying where you may need professional or additional support to work through some of the issues you are not prepared to handle on your own. Again it may become a bit uncomfortable, but the rewards can be freeing.
I saw a great counselor for at least one year. It was he that said, “Henry I think you are ready to leave my office for good.” During that time he had taken a deep personal inventory of who I was at that time and made some prolific and painful (for me) assessments of me as a man. Today I am better (not perfect) and evolving because of this process.
3. Be willing to own your stuff and do the work. – So many times we will accept responsibility for our actions, yet still refuse to make any adjustments in our lives that could prove to help us or a situation we are in. Seeing a counselor is too inconvenient, reading a book takes too much time and really owning the issue is simply just too hard. At the end of the day these are just excuses and our pride will only push away everything and everyone that is meaningful to us.
The day we decide to confess our own shortcomings and learn new ways to rectify them with a willing heart, we are well on our way to digging deep and becoming that new creation.
Of course I do not claim to be an expert in any of this. I only know and understand what I have lived, and I do understand that having courage is essential to getting anywhere, especially with taking the first step to digging deeper into ourselves.